Friday, March 31, 2023

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Musk’s brain chip company faces animal abuse investigation

Billionaire Elon Musk’s brain chip company Neuralink is facing a federal investigation over its handling of the animals used in its experiments.

The US Department of Agriculture’s inspector general recently opened an investigation into the company. The investigation, which the agency said is unclear how broad it is, is focused on potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

In interviews with Reuters with more than 20 current and former employees of Neuralink, she detailed a range of animal welfare concerns. This includes reports that in only one trial were 25 out of 60 pigs placed with the wrong size device, while in another, the devices were placed in the wrong vertebrae in two separate pigs, resulting in one being killed to end his suffering.

Neuralink aims to develop ways in which the human brain interacts directly with computers to help treat a range of neurological conditions, and even help patients who are paralyzed to walk or who have lost their sight.

So far, the company has made a number of public demonstrations of the technology that it uses in animals, including showing a monkey playing Pong on a computer with its brain, and another monkey typing on a computer using a chip in its brain.

It is common for animals used in scientific tests to be killed after the experiments are completed, so even autopsies may provide more data. But current and former Neuralink employees interviewed by Reuters said testing errors could lead to excess deaths because they require tests to be repeated so often. It may also make the resulting data less accurate.

It is reported that Neuralink has killed about 1,500 animals since 2018, however, none of this is conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, and the agency even indicated that the company passed all inspections conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, but employees reportedly raised concerns within The company notes that Musk’s push for rapid progress has produced an environment filled with ill-prepared and overworked employees racing to meet deadlines.

Musk’s attempts to motivate employees to work faster are said to include telling employees to imagine they have a bomb attached to their heads. Reuters says the CEO also wrote in an email in February this year: “Overall, we simply aren’t moving fast enough. It drives me crazy.”

As for Musk, he announced that he is optimistic about the possibility that Neuralink will start human trials in the near future, and recently he said that he hopes that the device will be installed in a human head within the next six months, although he hoped that in 2020, then in 2021, and then this year.

Neuralink has previously faced criticism over its treatment of animals. Earlier this year, a non-profit organization called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which opposes the use of animals in medical experiments, claimed that scientists at the University of California, in a study funded by Neuralink, treated monkeys participating in a… Inhumane experiments. Neuralink responded to the allegations by stating that the facilities and care at UCLA met and continue to meet federally mandated standards.

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