Musk’s Neuralink shows off first implant patient: ‘like using The Force’

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One of the several companies founded and led by billionaire Elon Musk is Neuralink, a startup dedicated to developing brain-computer interfaces via implanted devices, ideally providing paralyzed patients a chance to interface with electronics in a more seamless and natural way — and ultimately giving able-bodied patients the ability to control electronic devices by thought.

Now the company is introducing its first human patient, Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old quadriplegic patient who says he was paralyzed eight years ago in a diving accident, and who has a Neuralink chip implanted in his brain and appears to be no worse — actually, much better off — for the ware.

Abraugh went public in a livestream video shared on Wednesday afternoon by Neuralink on X, Musk’s social network, formerly Twitter.

“I think you’re my only telekinetic friend that I have,” said Neuralink engineer Bliss Chapman, referencing the folkloric psychic power to move objects with one’s mind, before introducing Arbaugh and showing him using the Neuralink implant embedded in his brain to play chess on his computer and move the cursor around to select different programs and apps.

“Basically, it was like using ‘The Force’ on a cursor,” Armbach said, making reference to the telekinetic powers wielded by the Jedi Knights and their Sith enemies in the Star Wars franchise. “And I could get it to move wherever I wanted. Just stare somewhere on the screen and it would move where I wanted to, which was such a wild experience. It’s crazy, it really is. It’s so cool. I’m so freaking lucky to be a part of this…every day it seems like we’re learning new stuff. I just can’t describe how cool it is.”

Armbach said after receiving his Neuralink implant, he stayed up all night till 6 am playing the computer game Civilization 6. “It was worth it,” he said, noting that he had “basically given up on playing that game” due to the time and complexity.

Neuralink has courted controversy for its goal of linking the mind and human body more directly with electronics, as well as research practices that have reportedly resulted in the death and suffering of hundreds of monkeys under its care, used as test subjects. Yet, with the first human subject, it appears all is well so far and that the advance has resulted in a meaningful quality-of-life improvement.

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