New charges for Neuralink: alleged Illegally Transported Pathogens

16 Febbraio 2023 - 08:00

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Neuralink has been investigated by the US Department of Transportation for illegally transporting infected chips removed from its test monkeys.

New charges for Neuralink: alleged Illegally Transported Pathogens

A little over a month after the opening of a federal investigation comes a new, very heavy accusation that threatens to rock the company.

In December, Neuralink, the US neurotechnology company which has Elon Musk among its founding partners, was under investigation in the United States over the deaths of around 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys, during tests of his brain implants.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, (PCRM), a national American organization for the protection of animals, after examining the records made by veterinarians, would have come to the conclusion that the monkeys used in Neuralink’s experiment had been abused and subjected to "extreme suffering". “Nearly every single monkey that had implants in their heads suffered from pretty debilitating health effects […] they were maiming and killing the animals,” said PCRM research advocacy director Jeremy Beckham, quoted by the New York Post.

Now, further accusations are added: according to the Department of Transport, in fact, Neuralink would have illegally transported devices removed from the brains of some monkeys used for laboratory tests. The real problem with this type of transport is that the devices would not have been moved following the necessary precautions, and the "inadequate and unsafe" containment measures could potentially transmit infectious diseases, in violation of the federal law of the United States. In particular, among the various pathogens there would be a staphylococcus resistant to antibiotics and the herpes virus type B.

The irregularity was once again reported by the PCRM which sent a letter to the Department of Transportation in which he argues that Elon Musk’s company would have "violated federal laws on the transport of biologically hazardous materials", asking that it be "fined in the right manner" for his actions. "We’ve seen mistakes from a company that claims it wants to improve human health, that it wants to put this device into people’s heads, and that it deserves a thorough scrutiny by federal agencies," said Ryan Merkley , research director of the PCRM.

The facts would date back to 2019, when Neuralink had collaborated with the University of California - Davis for his experiments on primates. Even after the collaboration with UC Davis ended in 2020, according to the PCRM, Neuralink would continue to collaborate with both the neurosurgeon who supervised the experiments and other personnel who may not have had adequate training on the material covered.

Neuralink has had a stormy path since its inception, with the dismissal of some key figures and the mysterious investments made by Musk himself in the direct rival of his company: Synchron. Last December, Musk’s company had confirmed the announcement of the start of tests on humans within six months, but the go-ahead from the FDA has not yet arrived.

To legitimize these researches in the field of man-machine hybridization, the aim is to make the public believe that neural devices are used exclusively to treat neurodegenerative pathologies or paralysis. But other more insidious objectives have been revealed by Musk himself in the recent past: the start-up was born from the tycoon’s desire to hybridize man with machines to stem the danger of Artificial Intelligence, defined by the visionary entrepreneur as «the greatest threat to our existence».

Obsessed with the idea of a possible "robot apocalypse", Musk thus focuses on human enhancement, the only way, in his opinion, to prevent and reject the risks of AI and, on the other hand, to ensure a form of digital immortality. The solution that Musk proposes to stem the singularity problem is in a certain sense as disturbing as the problem itself: that is, to merge with machines in order not to fall behind in their evolution.

Here we enter, in fact, the field of the post-human which is attracting millionaire funding in the Silicon Valley and leading, as denounced by the PCRM, to a race towards results that does not respect the timescales necessary for the biomedical research nor public health and still less animal rights.

Original article published on Italy 2023-02-16 08:00:00. Original title: Nuove accuse per Neuralink: avrebbe trasportato illegalmente agenti patogeni

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