So...why are they putting chips in people's brains?

If you don’t trust Elon Musk to stick stuff into your brain, the good news is he’s not your only option.

What happened: Musk’s Neuralink implanted its first chip into a human brain. The company has not made a formal announcement, but Musk posted on X that the recipient is “recovering well” with “promising neuron spike detection,” presumably referring to activity between the cells that send messages throughout the body.

  • Details of the trial were not released, but Neuralink’s brochure says participants must have limited function in all four limbs due to spinal cord injury or ALS.
  • Not to be outdone, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology listed similar developments among the innovations it plans to complete by 2025.

Catch-up: A lot of people actually already have brain implants. A University of Toronto team used chips to regulate abnormal brain activity that causes seizures or tremors associated with epilepsy and Parkinson’s. Last year, a Swiss university helped a paralyzed man walk again using sensors that detect brain signals and send commands to an implant in his spine.

Zoom out: Several companies are pursuing brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), which specifically refer to implants that interact with a computer or other device, often to give more autonomy to people with mobility issues. Synchron, backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, enrolled six patients for its first clinical trial last fall. Blackrock Neurotech has been running human trials since 2004, with over 30 people now able to operate computers and prosthetics with its implant.

  • Blackrock Neurotech has also proposed using BCIs to help people with visual impairment, memory loss, and depression.

Bottom line: Despite feeling like sci-fi, BCIs hold a lot of promise and could be as common and effective for paralyzed people as pacemakers are for those with heart issues, as Blackrock Neurotech’s CEO has said.

Yes, but: People are understandably a little sketched out by a company putting a chip in their brain, especially when Musk is involved. Reuters reported that Neuralink broke rules for transporting hazardous materials and killed roughly 1,500 animals in its testing.