According to Reuters revelations, Elon Musk would put so much pressure on Neuralink employees that human errors would ensue. It is the animals involved in the experiments that would pay the price by the dozens because of botched surgeries.
Elon Musk talks about it as the future: his biotech startup Neuralink aims to connect the brain to machines. But it is now under federal investigation in the United States. That’s what Reuters reveals, which also conducted an investigation demonstrating a major problem internally: severe mistreatment of animals.
The number, revealed on December 5, 2022, is frightening: 1,500 animals would have died during experiments carried out since 2018. Among these living beings are sheep, monkeys and pigs, in addition to rats and mice.
Stress, Human Error: It’s Chaos at Neuralink, and the Animals Are Paying the Price
To obtain this information and this number, Reuters studied internal documents and consulted internal Neuralink sources” have first-hand knowledge of the company’s animal testing operations “. These sources, by the way, indicate that the figure is an estimate and cannot be more accurate: Neuralink does not track animals that died during the experiments.
Either way, those sources told Reuters of their concern. Because, in addition to the actual animal abuse, the number of animals killed is greater than it could be in normal times for this type of experiment. At issue: Elon Musk’s request to speed up search so that Neuralink delivers better results faster.
Sources indicate that, in the rush and stress of meeting tight deadlines, human errors would be linked – especially during surgical operations on animals🇧🇷 In the face of these errors, the results would not be reliable enough, which would require repeating the experiments, involving more animals and therefore more risks. Neuralink would tend to string together surgeries without stopping to try to fix problems mid-procedure, rather than analyzing the results of each experiment before moving on to the next. Two employees and one former employee attributed the errors to the lack of preparation on the part of an experimental team working in a pressure environment🇧🇷
The pressure Musk puts on is also original. Elon Musk used the metaphorical image of a bomb attached to his employees’ heads to explain to them that they should be faster. On February 8, 2022, the businessman sent his entire team, at 6:37 am, a group message: “ We could let people use their hands and walk again in daily life! In general, we’re just not moving fast enough. Makes me crazy! “. He also threatened his teams to cause a ” fall in the market from Neuralink in case of very slow results.
Many employees have tried to sound the alarm internally to management, to no avail due to Musk’s demands, and many have left as a result of this animal abuse.
Human trials for Neuralink in 2023?
Despite this internal chaos, Elon Musk gave a highly publicized presentation at the end of November 2022. He showed new images of monkeys moving a computer cursor with their minds. And above all, he explained that he had requested official authorization for testing on humans. According to him, this authorization procedure could take six months: Neuralink’s first human guinea pigs would therefore be authorized until spring 2023, according to him.
Could the federal investigation prevent this step? It’s hard to say, because the ethical boundary is not necessarily a legal boundary. A Neuralink competitor, Syncron, gained permission for human trials in 2021, and before that, 80 sheep died in the experiments. Davis University, which collaborates with Neuralink, also admitted last year that it had euthanized six monkeys that encountered “complications” after testing, but said it followed all legal rules.
As Reuters explains, US law is vague in this area: US regulations do not specify how many animals companies can use for research and give scientists a lot of freedom to determine when and how to use animals in experiments. 🇧🇷
It is for this reason that it is difficult to know whether or not the federal investigation is connected to this large-scale animal abuse. Because a few months ago, Neuralink successfully passed USDA (US Department of Agriculture) regulatory inspections for all of its facilities. In fact, it is not entirely impossible that this accumulation of animals killed during tests does not prevent the authorization of human tests.