The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating Elon Musk’s Neuralink. The reason is the death of at least 1,500 animals in research conducted by the start-up. Employees of the company talk about the pressure exerted by the businessman, which was supposed to lead to errors in the experiments. “We’re not moving fast enough. It’s driving me crazy!” he urged the scientists.
The Reuters Agency has reached the documents in the case. Investigation against company was to be initiated in recent months by the inspector general of the US Department of Agriculture at the request of the federal prosecutor. According to one source cited by Reuters, the investigation is focused on violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which includes the way scientists treat animals during research.
Reuters: 1,500 animals died in experiments
Elon Musk’s Neuralink company leads the way tests on chips that are supposed to improve the work of the human brain and make it possible for a person to communicate with technical devices by giving them commands with the help of thoughts. From the position of the computer, it will be possible to “reprogram” the brain if it is damaged. The technology is intended for medical applications, such as the treatment of severe spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders. It would be useful for paralyzed people, and in the future – it would enable the “symbiosis” of humanity with advanced artificial intelligence (AI).
According to investigation documents, about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, have died in the experiments since 2018. pigs and monkeys. This number is only approximate, as Neuralink does not keep accurate records of the animals tested and killed. It is known that rats and mice have also been studied.
US law does not regulate how many animals companies can use for testing, and gives scientists considerable latitude in determining when and how they will be used in experiments. According to Reuters, Neuralink has passed all inspections by the Department of Agriculture and the number of animals killed so far does not mean that the law or good research practice has been violated. Animals are killed in experiments for many companies that want to develop healthcare-related technologies. However, employees interviewed by the agency say that in the case of Neuralink, the number of animals killed was much more than actually needed, which was due to Musk’s expectations to speed up research.
Musk: We’re not moving fast enough, it’s driving me crazy!
For example, a businessman was supposed to send an article to employees about Swiss scientists who created an implant that would allow a paralyzed man to walk again. “We could enable people to use their hands and make them walk again!” he wrote, and ten minutes later added that “we’re not moving fast enough. It’s driving me crazy!” He also allegedly told employees several times to imagine they had a bomb strapped to their heads to make them work faster.
Reuters reports, citing conversations with more than 20 people who are or have been employed at the company, recent dissatisfaction with animal testing among Neuralink employees has been growing, and Musk’s pressure to speed up work has led to more frequent failed experiments. These, in turn, had to be repeated, which increased the number of animals tested and killed. Three employees indicated that the errors were due to lack of proper preparation.
Workers also say testing issues raise concerns about the quality of the data obtained so far and could delay human testing. Musk announced a few days ago that he wants to start them in the next six months.
Main photo source: ANDREW KELLY/Reuters/Forum