Source: The Indian Express Relevance: GS III (Science and Technology) Context: Brain-computer interface, such as those trialed by Neuralink, have the potential to fundamentally change the game. It's crucial to navigate the challenges that come with it.

The individual who got Neuralink's first implant is on the path to complete recovery. Preliminary results are showing encouraging signs of neuron spike detection.

Yet, this surgical procedure marks a critical milestone in the evolution of human-computer interfaces, potentially offering solutions to cognitive and physical challenges. Looking ahead, how this technology is distributed and owned will significantly influence its impact.

Implantable Brain-Computer Interface:

An implantable Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) represents a ground breaking development that allows for direct interaction between the human brain and external devices.

  • This innovative method involves surgically implanting a chip with electrodes into the brain, which then captures and sends out neural signals.

  • These signals are interpreted by an attached device, enabling individuals to control devices or interact with technology using only their thoughts.

  • The main goal of implantable BCIs is, to enhance human capabilities tackle neurological conditions, and possibly merge human consciousness with artificial intelligence (AI).


  • Neuralink is building upon the research and development efforts of earlier laboratories and companies, with the initial Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) having been developed in the 1970s.

  • Neuralink's approach involves implanting a wireless device that contains electrode arrays and a chip specifically engineered to capture thoughts related to movement.

  • Should the device prove effective over time, it aims to enable individuals with disabilities to type or navigate a cursor through thought alone. It is anticipated that those who have suffered limb loss will be among the initial beneficiaries.

  • Founded in 2016 by Elon Musk and a team, Neuralink is working on a brain chip that can be put inside the skull. This tech might help people with disabilities move and communicate again, and even improve sight.

  • The main part of the device is a chip that sends brain signals to devices like computers or phones, making it easier for people and machines to work together.

  • Neuralink has already tested its tech on animals successfully. For example, in 2021, they showed a video of a monkey playing a video game using the brain chip, showing what Neuralink can do.

Safety concerns associated with Neuralink’s BCI technology:

1. Heat Generation: The many thin wires in the brain might get hot, which could hurt the brain around them.

2. Tissue damage: Putting things into the brain can make the brain react or get hurt. It's key to check how these implants might move and possibly cause small, repeated injuries, leading to more problems or disabilities.

Regulatory and IP Challenges for Neuralink:

1. Regulatory Hurdles: Facing challenges in meeting thorough evaluation, being transparent, and adhering to safety standards. Neuralink's first attempt was denied by the FDA due to safety issues with the chip's lithium batteries. The reasons for later approval are not fully explained.

2. Intellectual Property Protection: Neuralink can protect its unique and patented tech. This allows the company to keep its competitive advantage and manage how information is shared. Although common in business, this practice can limit public access to important information and prevent independent checks on the technology's safety and effectiveness.



1. Privacy: How to manage and protect brain data from misuse? Like with AI, regulation must adapt to BCI developments to prevent abuse.

2. Avoiding Monopolies: Essential medical technologies shouldn't be monopolized. Public funding, like that for the Oxford Astra-Zeneca Covid vaccine, can make crucial treatments more accessible and affordable than private sector alternatives.

3. Inclusive Dialogue: As BCIs become more common, it's vital to include experts, ethicists, and the public in discussions to ensure the technology's responsible use and prevent overdependence.

4. Cautious Adoption: BCIs could drastically change our interaction with technology, but it's essential to proceed carefully to avoid potential issues.

Artificial Neural Networks (ANN):

  • An Artificial Neural Network (ANN) operates by specifying inputs and outputs, feeding fragments of inputs to computer programs that mimic neurons, and performing inferences or calculations.

  • These results are then passed on to another set of computer programs, and this process continues until an outcome is achieved.

  • Within this neural network, a discrepancy between the desired output and the input is calculated at each layer. This discrepancy is utilized to adjust the parameters of each program.

This technique is known as back-propagation and plays a crucial role in the functioning of the Neural Network.

Way Forward:

Before delving into the ethical debates on merging humans with AI, recognizing the concerns tied to Neuralink's implantable BCI is critical. Important considerations include safety, data transparency, and animal welfare.

By pushing for openness, carrying out detailed assessments, and embracing ethical practices, Neuralink can build trust, ensure patient safety, and foster meaningful discussions about the impact of this groundbreaking technology.

Advait IAS