Is There A Dark Side To Elon Musk’s Neuralink?: Alright, let’s talk about animal testing at Neuralink. Controversial subject I know but we’ve always been committed to discussing the latest updates and news about this company in the past and we know that you all want to know the latest info about Neuralink. So it would be a bit of a failure if we didn’t talk about the monkeys.
There are reports abound right now about monkey deaths at Neuralink. Some of them involve some very unpleasant accusations about mistreatment. But we now have both sides of the story from the animal rights folks and Neuralink themselves. So there’s a great opportunity here to break this down objectively identify some truths and we’re actually going to learn a lot about Neuralink in the process.
Before we get started let’s just throw out a T-word warning for anyone who is sensitive to this subject matter because animals definitely were harmed in the process and we are going to discuss that. So, let’s get going.
In early February, a complaint was filed to the US Department of Agriculture alleging the cruel treatment of Macaw monkeys which were being used to test the Neuralink Technology at the University of California’s Davis Primate Center.
These allegations would have taken place in the time between 2017 and 2020 when Neuralink was working with the university to manage their animal subjects. In 2020, Neuralink opened their own animal facility which was not mentioned in the complaint. So more on that later.
Let’s take a look at the folks making the claim known as the physician’s committee for responsible medicine. They are a non-profit organization dating back to 1988 that seems to be primarily focused on promoting the vegan diet. Their messaging is mostly that eating meat is bad for your health.
In 2021 they threw a bean not beef protest in Washington DC. It could be said that they are an animal rights group but they are primarily about food and diet. The group was founded by Neil Barnard who does seem to be a real doctor and professor of medicine at George Washington University and a person who very proudly eats a lot of beans.
If we go to their website, the first thing we see is a graphic that says, tell Elon Musk to stop his cruel brain experiments with a button asking you to take action AKA to give them money.
So these folks clearly understand how the media works. If you go around saying that animals are dying in medical testing, no one bats an eye. Tell the media that Elon Musk is torturing and killing monkeys with brain implants and people will lose their minds. They got that right.
The crux of their argument revolves around what the committee calls extreme suffering as a result of inadequate animal care and the highly invasive experimental head implants during the experiments.
The PCRMs says it obtained more than 700 pages of documents including veterinary records and necropsy reports through a public records request to the university.
The records relate to 23 monkeys owned by Neuralink which were housed and experimented upon at UC Davis’ facility from 2017 to 2020. It’s no secret that animals are used in all kinds of product testing. From shampoo to medical devices.
And we know that Neuralink has been experimenting on monkeys because they showed us one last year who had two brain implant devices and was using them to play a video game with his mind. So it shouldn’t come as a major shock to anyone who is decently well informed that not all of the monkey tests turned out great for the subjects.
Just for context, I tried to figure out how many animals die in medical testing in any given year. It’s basically impossible to quickly find any article that isn’t fake news propaganda for the animal rights people but if we take Peta’s own number of 100 million dead animals per year then over that three-year period there were 300 million casualties due to experiments with Neuralink accounting for 23.
So the only reason that they can make this such a big deal is because Elon Musk’s name is attached to it. What makes this story really interesting is actually the response from Neuralink to the allegations. This is again an Elon Musk company.
And we know that Historically Elon’s companies do not do advertising media relations or public relations. Tesla is the strongest example of this. They never comment publicly on anything. They have no PR department at a trillion-dollar company and they don’t say anything to no one.
They just let Elon do the talking and I guess it’s been working out pretty well so far. But Neuralink is a little bit different. Maybe it’s because Elon is a little more hands-off with this company.
He is an engineer and a self-taught rocket scientist but I’ve never heard him claim to be a brain surgeon or any kind of medical expert or an expert in the field of wearable tech and smart devices which is what Neuralink does.
Elon wants a device that will allow him to merge human brains with artificial intelligence and hopefully solve a bunch of medical problems along the way. That’s why he founded this company. But I wouldn’t say he runs Neuralink in the same way that he does with Tesla and SpaceX.
Anyway, that’s why I found it so fascinating when Neuralink broke with tradition and released an official company response that meets these allegations head-on in a blog post titled Neuralink’s commitment to animal welfare they write in-depth about the company’s past present, and future approach to animal welfare and there is a lot to learn from this blog.
They begin by stating the facts. Currently, all novel medical devices and treatments must be tested in animals before they can be ethically trialed in humans. Neuralink is not unique in this regard. Then we get a bit of backstory on the relationship between Neuralink and the University of California.
In the early days, the company did not have anywhere near the resources to care for their own animals. So they partnered with the university’s California National Primate Research Center to establish the foundations of Neuralink’s research and development mission.
The first phase of that mission is described as novel surgeries in animal cadavers and then in terminal procedures. So the first thing they did was to test on deceased animals who had been humanely euthanized as a veterinary decision.
The next phase was terminal procedures which involved performing the surgery in an anesthetized animal who is then euthanized at the completion of the surgery. These would be animals who were suffering from pre-existing conditions prior to the surgery and may not have the proper quality of life.
The reason that they take both of the steps is to ensure that an animal does not potentially suffer post-operation in the event that the test procedure has an unexpected result. As for the subject of monkey’s missing fingers, the complaint outlines monkey’s missing digits that they attribute to self-mutilation.
Neuralink’s response to that saying missing digits is often a result of Ruth McCox resolving conflict through aggressive interactions with one another. And they link to a peer-reviewed research paper that the subject.
Neuralink also stresses that none of these injuries occurred at the UC Davis facility and the animals were injured prior to their arrival. Now following those initial tests Neuralink was able to move on to what they call survival surgeries that allowed them to test the function of different generations of implanted devices as they refined them towards human use.
They acknowledged that over the course of those survival surgeries a number of monkeys did end up having to be euthanized following the operation. They write as part of this work two animals were euthanized at planned end dates to gather important histological data and six animals were euthanized at the medical advice of the veterinary staff at UC Davis.
These reasons included one surgical complication involving the use of the FDA-approved product Bioglue one device failure and four suspected device-associated infections. Risk is inherent with any percutaneous medical device.
In response, we developed new surgical protocols and a fully implanted device designed for future surgeries, end quote. So, they are not outwardly denying many of these accusations. They are instead meeting them head-on with the facts of the matter.
One quick note here to say that BioGlue is an approved product for use as a surgical adhesive. However, it does say clearly in the FDA approval document, not for vascular repair. So if they did use this product in the context of brain surgery then that was an error.
So did a bunch of monkeys die in early Neuralink testing procedures? Yes, unfortunately, they did. No one is denying that. But have things changed since then? Also yes. So like we said before in the year 20 20 Neuralink completed their very own in-house animal facility. This is what they wanted all along but had to wait for a few successful funding rounds to build up the resources to do it.
At that point, they moved their remaining monkeys from UC Davis to Nurlink. This also included the now-famous mind pong monkey pager. He was from that original monkey group and as we’ve all seen on the video he seems to be doing pretty well.
Neuralink states while the facilities and care at UC Davis did and continue to meet federally mandated standards we absolutely wanted to improve upon those standards as we transitioned animals to our in-house facilities.
The new facility is something they call a vivarium which is basically just another way to describe an enclosed artificial animal habitat such as an aquarium or terrarium.
The Neuralink Vivarium is 6, 000 square feet of housing for both the pigs and monkeys who serve as Neuralink test subjects. The company says the vivarium is staffed with caretakers who are about animal well-being which is a central tenant of Neuralink’s philosophy.
And here is another quote from the blog post that really drives home how much they care about the animals and want to make that an important consideration for all staff. Quote, “We further developed company norms around strong animal welfare advocacy by ensuring all employees have the opportunity to meet our animals and spend time with them alongside a trained animal care specialist. This investment in positive human-animal interactions encourages people to take that extra step to ensure their devices are designed to prioritize animal safety” end quote.
In addition, they talk about constant veterinarian care and positive reinforcement training a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, and zero forced motivation they specifically state if an animal chooses not to participate in a training task they are never forced to do so.
And lastly, they make a point of saying that Neuralink does retire healthy animals to sanctuaries and farms after their trial periods come to an end.
Gerdy the pig from the 2020 Neuralink product demo now lives on a farm where she plays in the grass and is far away from Elon Musk and his brain implants. Moving into the future Neuralink presents this idea that the implanted monkeys are able to participate in product testing as they choose and are never forced into testing sessions.
Basically, if the monkey wants to play pong with his mind and who wouldn’t he’s free to do that as much or as little as he wants just like a person. Neuralink closed out their statement by writing we also look forward to a day where animals are no longer necessary for medical research. Yet our society currently relies on medical breakthroughs to cure diseases prevent the spread of viruses and create technology that can change how people are able to interact with the world.
However, if animals must be used in the research in the meantime their lives and experiences should be as vital and naturalistic as possible.
Now unfortunately 99% of people just read the headline about Elon Musk killing monkeys and made up their own minds about the situation. If you’ve come this far in the post then that means you are in the small group of well-informed folks who now know both sides of the issue. We’ll leave you to make your own decision on what’s right and what’s wrong.
But I will say that the accusers felt the need to throw so much inflammatory language and hyperbole into their statement does imply that they might not be truthful or at least it makes them appear less truthful. While Neuralink really hit it out of the park with their thoughtful and thorough response.
Typically when a company has something to hide they release a very abrupt defensive statement that actually feels like it was written by a lawyer. But instead, the company took the time to educate us on their entire history and philosophy behind animal testing in a very personable way.
If Tesla can find someone to do PR like this for them, then I wouldn’t be opposed to Tesla bringing back PR because this style works. Anyways, I’m scared to death to see what happens in the comment section on this one.
Thanks for reading till the end. Comment what’s your opinion about this information “Is There A Dark Side To Elon Musk’s Neuralink?“.
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