4 min readMay 14, 2021

“Healthy, happy and indistinguishable from ordinary pigs.” Elon Musk on the condition of his new startup’s test subjects. This time he is experimenting on the biological level. He presented the first results to the public in person. And he showed live several animals with microchips implanted into their skulls.

It is claimed to be quite successful. With the help of small devices, the pigs’ brains were connected to a computer. And in this way it was possible to study the nervous system of the animal. According to the billionaire, the purpose of the technology is purely medical. Musk assures that this is happening very soon. But he is careful not to give an exact date.

The implants could be used to treat various brain diseases in the future. So, he is going to move on from the cloven-hoofed animals to humans. It is planned that the chip can be changed and upgraded, just like any gadget. According to Musk, at first, the service will be incredibly expensive, but then the price will fall “to a few thousand dollars.”

So, how safe is this technology?

So, the beginning of the presentation. But something isn’t going according to plan. The test subject, Gertrude, behaves strangely: she won’t come out to people. The billionaire is surprised: she has never been so shy before.

But soon Gertrude reveals herself to the world. Two months ago she had an electronic chip implanted in her brain. Several other pigs were fitted with as many as two. Now scientists can literally see what the animals are sniffing. And even predict their movements.

The device is being developed, of course, not for pigs. The Neuralink is a “puck” 23 mm in diameter. It is inserted into the skull in the place of the drilled area. It has a wireless communication channel, for example, the chip can be linked to the phone. And it is charged at night also in wireless mode.

The device makes contact with the brain through a thousand very thin wires, which are poked into the neurons by a special robotic surgeon.

“This is a very modern development in terms of its technological sophistication. It is a task that has been done many times, and many more electrodes have been always connected. But those were always stationary devices only. And everything revolves around making it a gadget,” said Timofei Glinin, a neurobiologist and the leader of the neurostimulator project.

The technology has caused controversy in the scientific community. Doctors admit that it has enormous potential. Neuralink can not only read, but also send signals to neurons. This means that the device can help people who, due to age or illness, have lost the ability to use certain parts of the brain.

This in itself is not a sensation. These days, even paralyzed patients can be taught to walk by medics. But there is a catch: the miracle is always short-lived. Sooner or later — usually after a few months — the nervous system rejects the implants. Musk, on the other hand, is confident that this will not happen with his chip.

Another advantage: the interface has a wide range of applications. After all, depending on where to drill, doctors can reach any part of the cerebral cortex. Even the one that controls the patient’s behavior!

But it is also obvious that the technology is dangerous. Experts say: everything can be hacked. And this chip is no exception. Data can be intercepted, jammed, or even reconfigured to the detriment of the wearer.

“One of the biggest threats to humanity for the next century is social engineering. When a person receives some commands in the brain, even on a subconscious level. Which can lead to any desired reaction. That is, there are a lot of problems,” warns Alexei Malnev, head of the Information Security Incident Monitoring and Response Center at Infosystem Jet.

And the technology looks even more ominous in light of Elon Musk’s future plans. The billionaire is very afraid of artificial intelligence. He believes that when the computer brain appears, we will be so inferior to its capabilities that “we will become its pet Labradors”. And, they say, the only salvation is for us to turn into machines ourselves. According to Musk’s plan, the chip in the future should become a carrier of its own artificial intelligence, which would multiply our mental abilities. And in order to do this, the vulnerable to the hacking system would have to transfer access to all of the brain’s resources.

Anyway, now Neuralink is moving towards clinical trials on humans. True, it is not clear: how can one be sure that the implant will not reject? Two months of the existence of the cyber pig Gertrude is obviously not enough to draw such conclusions. In addition, the robotic surgeon has yet to refine the human brain. It’s much more complex compared to the brain of a pig.