After not being able to communicate for months, a paralyzed 36-year-old man was given the chance to speak through a brain implant—and his first words were “I want a beer.” We imagine that no truer words have ever been uttered.
Following the simple request, the ASL patient requested a head massage from his mom and to listen to some songs by Tool. And while he was at it, he also ordered some curry.
The man first agreed to the implant in 2018. And the following year, doctors placed two square electrode arrays in his brain that work in tandem with the chip. At that time, he was only communicating through eye movements. But today, he’s completely paralyzed.
Until now, no one has ever tested an implant on a “completely locked-in patient,” according to the Independent. So when the paralyzed man ordered himself a beer, he made history.
Jonas Zimmerman, a senior neuroscientist at the Wyss Center, was one of the doctors who brought the concept to life.
“[This] is the first study to achieve communication by someone who has no remaining voluntary movement and hence for whom the BCI is now the sole means of communication,” he said.
But the chip certainly isn’t the only technological advancement that scientists are working on in the field.
Before a Paralyzed Man Could Order a Beer, Elon Musk Was Testing Another Brain Chip on Monkeys
Elon Musk is also working on the Neuralink brain implant chip. But its uses far outreach spelling out words one character at a time.
With the Neuralink technology, Musk hopes to let humans be one with machines. Once inserted, people with disabilities will be able to operate smartphones and computers without having to touch them. And in the future, he hopes the chip will allow people to connect to all machines, even his Teslas.
But as exciting as the futuristic prospects may sound to some, others believe Musk is crossing some ethical boundaries.
Some scientists like Dr. L. Syd Johnson believe that the SpaceX giant must be planning to use the chip for the general population because there aren’t enough candidates to support the cost of development.
“If the ultimate goal is to use the acquired brain data for other devices, or use these devices for other things – say, to drive cars, to drive Teslas – then there might be a much, much bigger market.”
And if Musk is hoping to expand the use of Neuralink, “All those human research subjects – people with genuine needs – are being exploited and used in risky research for someone else’s financial gain.”
Currently, the chip is still moving forward on chimpanzees. However, Musk has given little more information about his big plans for the future of Neuralink.