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ICA Miami and other museums continue to collect and display NFTs even as the market sinks, arguing digital art has a long history and valuations are unimportant (Farah Nayeri/New York Times)

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Farah Nayeri / New York Times:

The ICA Miami and other museums continue to collect and display NFTs even as the market falls, arguing that digital art has a long history and reviews are unimportant– ICA Miami owns some, and MFA Boston and others are selling them to reach new audiences “in a world where Instagram and Siri are rampant.”

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Elon Musk Hopes to Test a Brain Implant in Humans Next Year

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In a presentation showcasing the Neuralink implant that Elon Musk hopes will one day connect the human brain to a computer, two monkeys reportedly moved computer cursors with their brains.

The trick was first documented by others in a human in 2006, in the pre-YouTube era, and with much more cumbersome technology that tethers patients to a computer with a cable.

Mr. Musk’s presentation Wednesday night offered little that was significantly new from previous demonstrations of the device. He further claimed that the implant could allow people with paralysis to have computer control outside of a laboratory setting. However, experts in the field questioned whether the demonstration showed much progress with the device, particularly given the breadth of work underway across the country.

“These are incremental advances,” said Daniel Yoshor, a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who has worked with similar devices after seeing the presentation. “The hardware is impressive but does not represent a dramatic advance in restoring or improving brain function.”

Neuralink is not licensed by the Food and Drug Administration to sell the device. Mr Musk said on Wednesday that the company submitted most of its paperwork to the agency in order to get permission to implant its device in a human. He predicted human testing in six months, but any move toward human trials would be up to the FDA after a full assessment of the risks of surgical implantation and the safety of the device.

Neuralink originally scheduled the event for late October before Mr. Musk, a multi-billionaire, postponed the presentation amid one of the more chaotic months of his career. He recently completed his on-and-off purchase of Twitter, which has garnered much of his attention — and sparked significant controversy — over the social media company’s management.

As Mr. Musk juggles these and other responsibilities — he also oversees electric car maker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX — Neuralink emerges from a time of transition. Last year, Max Hodak, the company’s president and one of its co-founders, left the company to start his own business in this space. Neuralink’s CEO is officially Jared Birchall, a money manager who runs Mr. Musk’s family office.

Wednesday night’s presentation focused on the “Link” device, which resembles an inch-wide stack of multiple coins with hundreds of hair-thin threads. According to Mr. Musk’s 2020, a surgical robot would cut a hole in the skull and push the electrode threads into the brain’s gray matter company presentation. The coin-like piece would sit flush with the skull.

Leading companies in the field of brain-computer interface technology have closely watched Neuralink’s investment in a device that works without protruding cables or hardware. But Mr Musk’s presentations so far have unsettled and overwhelmed many of them.

A 2021 Neuralink presentation of a monkey playing the video game Pong with its mind was similar to a primate demonstration at Brown University in 2001, although it had a far clunkier system.

In a 2020 presentation Showing off a pig with the implant, Mr Musk suggested the device could “tackle” conditions like paralysis and insomnia, and even give a user “superhuman vision.” Such applications sound like science fiction to scientists focused solely on restoring basic functions like typing, speaking, or lifting a fork to those who lost them after a spinal cord injury or a nasty diagnosis. For such patients, the benefits outweigh the small but serious risk of brain surgery.

“No one talks about implanting healthy people,” said Cindy Chestek, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan, whose lab works on restoring function to amputees.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Musk said plans for his device included giving the blind sight and giving “full-body functionality” to someone with a severed spinal cord. The claims were applauded by the audience but do not reflect the current state of affairs.

“I wouldn’t say that with confidence,” said Dr. Yoshor after Mr. Musk claimed the Neuralink device would see people who had never seen before. “For a patient with congenital blindness, I would be very insecure about this type of device.”

Safety will be the FDA’s primary concern when considering whether the device could be tested in humans, said Cristin Welle, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Colorado who helped draft FDA guidance on brain-computer implants before she left the agency in 2016.

dr Welle said regulators will focus on whether the device would damage the brain or pose undue risks to patients. She said the device’s durability is also being considered, as brain fluids may eat through the insulation that coats the hundreds of hair-like electrodes on the Link device.

So far, Neuralink has tested the device on sheep, pigs and primates, according to records filed with the Department of Agriculture.

Several other companies and scientists have already received FDA approval to study similar devices in humans. In 2004, researchers conducted human trials with the Utah array, a device the size of a baby aspirin pill that is spiked and surgically placed on the brain. It is connected by a cable to a small computer installed on the head, which sends data to a computer. This neural interface system is called BrainGate.

With the pieces in place, scientists are looking for patterns in neurons’ electrical current that signal the brain’s intent to type letters or raise a hand. The code, in turn, commands a computer or robot to perform the task.

Nearly three dozen patients were tested with the Utah array device. Using technology, people with paralysis or other disabilities lifted a cinnamon coffee with a robotic arm in 2011, typed letters quoting Shakespeare, and lifted in 2012 forks Mashed potatoes in 2016.

But the Utah array is not designed for continuous use. Rising from the skull, it ties users to a cable connected to a computer and puts them at risk of brain infection. For these reasons and others, companies like Neuralink are working to build devices that are fully implanted.

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Elon Musk claims Neuralink is about ‘six months’ away from first human trial

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Elon Musk said at a Show and Tell event on Wednesday that his brain-computer interface company, Neuralink, could implant one of its devices in someone’s head within the next six months — which means it’s not happening this year. He also claimed that he would have the device implanted in his own head at some point in the future.

During the presentation, Musk said the company has submitted most of the documentation needed for a human clinical trial to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medical devices in the United States. Musk previously said he was hoping for human trials to begin in 2020 and then 2022. Now that has been postponed to at least 2023.

Neuralink’s goal is to develop a device that can be implanted in the brain and use it to control a computer with brain activity. Musk announced back in 2019 that the company was tests his device on monkeys. 2020 is it trotted pigs with the implants. And last year, Neuralink released a video shows a monkey playing pong with his brain. This year the monkeys are back. In a video demonstration, one of them helped “type” the phrase “Welcome to show and tell” with her implant by focusing on highlighted words and letters. Another video showed the monkeys being trained to charge the devices by sitting under a wireless charger.

A monkey sucks on a banana smoothie straw placed so its head bumps against an embedded wireless charger in a branch.

The wireless banana smoothie charger.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Later in the presentation, the Neuralink researchers also showed a pig on a treadmill, which they said will help them study how to address mobility issues in humans in the future.

The Neuralink devices themselves are small, with multiple flexible “threads” that can be inserted into the brain. “It’s like replacing a piece of your skull with a smartwatch, for lack of a better analogy,” Musk said.

In about 15 minutes, 64 of these “threads” can be implanted in the brain using a robotic system, DJ Seo, the vice president of Implant and co-founder of Neuralink, said during the presentation — while using a mannequin to show how the process works could work.

Threads by Neuralink.

Threads by Neuralink.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

The reason for the robotic surgeons is because of how tiny these threads are. “Imagine taking a hair from your head and sticking it in jelly covered with cling film, doing it with a precise depth and precision, and doing it 64 times in a reasonable amount of time,” said Christine Odabashian, the director by Neuralinks hardware insertion team.

The company’s 2019 and 2020 demos were designed as recruitment events, and this one is no different; The company admitted that recruitment was the main goal of the evening. Neuralink is currently trying to fill many different types of jobs as it moves from “prototype to product,” Musk said on today’s Show and Tell.

The event consisted mainly of a technical presentation of the device, showing how the system was built, what challenges the team faced, how the technology has improved so far and what developments are coming next. Company researchers said they are developing treatments that could either help improve or restore vision, or restore movement in people with paralysis. On the tech side, the company has ambitions to ensure that the device itself can be easily upgraded.

“I’m pretty sure if an iPhone 14 was available, you wouldn’t want an iPhone 1 in your head,” Musk said.

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