Elon Musk has invoked the name of Luke Skywalker, the Star Wars Jedi, in an execrable tweet (X?) about Neuralink advancing the possibility of robotic hands like the one Luke had in the iconic films. Might this cause a disturbance in the Force?
You can see the scene showing Luke Skywalker getting his artificial hand below.
“When a Neuralink is combined with Optimus robot limbs, the Luke Skywalker solution can become real,” Musk tweeted (or X-d?).
Why is it disturbing? For one thing, Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has been a vocal critic of Musk and joined the call for a one-day boycott a month ago after Musk abruptly rebranded Twitter to X. Hamill described the new logo as “eXecrable,” or extremely bad.
It’s obvious that Hamill and Musk don’t tend to share the same politics. Still, Hamill followed up, saying, “I won’t dignify accusations that this is a political statement when it is, in fact, simply an experimental STUNT because I’m bored & wanna see what happens.”
‘Skywalker Solution’ Linked to Animal Cruelty?
But another reason Musk’s tweet is unsettling is that it neural-links the Jedi with implant technology amid reports of extreme animal suffering. The company has opened up human trials for brain interface implants amid reports that up to a dozen macaque monkeys suffered “grisly fates” as a result of experiments with the devices.
As we know, Rhesus macaque monkeys share about 93 percent of their DNA with humans and chimpanzees.
Star Wars fans can hopefully agree that the Jedi would not tend to endorse animal suffering. The Jedi can control or communicate telepathically with animals using the force, a theme explored as recently as the latest Ahsoka series. But animal cruelty isn’t something a Jedi would ever condone. Rather, animal liberation and even droid rights themes have been themes in the Star Wars universe.
Video by Reuters about Neuralink from May:
12 Monkeys Controversy
Although Musk tweeted, X-d, whatever, that the monkeys were terminal cases and “close to death already,” journalists and a former employee have contradicted the claim. An investigation by Wired included veterinary records and testimony that the monkeys were “pretty young monkeys” and “previously healthy.”
Individual accounts of the alleged deaths are difficult to read for anyone with empathy. Business Insider reported the veterinary records showed “extreme pain and symptoms including bloody diarrhea, paralysis, and brain swelling.”
Ironically, the reports say about 12 monkeys were euthanized, which brings to mind the 12 Monkeys film starring Bruce Willis as James Cole, a man “doomed to be a sacrifice, at least so long as the will of the scientists is fulfilled,” according to one review.
“The medical non-profit said at least 12 ‘previously healthy’ monkeys were euthanized as a result of problems with the implant. It also said these deaths “relate directly to the safety and marketability of the brain-computer interface Neuralink is developing,” Business Insider reported.
The former Neuralink employee told Wired that “Musk’s claims that the monkeys were already terminally ill are ‘ridiculous,’ even a ‘straight-up fabrication.'”
Further, an ethics group weighed in and sent letters to the SEC demanding an investigation of Musk’s claims.
Begun the Brain Implants Have
Amid the reports alleging extreme animal cruelty, the FDA approved human trials dubbed the Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface study. Only patients aged 22 or older with a cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can be candidates for a six-year study.
If successful, the implants could one day lead to enabling paralyzed patients to control external robotic devices with their thoughts. But the first trials would allow them to control a computer cursor.
Scientists have criticized previous claims that Neuralink would allow human telepathy technology within a relatively short time frame. One of the criticisms from six years ago was there would need to be “extraordinary evidence of safety” to proceed.
“Putting an implant in healthy people? That would require extraordinary evidence of safety,” reported MIT Technology Review in 2017. “And that’s hard to picture because as soon as you open someone’s head, you put that person’s life at risk. We at MIT Technology Review know of only one case of a healthy person getting a brain implant: a crazy stunt undertaken in Central America by a scientist trying to do research on himself. It caused life-threatening complications.”
Video by WION about Neuralink and the FDA-approved clinical trials: