Elon Musk Claims Neuralink Will Let the Blind See Again

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Apr 01, 2024

Elon Musk has developed Neuralink’s brain chip, which he says will enable those who were born blind to see again.

However, there has been some cause for concern regarding the safety of the trial and how ethical the trials and chip are.

Neuralink Aims to Change Lives

Neuralink’s website has said that brain-computer interfaces can change people’s lives for the better.

Neuralink. There is a tablet on a sign-in page for Neuralink and a light-up image of a brain next to it with the Neuralink logo in between the brain and the hand.

Source: Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons

It aims to enable people to use this technology at home as opposed to just in the lab, and they are currently recruiting for their first clinical trial. 

Neuralink’s Initial Aim Was to Help Paralysis

As outlined in one of Neuralink’s blog posts, the company was initially established to help people with paralysis. 

Two men who are part of the Neuralink telepathy trials. The one man is in a wheelchair and controls a laptop off-screen using telepathy.

Source: Neuralink/YouTube

The aim was to enable those with paralysis to use neural activity to operate computers and mobile devices.

Elon Musk Has Developed 'Blindsight' with Neuralink

Blindsight is the next project currently in development with Neuralink, with Elon Musk heading up this project. 

Elon Musk unveiling the Blindsight project at Neuralink. He is on stage and there is a screen to the right of him that outlines some of the work that they do.

Source: The Tesla Space/YouTube

The Daily Mail has reported that Blindsight will enable those currently without sight to be able to see. 

Blindsight Works by Using Electrical Impulses

Musk says Blindsight will work by using electrical impulses that go straight to the visual cortex.

A brain that is surrounded by a blue electrical current.

Source: Kjpargeter/Freepik

These electrical impulses come from repackaged digital camera data in the form of an implant, something Musk hopes will enable those who use the implant to be able to see.

Blindsight Tech Currently Has Low Resolution

As the implant is still in development, Musk has stated that the implant will give users low-resolution vision that looks like early Nintendo graphics.

Early Nintendo graphics from the 1970s. Most of the screen is orange and there are yellow, red, and green lines across the screen that are all slightly blurred.

Source: Gameranx/YouTube

However, Musk has also stated that he is hoping that as time progresses, they will be able to develop graphics that are better than human eyesight.


The Blindsight Implant Has Been Used on Monkeys

As with many clinical trials, the Neuralink Blindsight implant has mostly been tested on monkeys.

A post on X from Elon Musk. The post says “I should mention that the Blindsight implant is already working in monkeys. Resolution will be low at first, like early Nintendo graphics, but ultimately may exceed normal human vision. (Also, no monkey had died or been seriously injured by a Neuralink device!)

Source: @elonmusk/X

In a thread on X, Musk made it clear to his followers that no monkeys had died or been seriously injured during the trials for Neuralink devices. 


Neuralink Under Investigation for Animal Deaths

Despite Musk’s claims that no monkeys had died or been seriously injured, The Daily Mail reported that Neuralink was under investigation after 1,500 animal deaths. 

A monkey in a tree with one of its paws up near its face.

Source: Syed Ahmad/Unsplash

However, this number is a rough estimate, as the company hasn’t kept any records on how many animals have been tested and killed. 


Elon Musk Applied Pressure on Neuralink Trials

Musk was keen to accelerate the development of Neuralink products, which put a lot of pressure on staff to conduct trials and get results.

Elon Musk on a stage at a Neuralink event standing next to a white machine.

Source: Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons

Reuters reported that this caused some of the experiments to be “botched,” which led to repeated trials and experiments and more animals being killed. 


Blindsight Enabled Blind Monkeys to See

As mentioned, Neuralink has been using monkeys as part of their trials, which has enabled them to trial how the technology works.

A monkey looking shocked whilst hanging on to the branch of a tree.

Source: Jamie Haughton/Unsplash

The Independent has reported that the technology developed by Neuralink has enabled blind monkeys to regain their sight. 


Elon Musk Has Given More Questions than Answers

Despite giving various talks on Blindsight, these have led to people having more questions than answers.

Elon Musk standing on a stage holding a microphone at a Neuralink event. He is standing next to a screen that says ‘welcome’ and has fuzzy lines on against a black screen.

Source: Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons

Futurism has reported that no one truly knows how Blindsight works. Some of the questions left unanswered are whether monkeys were born blind or became blind later on and whether any of their optic nerves were still intact, especially as most brain-computer interfaces want to restore vision, i.e. be used in people who had sight but had since lost it. 


Monkey Photos Were Kept a Secret

According to Wired, Neuralink worked with University College Davis when carrying out trials on monkeys. The college refused to release any photos of the trial monkeys

Three monkeys. There is one in the foreground and two in the background, slightly blurred. They are surrounded by green trees and bushes.

Source: Anders J/Unsplash

This is one of many things critics are criticizing the Neuralink trials about, but only time will tell whether the trials end up working and enable people to see.