Skip to content

1984 Meets The Matrix: start up Company Gets Green Light From FDA on Controversial Implant

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Despite all the talk about AI being right-wing talking points and “conspiracy theories,” the human implant has finally arrived. Some wonder if this is an advance in medical science or a scary premonition of what’s coming.

On July 6, a doctor at Mount Sinai West medical center in New York threaded a 1.5-inch-long implant made up of wires and electrodes into a blood vessel in the brain of a patient with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The prediction is that this patient, who has lost the ability to move and speak, will be able to communicate using email and text messages simply by using their brains to think, with the implanted device translating his thoughts into commands that will be sent to a computer.

Four patients in Australia have already had chips implanted by Synchron, the company behind the technology. So far, none of these patients have experienced any side effects and have been able to carry out simple computer tasks such as sending a message on  Whatsapp and making online purchases. The procedure performed at Mt. Sinai by neuro-interventional surgeon Doctor Shahram Majidi was the first one done in the United States, beating out competitors such as Elon Musk’s Neurolink.  “This surgery was special because of its implications and huge potential,” said Dr. Majidi.

Synchron was founded in 2016 and caught the attention of the Brain Computer Interface field because the device, known as the stentrode, can be inserted directly into the brain without cutting through a person’s skull or damaging any tissue. A doctor can easily make an incision in the patient’s neck and feed the stentrode via a catheter, then fed through the jugular vein directly into a blood vessel within the motor cortex.  When the catheter is removed, the stentrode, a cylindrical, hollow wire mesh, opens up and fuses with the outer edges of that blood vessel. According to Dr. Majidi, the process is similar to the now common procedure of implanting a coronary stent and takes just a few minutes.

The second part of the procedure connects the stentrode through a wire to a computing device implanted in the patient’s chest. To do this, the surgeon creates a tunnel for the wire and a pocket for the device underneath the patient’s skin, similar to the procedure that is done for a pacemaker. The stentrode reads the signals when neurons fire in the brain, and the computing device amplifies those signals and sends them out to a computer or smartphone using Bluetooth technology.

"*" indicates required fields

San Francisco considers funding reparations for slavery at $5 million per black person. Do you support this?*
This poll gives you free access to our premium politics newsletter. Unsubscribe at any time.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Some believe technology like this, even though it is believed to have been developed in the name of advanced medical science, can lead the way for more sinister uses like mind control for the masses. Much like virtual reality technology, the fear is that the devices developed to aid those with diseases such as ALS will eventually lead the way to complete mind control over society by the government, where it will literally become illegal one day to think the wrong thing. Some believe the attack on our freedom of speech is just the beginning.

According to a survey by The Pew Research Center on implants in 2020, some adults in the US are more likely to see this type of technology as morally unacceptable, with a considerable share saying they are not sure about the moral implications that it might lead to.