The monkey that plays video games with its mind

Mind Pong: Elon Musk says monkeys could use their brains to play arcade games with each other. © Getty

Should Elon Musk experiment on monkeys? The billionaire inventor has put a chip in a monkey’s brain so it can play video games. He says it is “totally happy”. But some are not so sure.

What’s happening

A monkey sits quietly eating a banana. Next door, another is staring at a wall. They might not look busy, but in their minds, they are in a furious game of mind Pong.

This is the future that Elon Musk predicted last week, when he announced he had planted a chip inside the monkey’s brain.

Find out more

Elon Musk is famous as the creator of Tesla and SpaceX. But he has another project, too. Neuralink is a company that plans to put computer chips in people’s brains.

Set up in 2016, many of its plans have been kept secret for years. Now, it has had its first big success. Scientists have planted a chip in a monkey’s skull.

In an interview, Musk explained how the chip makes “mind video games” possible. He added that the monkey was healthy: “He does not look like an unhappy monkey.”

Musk says he wants Neuralink to help people who are paralysed. And he hopes it will help with conditions like dementia and autism.

While he has many supporters, some say it is wrong to do scientific tests on animals.

So, should Elon Musk experiment on monkeys?

Some say…

Yes! The monkeys he tests are happy and healthy. And it is worth it. If it works, the chip could do something doctors have not been able to: it could help the paralysed walk again. And it will change the way we live. We would be able to send messages without phones. We could upload our memories. We would never have to Google anything again.

Others think…

No! It is cruel and unfair to use any animal for experiments. Just because the monkey looks happy, things might not stay that way. Nobody knows how the chip could affect it after a long time. If Elon Musk wants to try out the chip, he should put it in his own brain first. At least he could agree to take part in the test.

You Decide

  1. If you could gain the power to read everyone’s mind, would you want it?

Activities

  1. Write a diary entry from the future describing a day in the life of someone with a Neuralink in their brain.

Some People Say...

“The future is going to be wild… you could decide if you want to be a robot or a person or whatever.”

Elon Musk (1971 - ), inventor and entrepreneur

What do you think?

Word Watch

Mind Pong
Pong is a simple arcade game a bit like table tennis. Elon Musk says the chip lets his monkey control the game with its mind.
Neuralink
The name comes from “neuron” – a natural connective wire inside the brain. The idea is to link electronics with these brain connections.
Computer chips
A small electric circuit that works as a computer on a tiny piece of metal. The Neuralink chips are tiny and fit onto the skull.
Paralysed
When somebody has lost the ability to move some or all of their body. This is usually because of an accident where the spinal cord is affected.
Dementia
A condition that affects the brain. It is common in elderly people and affects your ability to remember, think and solve problems.
Autism
The name for a range of conditions which affect the way a person communicates and interacts with the world around them.

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