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More than a conspiracy theory – AI chips in humans

As Lazarus was told to “Arise, take up your mat, and walk” in the Bible, in Switzerland, there have been reports that a paralysed man has been able to walk simply by thinking about it thanks to electronic brain implants. This man in particular had a spinal cord injury, which interrupts the communication between the brain and the region of the spinal cord that produces walking, leading to paralysis. By using AI technology, this communication was successfully restored, thus allowing him to learn to walk again.

News has spread like wildfire during the last few days following the announcement of Elon Musk, according to which his Neuralink company has successfully implanted one of its wireless brain chips in a human. We know nothing about the patient, other than that he is supposedly “recovering well” after the Neuralink device was implemented, and that “initial results show promising neuron spike detection”. This device contains a chip and electrode arrays of more than 1,000 superthin, flexible conductors that a surgical robot threads into the cerebral cortex. Enrollment for the study began in September 2023, specifically available to people with quadriplegia. The company’s first product following the successful studies is said to be Telepathy, which would enable “control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking”. However, these findings are so far all alleged.

While this technology, and implanting chips into our brains has long been a conspiracy theory, it is slowly becoming a reality – but not just for the purpose of controlling humans. The most notable use of this technology – besides the hope of  monetary benefit through a seemingly luxury service that Elon Mask claims is possible – is in the medical field.

In light of such positive possibilities in the medical field we can first think of these technological developments as something to look forward to: if we could help the lame to walk, the blind to see and even make our lives more comfortable by maximising the efficiency of our minds, wouldn’t we want to do it? Should we do it? Opinions differ on whether it’s our moral obligation to help people with disabilities or if we are interfering with the natural order and are in great danger.

From a legal standpoint, this brings up quite a few questions, such as who can access these technologies in the future, what possible side-effects they have on patients, and what happens to the data that the chip or implant processes? There are already many dangers of AI, such as nudging or misalignment, which prove that this technology is not 100% without fail or controllable. Because of the black box effect, we do not even know the exact processes that happen during the course of an AI’s development. Furthermore, many issues arise on the humanities’ side of using AI if these technologies become available. Am I even considered to be fully human after enhancing my abilities with AI technology? Could my memories, thoughts and actions be influenced, and if so, who would be responsible for possible criminal behavior?

The draft EU AI Act has specific categories for the sake of keeping AI technology under control, but with the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence, we don’t know what the future will look like, or even whether the newly established AI Office will even stand a chance of implementing the regulation at hand. After all, this new chip technology would most likely fall within the prohibited category of the legislation, but development will never stop.

It will be interesting to see in which direction these supposed new findings will steer the ship of AI technologies and possible legislation, but one thing is certain: it’s high time for lawyers to consider the future in which the most crucial details of AI will not be categories and databases, but the human side of AI: the enhanced humans, the medical use and us, in the mix of a changing world.

Mónika Mercz, JD, specialized in English legal translation, Professional Coordinator at the Public Law Center of Mathias Corvinus Collegium Foundation while completing a PhD in Law and Political Sciences at the Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Budapest, Hungary. Mónika’s past and present research focuses on constitutional identity in EU member states, data protection aspects of DNA testing, environment protection, children’s rights and Artificial Intelligence. Email:

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