Sorry Elon, Americans don’t want a brain chip!

February 6, 2024

Last week, entrepreneur Elon Musk announced that his company Neuralink—which is attempting to develop brain implants to mediate connections between the brain and technology—had implanted a product in a human test subject, reports Business Insider.

But now, a new poll of 1,000 respondents, conducted by YouGov, suggests that interest in such devices will be limited by skepticism about their potential,

The poll found 82% of respondents probably or definitely would not, and 10% were undecided.

Interest from potential test subjects is rather slim, as is: Just 2% would “definitely” consider getting a computer chip implanted in their brain “within the next year,” below the margin of error for the poll. Overall, just 5% of respondents would at all consider getting a chip in the next year—and many of them can be found among the science-fiction fan set.

The idea of altering or treating one’s mind in order to accrue considerable mental powers has a rich history in science fiction literature. Granted, it’s often a cautionary tale about the hubris of mucking around with the very foundations of human cognition, but it does have some fictional precedent, from the mentats of Dune to the tragic success of Flowers for Algernon.

Familiarity with these texts tended to be linked to an increased appetite for the brain chips. While 8% percent of respondents would be down for a chip if it were commercially produced and no longer experimental, that rose to 19% among those who had reported reading, for instance, Ender’s Game.

Indeed, if there is a demographic of interest for Neuralink, it’s basically “people who say they have read Frank Herbert’s Dune.” All told, 19% of respondents who said they read Dune would get a commercially available brain chip, and 11% of respondents who said they read Dune would get one this year.

Men were more than three times as likely as women (13% vs. 4%) to be down for a commercially produced brain chip eventually. Democrats and Independents were twice as likely as Republicans (10% vs. 5%) to consider such a piece of tech.

And somewhat distressingly, among those who had reported reading Flowers for Algernon—the iconic short story about a disastrous brain augmentation procedure —fully 13% were still interested in the chip.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider