This is your brain on Elon Musk

Photo Illustration by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Elon Musk, who already lives rent-free in many of our minds, just upgraded his status to official tenant. Musk’s brain chip startup Neuralink received the go-ahead to start in-human clinical trials, a monumental step for the ambitious company that’s already been plagued by federal probes. I imagine Musk added ‘put brain chips in humans’ onto his to-do list under ‘fix Twitter before 2024.’

In its announcement that the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval for in-human trials, Neuralink emphasized the significance of this milestone, stating that it represents a crucial initial stride towards leveraging Neuralink’s technology to “help many people.” In practice, the implanted chips transmit brain signals to computers, and Musk’s grand vision is to potentially help paralyzed individuals walk again and even cure brain diseases.

Neuralink is keeping the details of the FDA’s approval and the commencement of clinical trials under wraps, simply stating that the company is not yet recruiting for the clinical trial—which will surely attract a long line of volunteers from the Musk fandom. What’s more, the company is lagging behind the competition, while Musk is preoccupied with space rockets and Twitter.

Just last year, Fortune released a detailed report taking readers inside Neuralink and revealed that not only was Musk potentially overselling the capabilities of Neuralink’s technology (while rushing into human implantation as fast as possible), he was also rarely reachable as he juggled his time between Tesla and SpaceX.

His appearances at Neuralink’s offices were infrequent, Fortune wrote, with Musk breezing in once a week, then gradually downgrading to a mere twice-a-quarter cameo. And even then, his visits resembled the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it magic show—poof! He’d be gone in a matter of hours. Now, it remains to be seen how he’ll balance his responsibilities as Neuralink’s de facto CEO (it’s not even entirely clear who the official Neuralink CEO is) going into human trials, and his roles at Twitter and Tesla.

Perhaps perfectly timed, Musk dubbed former NBC ad executive Linda Yaccarino the new CEO of Twitter a few weeks ago. However, he intends to assume the positions of Twitter’s chief technology officer and executive chairman, propelled by his lofty vision to revolutionize the platform into the “everything app” he affectionately dubs “X.”

If only a year ago Musk was struggling to be present for his myriad ambitious and potentially deadly projects (not to mention for his 10 children), it’s difficult to see how things will get more organized and efficient by adding more balls to juggle. Clearly, these human trials will demand a lot of diligence and attention from Neuralink’s leadership. Even Musk’s biggest critics don’t want to see it fail—after all, curing the incurable is a feat I’m sure we all hope to witness in our lifetime. However, I am left wondering how quickly Musk will introduce verified Tesla owner checkmarks into Neuralinks. Oh, the synergies to be had!

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Kylie Robison

Data Sheet’s daily news section was written and curated by Andrea Guzman.


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