פרזנטציית נויראלינק, אוגוסט 2020
Uri Aviv

Fiction and Art | The Neural Link – an Absurdist Reality

Text from the August 2020 PR event for Elon Musk's Neuralink, a company developing brain/computer interfaces


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In August 2020, as CoVid19 was rampaging, Neuralink’s senior team gathered for a public presentation event, the stated purpose of which was recruitment. Musk started off, presenting the company’s vision, reviewing the challenges and achievements – including two pigs, in one a Neuralink device was implanted, and in the other a device was implanted and removed, to show that the process is reversible. When the first part ended, he invited the team on stage and together they answered the public’s questions from Twitter.

Towards the end the team is asked to answer one by one – what is the Neuralink future they imagine? What is the application at the top of their personal “wish list” to develop? The answers were mesmerizing, shocking, beautiful, ludicrous, frightening.

Following is the transcript as edited by Uri Aviv. Some artistic liberty was taken in presenting the participants as well as bringing two additional segments from the one-hour presentation into the final part.

Moderator: As a closing question, I thought we might go down the line starting with Dan. And what I’m wondering is, what is the number one thing on your wish list, that you’re really hoping that the Neuralink device will do over time, that you’re working towards.

Our first answer is from Dan. We’ve looked and looked and have no idea who is Dan or what he does at Neuralink.

Dan: So my background is in visual neuroscience, and one of the things I think has great potential for the Neuralink is to provide a visual prosthesis for people who have retinal injury or blindness through eye injury. You can essentially plug a camera directly into the visual cortex and stimulate with an enormous array of 1000s, or maybe Tens of 1000s of electrodes, to recreate a visual image. And in time, perhaps, you can use that same technology in people who haven’t lost vision to produce some kind of heads-up display. Something like “Terminator” or something like that…

Moderator: Wonderful…

Elon Musk: In fact, we are saying that, like, over time, we could actually give somebody supervision, like, you could have like ultraviolet or infrared, or see in radar, basically name your frequency, you can just dynamically adjust the sensor or have a set of sensors that feed into the visual cortex across a wide range of frequencies and actually have… ahhh…  superhuman vision.

Next is Dongjin Seo, DJ for short, co-founder of Neuralink, VP Engineering with a PhD from Berkley.

Dan (right) and DJ (left)

DJ: Yeah, so for me, telepathy. So I think it’s an incredible amount of effort to put your thoughts into a set of words, and, you know, it comes out, completely compressed. So, being able to do that seamlessly, without being able to compress it with all of the mechanisms – that would be great.

Elon Musk: Yeah, it’s like just – I’m sorry, to add further to that – In fact, when I did the “Wait But Why” article, I think that Tim thought I said “consensual telepathy”, but I said “conceptual telepathy”, Presumably it would be consensual…  ahmmm…. because you definitely don’t want just people, you know, sending stuff into your brain without your consent.

But… ahh… a lot of our brain thought capacity is, goes into compressing our thoughts into words. And then you think like, the data rate of words… words are very slow, very low data rate, and reporting a tremendous amount of mental energy into compressing the concepts and thoughts in our head into words and then slowly talking – speech is so very very slow.

And we could actually send the true thoughts, we can obviously have far better communication because we can convey the actual concepts, the actual thoughts, uncompressed, to somebody else.

Moderator: So, non-linguistic, consensual, and conceptual, telepathy.

Elon Musk: Yes, exactly. Non-linguistic consensual conceptual telepathy.

Next is Ian O’Hara, VP Robotics.

Ian: I’ve actually been excited from the beginning, sort of, about the, like, side benefit of these devices. I sort of see them as… essentially like an oscilloscope to a printed circuit board is our device to the brain, where just by virtue of having us in there, and being able to see what’s actually going on, you’ll end up learning a ton about how the brain works. And so sort of augmenting people, but also just using that to learn a lot more about neurological diseases is really exciting to me.

Moderator: Absolutely.

We’ve arrived at Paul Merolla, another co-founder here at Neuralink.

Right to Left: Ian O’Hara, Paul Merolla, Team Member #1, Joey O’Doherty


Paul: So to sort of follow up on Elon’s thought – you know, I feel – and I imagine a lot of other people feel the same way – that there’s a lot of sort of trapped creativity in your mind. You can, for example, close your eyes and conjure up an incredible, like Dali-esque scene. But you know, if I wanted to actually show someone that it would take years of like, honing a craft to be able to paint that. And so, you know, potentially with enough electrodes in the right places, you could begin to sort of tap into those raw concepts or thought vectors and be able to decode that and show people. It could be for art, you mentioned music, or even for like, engineering, a three-dimensional model.

Moderator: So, mental artistry as a new field.

The next speaker wasn’t even presented. We don’t even know his name.

Team member: I like to think about ways to interface devices with biology better. And so one of the things I’m looking forward to is getting this thing, to look less like technology and more like biology, so that it really is, you know, seamlessly interfaced with the brain, stable for a very long time. And then similar to that, having stimulation be much more precise and multidimensional, such that, eventually, the brain sort of doesn’t really know if it’s being stimulated from outside or inside, and you end up just sort of completely merging.

Next up is Joey O’Doherty, he’s a neuroscientist and neuro-engineer and runs the Brain-Machine Interface work at Neuralink.

Joey: You know, following up on stimulation, one of the things our device can do is simultaneously read and write on every channel, stimulate and record. And that’s, you know, both a more challenging problem than it may seem like at first, but also, you know, incredibly exciting, the sort of vistas that it opens up is really kind of the whole game in terms of interfacing with the nervous system. And I’m very excited to use that.

Our next speaker is Robin Young, she’s a mechanical engineer and runs the mechanics and assembly work for the implant at Neuralink.

Robin: Yeah, I’m excited just because of the scalability of the device. We’re doing everything in-house, and all of it can scale to more channels, more brain regions, etc. I think, yeah, I’m really interested about solving things related to anxiety or depression, or even like removing fear. Like, I’m an athlete, rock climbing without fear would be…

Elon Musk: Maybe a little bit of fear…

Robin: Yeah, just a little… And also, it’d be great if we could make the pigs fly…

Next is Matthew MacDougall, head neurosurgeon at Neuralink.

Right to Left: Robin Yoing, Matthew MacDougall, Elon Musk, Max Hodak

Next is Matthew MacDougall, head neurosurgeon at Neuralink.

Matthew: I think we have an incredible opportunity to limit human suffering to a tiny fraction of what it is today, in all kinds of different avenues. Pain, being the essence of suffering, we might be able to control that finally. And so many other diseases, so much other suffering in the world, I think the Neuralink device could help a lot with.

Elon Musk: I think all these things are great functions for a Neuralink. On a species-level basis, I think it’s going to be important for us to figure out how we coexist with advanced artificial intelligence. And, you know, I think, achieving some kind of AI symbiosis, where you have an AI extension of yourself, like a tertiary layer above the limbic system and cortex, and having that symbiosis be good, such that the future of the world is controlled by the combined will of the people of Earth. I think that that’s obviously going to be the future that we want, presumably, if it’s the sum of our collective will. So, I think it’s going to be important from an existential threat standpoint to achieve a good AI symbiosis. And that’s what I think might be the most important thing that a device like this achieves.

Next up is Max Hodak, co-founder and CEO of Neuralink.

Max: I think that a good benchmark of ‘Does it work well in humans?’ is can a quadriplegic… does it work well enough for them to play ‘Starcraft’? That’s a good functional target.

Elon Musk: Yeah, for sure.

Max: I have, in many ways, a very basic science interest, which is I’m really interested in the nature of consciousness. There’s a lot of very silly philosophy that’s been written about it over the last one thousand years. But I think that it’s really… we’ve been very limited by the tools and our ability to interrogate and measure the brain. And as these tools get better, it will pull it into the realm of physics, and it’s really one of the last big great mysteries in science.

Felix Deku is our next speaker, director of microfabrication.

Right to Left: Elon Musk, Max Hodak, Felix Deku, Zack, Autumn Sorrells

Felix: So for me, can you imagine a disease-free future? A future where you know what’s going to happen to you before it happens, so you can prevent it. With these devices, we will be able to not just pick up electrical signals, you can also pick up chemical clues in the brain. And if you’re successful, which I know we are. we’ll be able to kind of prevent ahead of time, you know, diseases. And really, the functions of these devices are widespread. So I’m looking forward to the future.

Zack is up, he works on Felix’s microfabrication team.

Zack: I’m really excited about the opportunity to help people overcome challenges that they face through life circumstances, bad luck, through no fault of their own, spinal cord injury, brain disease, some devastating things that completely changes your life. Hopefully, we can help them get some function back.

We’ve arrived at Autoumn Sorrells, Animal Care Program Director at Neuralink.

Autumn: Well, I’m Autumn, and I lead our animal care program. And our philosophy here is to set up a system where the animals are able to volunteer, to make choices to participate in our projects. As you see, sometimes they choose not to participate, and that’s okay. We want to make sure that our animals are happy and healthy. So, all of the behavioural research that we do is led by positive reinforcement. And again, that allows for them to choose to volunteer or not.

I know and love many humans with autism spectrum disorder. So, I’m really interested to see how the Neuralink might be able to support them if they chose to do that.

Last but not least, Sam is a veterinarian who works with Autumn on animal care.

Sam: Yeah, so I mean, everyone else along the line has had, you know, amazing ideas and suggestions. For me, it’s about memories, and everyone loses those memories over time. You know, I already can’t remember what happened to me when I was younger, and you know, it will only get worse. And so having a repository of memories that you can access whenever you want, if you’re feeling down, you can go access some good memories, you know, if you miss something or miss somebody, you can go and access those memories. And I think that would just be such a life-changing experience to be able to just tap into that.

Moderator: That was such a beautiful and diverse array of answers there.

Elon Musk: Yeah. All right. Well, thanks for tuning in. And as I said, please consider working at Neuralink and helping us solve these problems. There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done to go from here to a device that is available, widely available, and affordable and reliable. So please consider joining us and supporting us in our mission. Thank you very much.

Where are they now?

All according to public information


Still with Neuralink: DJ, Joey and Matthew.

Ian, Robin, Max, Felix, Autumn and Paul have all left the company.

Ian O’Hara left in early 2023. According to Linkedin he’s now a mechatronics contractor, and – quote – “If you think I might be a good fit for you, please contact me.”. so for all your mechatronics needs, reach out. He also mentions he keeps in close touch and will forever be a big believer in Neuralink.

Paul Merolla left in June 2022, and as of 2023 he is listed as co-founder of MK ONE, an AI company.

Robin Young left Neuralink in April 2021, moved to Berlin and worked at WHITEVoid, a design studio, for a year. She is now, according to Linkedin, quantum engineer at AQT Alpine Quantum Technologies, working on quantum computing! How cool is that!

Autumn Sorrells left 2 months ago and now offers consultancy as an animal behavior training solutions specialist.

Felix Deku left in 2021 as well, worked for another company in the BCI sector (Braingrade), and currently teaches full time at the University of Oregon.

Max Hodak left in 2021 and is now founder and CEO of a new biotech startup simply called Science.


In July 2021 Neuralink announced round C of investments, 205 Million USD, including Vy Capital (I couldn’t figure out who this is), Google Ventures, Peter Thiel (Founders Fund) and Sam Altman.

In August 2023 Neuralink announed series D funding, Peter Thiel investing another 323 Million USD.


Through 2020 and 2021 Neuralink moved from experimenting on pigs to macaques monkeys, and in April 2021 released a video that shocked the web – a monkey playing telepathic pong. It was revealed that the experiments cause extreme suffering. Neuralink denied the accusations but did admit that 15 of the 23 macaques monkeys that participated in the experiment, died.

In 2023 the FDA cleared Neuralink for human experiments. Noland Arbaugh, a quadriplegic, received the first Neuralink implant late January this year. He is doing well.