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The hype from Elon Musk has been coming for weeks: This Friday, his secretive brain-implants startup Neuralink will give the first major update on its progress in more than a year. Whatever Neuralink unveils, it follows years of internal conflict in which rushed timelines have clashed with the slow and incremental pace of science, a STAT examination has found.

Four former employees described a chaotic internal culture — typical of Musk’s companies — characterized by intense demands and a sometimes haphazard rush to carry out projects and, just as quickly, to kill them. The company is now down to just three of its eight original founding scientists. And its researchers have long talked privately about the need to scale back elements of the company’s sweeping ambitions to focus on simpler, more targeted applications of its technology to make quicker progress, according to two former employees.

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