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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.


This examination is based on interviews with five former Neuralink employees — all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss the work publicly or were concerned about facing retribution — and four independent experts and competitors working in brain-machine interface research. STAT also reviewed Neuralink’s scientific papers, its city planning permits, and its primate research contract with the University of California, Davis. This account is the deepest so far of the company’s internal culture and how it operates.

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