Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Elon Musk Seen Targeting Human-Computer Link In New Venture

Elon Musk has started a new company called Neuralink, in what's widely seen as a bid to add a symbiotic computer layer to the human brain.
Susana Gonzalez
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Elon Musk has started a new company called Neuralink, in what's widely seen as a bid to add a symbiotic computer layer to the human brain.

In the past, entrepreneur Elon Musk has described a "neural lace" that could add a symbiotic digital layer to the human brain. In the future, it seems, he'll try to build that device through a new company, Neuralink.

Musk, whose name is also tied to ambitious projects in space and electric cars, confirmed the new venture early Tuesday, after it was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

"He hasn't made an announcement, but Neuralink registered in California as a 'medical research' company last July," the Journal said.

Hours later, Musk confirmed the company's name — but little else — in a tweet. More details, he said, would come in a post on the Wait But Why site, which specializes in long-form, visually rich explainers.

With few details made public, speculation about Neuralink centers on the name and how it might correspond to Musk's previous statements about incorporating artificial intelligence, or AI, into human brains.

The idea of a brain-computer link has been a theme in Musk's tweets, and the topic also came up in a lengthy Recode interview last year, when he spoke of how humans are already becoming cyborgs, thanks to smartphones and other devices that give us nearly immediate access to information.

"But the constraint is input-output," Musk said. "So, we're i/o-bound."

Laying out his idea, Musk said, "Effectively, merging in a symbiotic way with digital intelligence revolves around eliminating the i/o constraint. So, it would be some sort of direct cortical interface."

And he added that such a "merging" would not require surgery but could instead be accomplished by going through veins and arteries — "because that provides a complete roadway to all of your neurons."

Such a project could be life-changing for people who suffer from neurological diseases and injuries. In addition, Musk has said, enhancing people's brains could allow humanity to avoid becoming the equivalent of "a house cat" after AI surpasses us — a development he said was just a matter of time.

On Tuesday, Wait But Why's Tim Urban posted a short update to its series of collaborations with Musk, saying, "So there's this secret thing I've been secretly working on for the past few weeks and it was a secret."

That has changed because of a leak, Urban said. But, like Musk, he provided few details and promised they would come later.

"It's a really extremely cool company and I can't wait to tell you about it. I was given the lowdown about it earlier this month and have been rapid-fire learning ever since. Turns out the brain is obnoxiously not simple."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.