Days before Neuralink – a company claiming to “develop ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers” – is set to give a “Progress update“, a special report by Erin Brodwin and Rebecca Robbins of STAT, indicates “years of internal conflict in which rushed timelines have clashed with the slow and incremental pace of science” within the company.
Of its eight original founding scientists, one of whom I would personally walk any plank for, only two remain. Former employees describe “a chaotic internal culture […] characterized by intense demands and a sometimes haphazard rush to carry out projects and, just as quickly, to kill them.”
In about 72 hours, an event described as “an all-hands-on-deck scramble” will presumably reveal information about motor cortex transcoding, primate research (why the rush?…O, yeah, we know why…), and chronic implant stuff. Probably some meme-inspiring demo with a patient. Heart warmth, incredulity, future still seen hazily in the distance.
Artificial intelligence, so in vogue, is liable to draw from the lips “machine learning”, “reinforcement”, pop culture reference.
I’ve read from this script before. Science as either boring or boisterous, as either peer-reviewed literature or as press-release. “All my life I’ve put it from me saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t tried everything. And I resume the struggle.” Why tell the same story again? That tale of sensation – triumph under pressure! – excites the mind, quickens the blood. What is so wrong with putting a positive spin on things? Surely, we can still learn new things from old words. Whether we will on Friday, history be our judge.
In response to the report published by STAT, the company sent a two-sentence statement: “There are a number of things here that are either partially or completely false. We recommend publishing after the 28th or your article will look foolish.”