Elon Musk reportedly told workers at his brain-chip startup to imagine they had bombs strapped to their heads to make them work faster
- Elon Musk told Neuralink staff to imagine they had bombs strapped to their heads to drive faster work, Reuters reported.
- Employees told Reuters Musk's push for speed led to an increase in the number of animals killed in testing.
Elon Musk has repeatedly pushed employees at Neuralink to work faster — even telling staff to imagine they have a bomb strapped to their head to drive them to work harder — according to a recent report from Reuters.
Three sources told the publication they heard Musk make the comment on multiple occasions over the past few years. One former staffer said that Musk told workers he'd initiate a "market failure" at the company if employees couldn't speed up progress, Reuters reported.
Earlier this year, Musk told workers in an email that the company wasn't moving fast enough, per Reuters. "It is driving me nuts!" he reportedly wrote.
Employees say Musk's push to speed up development at Neuralink has led to faulty experiments and an increase in the number of animals that have been killed in testing, Reuters reported, citing internal documents and interviews with over 20 current and former employees. The publication found that about 1,500 animals involved with Neuralink had died, citing internal records and sources with knowledge of the issue.
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Inspector General is investigating the brain-chip startup at the request of a federal prosecutor, two sources told Reuters. The investigation is focused on the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates the treatment of animals in research, and was launched in recent months, per Reuters.
Spokespeople from Neuralink and the USDA did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication.
News of the federal probe comes after the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said earlier this year that it had obtained records showing the monkeys experienced "extreme suffering as a result of inadequate animal care and the highly invasive experimental head implants during the experiments."
Last week, Musk appeared to address concerns related to Neuralink's treatment of its test subjects during a show-and-tell event, saying the test monkeys "actually enjoy doing the demos" as they are rewarded with treats.
Musk cofounded Neuralink in 2016 as a brain-computer interface company. The billionaire has said in the past that Neuralink's chips — which are coin-sized devices designed to be implanted in the brain via a surgical robot — could one day do anything from cure paralysis to give people telepathic powers.
But, the company appears to have fallen behind its competition. Another brain-computer interface startup, Synchron, launched human trials in 2019 in Melbourne, Australia, and beat Musk's company to implanting its first device in a US patient earlier this year. Meanwhile, since 2019 Musk has repeatedly set and missed his own targets for when Neuralink would begin implanting its devices in human brains. In August, Reuters reported that the billionaire had approached Synchron about potentially investing in the competitor.
It's not the first time Musk has been known to push employees to work at a break-neck pace. The billionaire has been known to push for lofty goals at Tesla and SpaceX. Most recently, he's called for Twitter staff to work "extremely hardcore" and even appears to have encouraged workers to pull all-nighters in the office.
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