Exclusively Online | Fall 2022 Issue

“A Lighter Look” — Elon Musk and Brain Implants

Rick Meyer’s regularly appearing column takes a lighter look at politics and public affairs around the world. This month: "Brain Implants?"

By Richard E. Meyer

Maybe he can do it with brain implants.

In mid-December, Elon Musk tweeted to 120 million people: “Follow 🐰.” QAnon cheered. “Follow the white rabbit” alludes to “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Matrix.” It invites people into a world beyond . . .

The phrase is used by QAnon devotees. Could it be that Elon was a fellow conspiracist?

But to be successful at fantasies, one must be able to convince others that the fantasies are true.

Brain implants in his listeners might help.

Elon makes them himself.

In the real world, one of his companies, called Neuralink, creates microchips with flexible wires, each thinner than a hair and fitted with electrodes.

A robot (I’m not making this up) embeds the chips into the skull. Much like a sewing machine, it uses a needle to drive the wires and electrodes into the brain.

In April 2021, Elon showed a video of a monkey, named Pager, outfitted with an implant. Pager was playing a video game using only his mind.

Neuralink’s goals include helping paralytics run computers and cellphones, or control their protheses; enabling others to regain memory, or restore their eyesight; and someday, perhaps, merging human consciousness with artificial intelligence.

Maybe brain implants would help people believe it when Elon says, as he did in 2020, that “kids are essentially immune” to COVID – or make readers agree with his call for prosecuting Anthony Fauci on grounds that Fauci lied to Congress and funded infectious disease research “that killed millions of people.”

Elon offered no evidence that any of this was true.

Implants also might encourage listeners to applaud when Elon ridicules transgender identity, as he did last December, by saying: “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.”

Implants also might help readers believe it when Elon tweets an account from what fact-checkers called a low-credibility source saying, as it did, that Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was drunk when he was assaulted and “in a dispute with a male prostitute.” There’s no evidence of that, either. To the contrary.

Elon sent that tweet three days after he bought Twitter. Some of his followers recoiled and accused him of endorsing an unproven conspiracy theory.

An Anti-Defamation League official said Elon had broken his promise to keep Twitter from becoming a “hellscape.”

The best brain chip in the world would short-circuit if it tried to build credibility for some of the other things that Elon has done, as well:

He suspended journalists from Twitter after declaring himself an absolute believer in free speech. He locked himself into control of Twitter after pledging to abide by a poll saying he should step down as CEO. He stopped paying rent on some Twitter offices, hoping it would cut down costs . . .

But Elon has such faith in brain implants that he wants one himself. He has announced that he will have a Neuralink chip placed in his brain soon. “I will,” he said recently.

I wonder: Does Neuralink make an implant for ignoring the white rabbit and staying in the real world?


Richard E. Meyer

Richard E. Meyer

Meyer is the senior editor of Blueprint. He has been a White House correspondent and national news features writer for the Associated Press and a roving national correspondent and editor of long-form narratives at the Los Angeles Times.

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