Shivon Zilis, an executive at neurotech start-up Neuralink who is usually in the spotlight for her artificial intelligence expertise, is garnering attention for reportedly having twins with Elon Musk last year.
Musk appeared to address the report on Twitter Thursday, where he has expressed his previous views that people should have more children.
“Doing my best to help the underpopulation crisis," he tweeted. "A collapsing birth rate is the biggest danger civilization faces by far.”
Who is Shivon Zilis, the machine-learning advocate and major player in Musk’s world?
Shivon Zilis reportedly had twins with Elon Musk
Insider reported that Zilis and Musk recently filed in Austin to change the children’s last name to match their father’s. The petition seeks to make the children’s mother’s name, Zilis, part of their middle names, according to copies of the petition. According to Insider, she is 36; Musk is 51.
Musk serves as co-CEO of Neuralink, and Zilis is the director of operations and special projects for the company. Neuralink is an ambitious moonshot project in Musk’s portfolio, which also includes Tesla and SpaceX, and aims to cut small holes in patients’ skulls to insert brain implants.
Zilis, who did not comment for the Insider story, filed the name change document on April 25 — the same day that Musk struck a deal to take over social media company Twitter for about $44 billion. On that day, Zilis tweeted, “It’s nice when there are days where you end up more net hopeful for the future :)”
Zilis did not respond to requests for comment sent to her email and LinkedIn account.
Shivon Zilis has a deep background in machine learning
Zilis, who grew up in Canada and attended Yale, lists her interests in her Twitter bio: “Artificial intelligence, biological intelligence, and whatever exists in between and beyond.” She is a board member of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research organization that Musk also co-founded. He departed the board in 2018.
Zilis worked at IBM after college, before joining the emerging venture project Bloomberg Beta as a founding member in 2011, where she helped vet machine-learning start-ups.
On her website, she wrote with her business partner in 2016 that “the hype around machine intelligence methods continues to grow: the words ‘deep learning’ now equally represent a series of meaningful breakthroughs (wonderful) but also a hyped phrase like ‘big data’ (not so good!).”
She went on to explain that the pair cared more about using the right methods to solve an issue, “not the fanciest one.”
“We favor those who apply technology thoughtfully,” their post reads.
Shivon Zilis has worked in the office of the CEO at Neuralink
In an interview last year at the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on AI, Zilis said she has spent several years focusing on “AI unfolding in the world in the best way possible.” Introduced as a project director in the office of the CEO at Neuralink, she explained that Neuralink is working to solve brain and spine problems in the short term. (Her LinkedIn page now lists her jobs as director of operations and special projects at the company.)
“If you think about it, every single component of your reality — everything you’ve ever touched, any memory you’ve ever had, anything you’ve ever felt, all of this is just signals emanating from your brain, and so when we talk about creating a platform to directly interface with the brain, you have the potential just to modulate literally everything,” she said.
Shivon Zilis has a history with Elon Musk’s ventures
Zilis met Musk through connections in the AI industry, according to her interview with the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on AI. She joined OpenAI as an advisor in 2016 and later became a board member at the organization.
During that time, she worked at Tesla for more than two years on AI projects, according to her LinkedIn account. She worked on the autopilot and chip design teams.
Her tweets show her interest in some of Musk’s other projects, including his rocket company SpaceX and his impending takeover of Twitter. In May, she tweeted that she switched her Twitter timeline to a reverse chronological view, something Musk has advocated for.
“My learning rate from Twitter has spiked since swapping to chronological and it feels less like doomscrolling,” she said. “Curious if others feel the same way.”