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Who is Shivon Zilis? Meet the Neuralink exec and AI expert who quietly had twins with Elon Musk

Walter Isaacson shared a photo of Elon Musk and Shivon Zilis with their twins.
Walter Isaacson shared a photo of Elon Musk and Shivon Zilis with their twins on Wednesday.
  • Shivon Zilis was pictured alongside Elon Musk and their twins for the first time on Wednesday.
  • Insider first reported that Musk quietly fathered twins with Zilis, a director at Neuralink, in 2021.
  • Zilis, 36, has had a successful career in venture capital and artificial intelligence. 

Elon Musk's biographer, Walter Isaacson, shared a sneak peek into Musk's relationship with Shivon Zilis, a Neuralink director and the mother of two of Musk's children, on Wednesday.

In an excerpt from Isaacson's forthcoming biography on the Tesla CEO and in a post on social media, he shared a photo of Musk and Zilis with their twins — who were 16 months old at the time — sitting on each of their laps.

Walter Isaacson posted a photo of Elon Musk and Zilis on X.
Walter Isaacson posted a photo of Elon Musk and Zilis on X.

The biographer said the photo was taken when Musk ushered him to Zilis' house in Austin to talk about the threat AI posed to civilization.

"We were sitting on a suburban patio by a tranquil backyard swimming pool on a sunny spring day, with two bright-eyed twins learning to toddle, as Musk somberly speculated about the window of opportunity for building a sustainable human colony on Mars before an AI apocalypse destroyed earthly civilization," Isaacson said of the scene.

It's no surprise Zilis was included on the conversation. She has worked in the billionaire's orbit for several years. Though, her personal relationship with Musk wasn't reported until Insider first revealed last year that she had given birth to a set of twins that Musk had fathered.

Zilis is the director of operations and special projects at one of the billionaire's companies — Neuralink, a startup that makes computer chips designed to be implanted in the brain.

In 2022, Zilis and Musk filed a petition to change the twins' names in order to "have their father's last name and contain their mother's last name as part of their middle name," according to court documents. 

Musk has seven other known living children, including five with his first wife, Justine, and two with his former girlfriend, Grimes. He's said in the past that he's doing his best to help the "underpopulation crisis." 

Zilis, 36, has had a successful career in both venture capital and artificial intelligence.

Zilis grew up in Ontario, Canada, and is a lifelong athlete

Zilis was born in Markham, Ontario, and grew up playing ice hockey. She attended Yale University, where she played goalie on the women's ice-hockey team. She graduated in 2008 with a degree in economics and philosophy.

Photos from Zilis' social media accounts, which were taken down in 2022, show Zilis surfing, zip-lining, and ice climbing. 

She started her career in finance and venture capital

After graduating from Yale, Zilis got a job at IBM, where she spent three years focused on financial technologies.

She later joined early stage venture-capital fund Bloomberg Beta, where she led investment efforts in data and machine learning. Her work at Bloomberg Beta earned her a spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in the venture-capital category in 2015.

Tesla owners broke down the perks of owning a Tesla in conversations with Insider.
Tesla owners broke down the perks of owning a Tesla in conversations with Insider.

Zilis worked as a project director at Tesla from 2017 to 2019, lending her AI expertise to the Autopilot and chip-design teams. 

She's passionate about artificial intelligence

Zilis developed an interest in artificial intelligence around the age of 12 or 13, when she learned about the concept from the Our Lady Peace album "Spiritual Machines." It led her to read a Ray Kurzweil book by a similar name and sparked her passion for AI, she said during a 2021 address at the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on AI

"I've basically spent pretty much all of the last decade focused in and around AI unfolding in the world in the best way possible," she said. 

It was AI that led her to Musk: In 2016, Zilis joined OpenAI, a nonprofit co-founded by a group that included Musk and former Y Combinator president Sam Altman. OpenAI's stated mission is to find ways for AI to benefit humanity as a whole. The company made headlines late last year when it released a new version of its AI chatbot, ChatGPT.

Zilis was the youngest member of OpenAI's board of directors until she stepped down in March,  The Information reported.

She has a high-level role at Neuralink

In 2017, Zilis joined Neuralink, the futuristic brain microchip company also cofounded by Musk. Neuralink has a short-term goal of using implantable devices to solve brain and spine problems, and a long-term mission of achieving "symbiosis" between artificial intelligence and the human brain, according to Musk

Neuralink has tested its chips in a pig and a monkey — which has angered animal rights groups. In May, Neuralink said it had gotten approval from the Food and Drug Administration to start implanting the chips in humans.

Zilis is a director at Neuralink.
Zilis is a director at Neuralink.

In her presentation at the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on AI in 2021, Zilis called Neuralink the most "complicated but also fascinating thing I've ever encountered in my life." 

"AI's going to be one of the fundamentally transformative technologies humanity creates, if not the most," she said. "And so we just need to make sure, from a humanity perspective, this goes well." 

Zilis has defended Musk from critics

In 2020, Musk publicly sparred with the state of California over its COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, calling them "fascist" and "forcible imprisoning." He pledged that Tesla would move its headquarters to Texas as a result, which prompted California State Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher to tweet "F*ck Elon Musk."

Zilis responded on Twitter, writing that Gonzalez Fletcher's tweet made her sad.

"No one's perfect but I've never met anyone who goes through more personal pain to fight for an inspiring future for humanity - and has done so tirelessly for decades," Zilis wrote. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion but mine is that there's no one I respect and admire more."

Zilis had twins with Musk in 2021 and bought a house in Austin

Zilis purchased a home in a gated community in Austin in August 2021 — the real-estate website Zillow estimates the home is worth more than $4 million.

Tesla's Gigafactory is located near Austin, and court documents obtained by Insider list Musk and Zilis as residents of that address. Musk, however, has said that his primary residence is a $50,000 modular house in Boca Chica, near the SpaceX launch facility in South Texas. 

Zilis and Musk's twins were born in November, a few weeks before Musk and the musician Grimes had their second child via surrogate.

Grimes, whose legal name is Claire Boucher, said on X that communication about Zilis' twins "wasn't handled super well."  Musk's biographer said in an excerpt from his book that Grimes was initially "outraged" that she found out about Musk and Zilis' twins at the same time the public did. Last week, in a since-deleted post on X Grimes accused Zilis of blocking her on social media.

"I have never been allowed to see a photo of these children until this moment, despite the situation utterly ripping my family apart," Grimes wrote on X and later deleted.

The pair later appeared to make amends on X and Grimes said she now undestands what happened.

"I spoke with Shivon at length finally, which was long overdue. This wasn't her fault, plz don't be angry at her! We respect each other a lot and we're excited to become friends and have the kids grow up together," Grimes wrote on X on Sunday.

Zilis' responded to Grimes post saying: "I can't wait for kiddo play date and congrats on baby Tau as well," referencing Grimes' third child with Musk.

The Neuralink director has also taken to posting about her children in recent months.

"Buc-ee's" was in each of the twins' first 20 words. Texas life ftw," she wrote on X in August.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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