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

The mother of Elon Musk’s newly revealed 9-month old twins is a woman who has worked in the billionaire’s orbit for several years.

Insider reported Wednesday that Musk fathered twins with Shivon Zilis, director of operations and special projects at Neuralink, a company that makes computer chips that can be implanted in the brain.

Zilis and Musk recently 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. 

—Business Insider (@BusinessInsider) July 6, 2022

Musk — the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink and potential future owner of Twitter — has seven other living children, including five with his first wife, Justine, and two with his on-again, off-again partner, Grimes. He tweeted Thursday 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 — here’s everything we know about her.

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 appear to have recently been taken down, 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.

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 mission is to find ways for AI to benefit humanity as a whole. 

Zilis is currently the youngest member of OpenAI’s board of directors. 

She has a high-level role at Neuralink

In 2017, Zilis joined Neuralink, the futuristic brain microchip company also co-founded 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 — and Musk suggested last year that Neuralink would start implanting chips in humans in 2022

In her presentation at CUCAI, 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 last year and bought a house in Austin

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

Tesla’s new Gigafactory is located near Austin, and court documents obtained by Insider show 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.

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ahartmans@businessinsider.com Avery HartmansJulia Black