Elon Musk, the renowned tech entrepreneur, recently took a trip to Europe primarily to oppose the European Commission’s proposed measures on online content moderation. Although he was there ostensibly to make a Neuralink announcement, his real agenda quickly became apparent1.
Musk’s presence at VivaTech, a leading tech conference in France, had an immediate impact. The event’s founder, Maurice Levy of Publicis Groupe, noted the heightened interest sparked by Musk’s participation. Despite the high cost of his appearance, rumored to be around a million euros, the tech community welcomed him enthusiastically, indicating his continued influence in the sector.
In his characteristic style—introverted yet eloquent—Musk engaged in discussions on various topics. He shared significant news about Neuralink, the biotech company he cofounded, revealing plans for their first human device implantation to potentially restore full body function for someone with quadriplegia later in the year. Musk underscored the profound implications of such a breakthrough, particularly for people like the late physicist Stephen Hawking.
Additionally, he commented on artificial intelligence, advocating for a pause in AI development due to its potential negative consequences. Musk emphasized the need for careful regulation to minimize the risk of catastrophic outcomes from advanced AI, suggesting regulators should play the role of a referee in this context.
Musk also discussed his purchase of Twitter and the subsequent changes he instituted on the platform. Since acquiring the platform for $44 billion, he has worked to eliminate bots and scams, improve user experience, and champion free speech principles. He defended these policies by arguing that censorship can eventually turn against those who enforce it and that being offensive would naturally limit a user’s reach.
Before attending VivaTech, Musk visited Italy, where he seemed to garner support from right-wing factions for his opposition to the Digital Services Act. This EU regulation package, which Musk and other tech leaders oppose, includes requirements to block fake news and limit online violence. The right-wing political forces in Europe could potentially help to counteract these proposed measures.
In a quintessential startup moment at the end of his VivaTech appearance, Musk awkwardly accepted a business card from an audience member, prompting applause and highlighting the continued allure of the entrepreneurial spirit1. His visit to Europe, thus, served multiple purposes: making a significant Neuralink announcement, opposing EU’s online moderation measures, and engaging in influential tech discussions.