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In a frantic maneuver to offset an underwhelming start to Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign, billionaire Elon Musk has tasked his neural implant startup Neuralink with inserting charisma into DeSantis’s brain.
Thus far, the upstart tech company’s work has focused on brain-machine interfaces, with the goal of allowing quadriplegics to move artificial limbs or interact with computers. But the DeSantis Initiative, as company staff call it, is entirely different: an unprecedented effort to use brain chips to make a person less machine-like.
The work began immediately after DeSantis’s much-maligned Twitter Space announcing his candidacy, where DeSantis appeared to be reading a canned stump speech into his phone. Neuralink has its work cut out for it.
“Our work so far has focused exclusively on interfacing between computers and living things,” said Neuralink CTO Gabriella Bernstein-Wong. “But the DeSantis Initiative is more like trying to insert a human brain into a bipedal AI. How do you even do that?”
Early tests have focused on inserting a chip that can improve function within the parts of the brain that generate warmth, humor, empathy, improvisation, and other facets of inspiring human behavior. But from the moment the chip went onto the Florida governors cerebral cortex, there have been problems.
“We’ve been trying to train the subject on what we call ‘the pudding test,'” said Neuralink staffer Rudolph Noogle. “It should be easy: All we have to do is get the subject to not use his fingers when presented with a Chocolate and Vanilla Snack Pack. But on our first three tests we were only able to get him down from using three fingers to two, and then it took another two tests to get him own to one finger. On our most recent test, he devoured the pudding by shoving his tongue into the pudding cup, like a dog. My marriage is failing and I want to kill myself.”
Efforts at improving DeSantis’s interpersonal interactions have made more progress. The company has erected a hastily-built replica of a New Hampshire diner where DeSantis recently had a series of awkward interactions with potential supporters.
DeSantis: “Go right over here? Okay. Good deal. Good deal. Wow. Crowded, huh? It smells really good.”
I just don’t understand how a presidential candidate could be this awkward. pic.twitter.com/dhuxbKl2au
— James (@MI_James57) May 20, 2023
“After three test runs, we finally got Ron to stop saying ‘Okay’ when people give him their names,” said Neuralink Chief Charisma Officer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. “After seven test runs, we got him to actually make an off-the-cuff joke! We think that within another five tests, we’ll improve to the point that the joke is actually funny.”
The obstacles thus far have caused Neuralink to consider alternative methods of upping DeSantis’ “it factor.” Instead of trying to improve DeSantis’ innate charisma, the company has also tried training AIs on other human personalities, then giving those AIs free reign over DeSantis’ words an actions. But that, too, has felt like a Sisyphean task.
For one meet-and-greet with prospective voters in Iowa, Neuralink powered up DeSantis with an AI based on Musk himself. While DeSantis immediately had a stronger stage presence, there were unexpected side effects.
“DeSantis kept asking attractive women at the event if he could borrow their eggs to inseminate,” said one DeSantis staffer. “That works when you’re the world’s richest man. But it’s pretty creepy when you’re 5’9 and look like Michael Scott.” Let that sink in.
“The experiment with a Bill Clinton AI went even worse,” the staffer continued. “Yeah, he got along a lot better with slightly chubby secretaries who work at Cedar Rapids insurance firms… but you do not want to know what he started doing to our female staffers. Plus, his policies on illegal immigration and gays in the military were panned by the press as too right-wing for even the most conservative Republican.”
“We tried an Obama module, since libs are constantly insisting they were drawn to the former president’s ‘charisma,’ but focus groups kept panning that resulting personality as equally robotic and ‘ambiguously gay.'”
Another misfire happened when someone asked DeSantis his opinion on whether the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. “As a natural language model, I cannot make comments about claims of election fraud,” DeSantis said, to confusion from the crowd.
Neuralink’s latest efforts have involved training an AI on a corpus of famous comedians, but that effort hit a snag when the entire training set had to be thrown out after the Michael Richards portion of the corpus was deemed too dangerous to use.
But Musk is determined to make his venture succeed.
“I created the world’s biggest electric car company and its most innovative rocket company, and became the world’s richest man,” he said. “How hard can it be to make a politician act like a human being?”