The Bizarre Relationship Between Elon Musk & Shivon Zilis

Elon Musk is no stranger to controversy, and his unconventional relationship with Shivon Zilis is no exception. Musk and Zilis welcomed twins, whom Zilis said were conceived through IVF, per Reuters. Time recently shared that the twins, who were born in November 2021, are named Strider and Azure. According to CNN, official documents confirmed that Musk is the father and Zilis is the mother.

Now, this is where it gets weird: Musk and Zilis aren't just co-parents — they are also co-workers, with Zilis working for Musk years before having kids with him. She is currently the director at his company Neuralink, per Business Insider. Corporate governance experts explained that it's not advisable for supervisors and their subordinates to have a relationship outside of the workplace, per Reuters. In fact, CEOs have lost their jobs for failing to comply with such policies. Musk and Zilis have undoubtedly sparked controversy for mixing their personal and professional lives. However, their situation is much more complex than a typical workplace romance. 

Odd details about Shivon Zilis' and Elon Musk's relationship

Although Elon Musk is the father of her kids, Shivon Zilis claimed she and the "Neuralink" founder do not have a romantic relationship, according to Reuters. Yet, details about their dynamic have still raised eyebrows. In a September piece by Time, author Walter Isaacson shared that Musk invited him over in March. "There are a few important things I would like to talk to you about. Can only be done in person," Musk said. Isaacson ended up at Zilis' house, where she and the twins joined them as Musk talked about AI. At one point, Zilis prepared coffee for them. The outlet shared a photo of Musk and Zilis sitting on a couch holding their twins, with their knees lightly touching.

Musk and Zilis' odd, questionable dynamic is further complicated by the fact that the two have had a professional relationship since at least April 2016, per CNN. Zilis stepped into the role of advisor to the artificial intelligence research company OpenAI, which Musk co-founded. In 2017, she then began working for Neuralink (and formerly Tesla). When word dropped about them having kids, they kept working together at Neuralink, with Musk directing Zilis, per Reuters.

How Elon Musk's relationship has sparked controversy

By pursuing IVF with employee Shivon Zilis, Elon Musk tested boundaries for appropriate conduct at work. However, the situation is tricky, as corporate governance experts interpreted the code of conduct differently, according to Reuters. As stated in Neuralink's employee handbook, dating, "personal relationships," and "close friendships" are not allowed in order to prevent conflicts of interest. The code describes personal relationships between employees as a "continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature and who are not married to each other." It doesn't go into detail about what a "close friendship" entails.

Zilis and Musk's particular arrangement is ambiguous, some experts have said. Business professor Joan Heminway noted that it's hard to prove the two are close on a personal level. Yet law professor Gabriel Rauterberg explained, "You're layering intimate familial bonds over professional relationships. There is always the worry that someone with greater power will use their professional power in ways that are inappropriate."

The true nature of Musk's relationship with Zilis — and why he decided to have kids with her — remains a mystery in spite of Zilis' insisting they're not romantically linked. However, Musk has hinted at his reasoning (whether you believe it or not) for adding to his family tree on numerous occasions. When news broke in July 2022 about Zilis' and Musk's children, the entrepreneur tweeted, "Doing my best to help the underpopulation crisis. A collapsing birth rate is the biggest danger civilization faces by far."