Tag: Elon Musk

Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Wednesday, 13 May, 2015 0 Comments

Coming next week: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance, a technology writer for Bloomberg Businessweek based in Palo Alto. From the Amazon blurb:

“Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.”

While we wait for delivery, Tim Urban of Wait But Why is conducing a series of interviews with Musk. The first post is titled: Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man.

Talking about delivery, yesterday Musk tweeted: “It is total BS & hurtful to claim that I told a guy to miss his child’s birth just to attend a company meeting. I would never do that.”

This was in response to the publication by the Washington Post of a list of the 22 most memorable quotes from the Vance book. #6. “My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku than fail.” But the WaPo adds: “Update, May 12: Since publication of this article Musk has said he has never called himself a samurai.”

Musk, the visionary and perfectionist, has been busy on Twitter disputing his supposed quotes and preparing the pre-publication battleground: “Ashlee’s book was not independently fact-checked. Should be taken w a grain of salt.”

Salt or not, it will be taken next week here.

Elon Musk


Machines Of Loving Grace

Monday, 2 February, 2015 0 Comments

Here at Rainy Day, it’s going to be a week of robots, which may become remorseless killing machines, but which are helping children suffering from autism. We will also be looking at artificial intelligence, which Elon Musk and Bill Gates are worried about. Yes, AI might steal all our jobs, but it will also have a positive impact in healthcare, Ava given its ability to analyze massive amounts of genomic data, leading to more accurate diagnoses and treatments on a personalized level.

To get us in the mood, here is All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace by Richard Brautigan, whose characters pine for a Utopia free from technology, yet use the latest innovations to achieve their goals. Sounds familiar, that.

All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Richard Brautigan (1935 — 1984)

Ex Machina


Who is the master and who the slave?

Tuesday, 13 January, 2015 0 Comments

Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned of the dangers that AI (Artificial Intelligence) could pose to humanity, and during the past 24 hours scientists have been signing an open letter urging that a portion of AI research should be dedicated to “aligning with human interests.” Eh?

At the beginning of this century, Bill Joy, co-founder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, warned in Wired: “What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions.”

AI is now here and here’s Jeremy Howard talking about the amazing and frightening outlines of the “rough beast, its hour come round at last.”


AI: Chappie and Ex Machina

Wednesday, 5 November, 2014 0 Comments

The fate of the gorillas now depends more on humans than on the actions of the gorillas themselves. So says Nick Bostrom. His alarming argument is that a time is coming when the fate of humanity could depend on the super-intelligence of machines. Bostrom lays out his thinking in his latest book, The Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. He worries that when machine brains surpass human brains in intelligence, this new “superintelligence” could become the dominant life-form, and if we want to avoid such a catastrophe, we’d better start planning now. The dangers of artificial intelligence are central to Ex Machina, which is coming to the big screen in spring.

Elon Musk, the business genius and inventor, CEO of Tesla Motors, CTO of SpaceX and chairman of SolarCity was born in South Africa, as was Neill Blomkamp, the director of Chappie, which is also coming to the cinema in spring. Chappie is a robot, but he’s super-intelligent enough to think and feel for himself. Which brings us back to Musk, who tweeted, “We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.”

Speaking recently at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, Musk called AI our biggest existential threat: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”


Elon Musk warned about old Russian rocket engines

Wednesday, 29 October, 2014 0 Comments

There’s nothing quite like fireworks to light up a front/home page, is there? Background: Yesterday evening, the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded just six seconds after lifting off from the Wallops Island spacepad in Virginia. NASA says that all personnel in the area have been accounted for, and there were no injuries.

Rockets have a history of exploding and the cause of the Antares failure is not yet known, but relying on old Russian engines may not be the wisest use of critical components. Which brings us to Elon Musk, the brilliant innovator and entrepreneur, CEO of Tesla Motors and founder of SpaceX. Two years ago, to the week, he said the following to Chris Anderson of Wired:

“One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke. It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the ’60s. I don’t mean their design is from the ’60s — I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.”

Four days ago, Musk’s Dragon capsule safely landed in the Pacific Ocean, returning some two tons of cargo and science experiments to Earth from the International Space Station. Instead of relying on rusty Russian parts, Musk is making rockets using an advanced technology called stir welding:

“Instead of riveting the ribs and hoops, you use a special machine that softens the metal on both sides of the joint without penetrating it or melting it. Unlike traditional welding, which melts and potentially compromises some metals, this process works well with high-strength aluminum alloys. You wind up with a stiffer, lighter structure than was possible before.”

Yes, SpaceX has had its setbacks, but nothing as spectacular as yesterday’s Antares fail.