Tag: elon musk

Tesla AI day 2021 Recap and Takeaways

The purpose of Tesla AI Day is to get the world excited about what Tesla is doing in artificial intelligence beyond cars.

AI day is also a recruiting event for prospective engineers as the company ramps up hiring.

Key Takeaways from Tesla AI Day 2021

Source: Tesla AI day

Make useful AI that people love, and is unequivocally good. – Elon Musk

  • Vertical integration is a common theme in the presentation. For both software, hardware, neural net training, and more. This means that Tesla builds and designs a large percentage of their technology in house.
  • The company is able to auto label data sets as well as create simulation data sets with unlimited scenarios for training the neural network.
  • DOJO is Tesla’s supercomputer designed for one purpose – training neural networks. It will be in use and available next year.
  • The neural net architecture resembles the visual cortex of an animal.
  • They will build a humanoid robot (see Tesla Bot at right)
  • TLDR: skynet is born? Hopefully not. Although Elon said that human-level superintelligence is certainly possible, both the car and the Tesla Bot are examples of building “narrow AI” to avoid AI being misaligned with humans.

FSD beta version 9

FSD (Full-self-driving) is the autonomous system that is deployed to all cars, which customers can purchase for around $10,000.

The often debated fact that Tesla does not use LIDAR, as do many other autonomy oriented companies like GM cruise or Google Waymo, means that its cars use only cameras to gather data about the surroundings and navigate the world. Although the company mentioned plans to upgrade the cameras, the current cameras are still more than good enough.

The philosophy behind this decision is that roads were built for human eyes to see and navigate. Therefore, the cars should be able to gather sufficient data to navigate autonomously using only cameras.

Elon jokingly stated that because of this, someone could technically wear a T-shirt with a stop sign on it, and the car would stop. But ultimately, the company seems confident that cameras will be sufficient.

“It’s clearly headed to way better than human. Without a question.” – Elon Musk

Note: Tesla cars are not yet fully autonomous. Drivers still need to keep their attention and focus on the road at all times. [1]

Tesla still has yet to reach High Driving Automation level of autonomy (known as Level 4 Autonomy)

FSD driver-assist benefits:

  • Navigate on Autopilot
  • Auto Lane Change
  • AutoPark
  • Summon
  • Traffic Light and Stop Control

Neural Net Architecture

There are 8 cameras surrounding the video that capture images of the real world. Tesla’s system uses these images to create a 3D reconstruction of the scene in “vector space”.

Using these images and vector space rendering, the system makes predictions about what the car may encounter a few moments into the future, allowing the car to drive itself safely and without running into anything.

As the neural network improves as it is trained on more and more data, Tesla is slowly building a brain-like neural net that resembles the visual cortex of an animal.

The presenters mentioned that everything Tesla is building is fundamentally country agnostic. Although they are optimizing the neural net models for the US at this point, they will be able to extrapolate to other countries as well in the future.

The ability to plan allows the car to predict and make changes about what other cars are doing on the road in real time.

Predictive and planning themed capabilities aside, the upper limit of the neural network has enough power to remember all of the roads and highways on planet Earth.

The presentation spent a significant amount of time diving into the specifics of Tesla’s Neural Net Architecture. For specifics, watch the replay of the 2021 AI day livestream.

Source: Tesla

Training Neural Networks – Data Required

Every time a human driver gets inside a Tesla, they are helping to train the neural network. Although this may make an incremental improvement, this is not enough training data.

These networks have hundreds of millions of parameters – it is incredibly important to get as many data sets as possible to create 3D renderings in vector space.

Millions of labels are needed, and each piece of data is essentially just a small video clip. Associated with each clip, you have the actual image/video data, odometer information, GPS coordinates, and more.

Tesla needs millions of vector space data sets to train these neural networks. In the spirit of vertical integration, there was formerly a team at Tesla that tediously labeled all of that data. But manual labeling proved to be too slow – there is a better way.

Auto Labeling Data Sets

Tesla developed an auto labeling system, allowing them to generate extremely large training data sets much faster for training the neural network. The auto labeling mechanism is extremely important.

“Without auto labeling, we would not be able to solve the self driving problem.” – Elon Musk

Simulations

In addition to real-world data sets from camera footage, Tesla also is creating simulations of traffic scenarios.

It is like a video game, where Tesla Autopilot is the player. Simulation is helpful when data is difficult to source, difficult to label, or is in a closed loop.

Algorithms are able to create the simulation scenarios. These algorithms analyze where the system is failing, and then create more data around the failure points to allow the neural network to learn, improve, and handle those scenarios better in the future.

Elon specifically discouraged the use of machine learning because it is extremely difficult, and largely not the right solution for most use cases.

Project Dojo, Tesla’s Supercomputer

Dojo is the name of the neural network training system. Like a training Dojo.

Given all the data and simulations required, there is a demand for speed and capacity in AI neural network training. This is where Dojo comes in.

Dojo

Currently, it is difficult to scale up bandwidth and reduce latencies, because processors have not been traditionally designed for training neural nets.

This is why Tesla invented the DPU.

DPU – Dojo processing unit. Whereas CPUs and GPUs are not designed to train neural networks, the DPU is designed to train neural networks.

The goal is to achieve the best possible AI training performance, supporting larger complex models while being power efficient and cost effective. Elon said it will be available next year.

This effectively enhances the AI software system, improving FSD.

Dojo leverages a distributed compute architecture.

It is apparently capable of an exaFLOP, which mean is can do a super high number of calculations per second, way more than your average computer. It is a supercomputer, after all…

Tesla will also make Dojo available to other companies that want to train their own neural networks, effectively building a platform for improving neural networks. This feels like an optimum opportunity to apply the “as-a-service” business model to the world of artificial intelligence and neural network training. By licensing out the use of Dojo, Tesla may be able to create yet another revenue stream for the company.

Thay have reportedly innovated in these chips in a way that means there are no roadblocks to extremely high bandwidth.

The software stack is completely vertically integrated. They build everything in house.

Source: Tesla

As the Dojo computer and neural network data sets improve the neural network, it is likely that the company will deploy the improved brain-like software upgrades via their over-the-air software updates.

Hardware and Computer Chips

One of the biggest goals is minimize latency, and maximize frame rate. These metrics may be familiar to you if you are involved in video games & graphics.

There is a computer in the car that runs the neural network that has been trained by the massive data sets discussed above.

Allegedly, the computer chip for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system are produced by Samsung. [1]

The importance of computer chips to Tesla cannot be overstated. Various computer chips are used in all areas of the vehicle – even in the typically non-tech intensive parts of a car: computerized airbags, seat belts, doors and door handles, etc.

Given the reliance on them, the computer chip and semiconductor shortage is an issue across the globe is certainly a hurdle to resolve. [1]

Tesla Bot

Tesla Bot – known endearingly by Elon as “Optimus subprime” – a 5 foot 8 inch, 125 pound humanoid robot.

Given that the Tesla car is already essentially a robot, the Tesla Bot will simply use all the same technologies, in a device with a shape like that of a human.

r/teslainvestorsclub - Tesla Robot Screenshot
source: Tesla

It will make use of all the same tools that Tesla has in the car… such as 8 cameras, FSD computer, etc.

Elon was unfortunately reluctant to share any specific use cases, other than stating vaguely that it will do boring, repetitive, and dangerous tasks that humans do not want to do.

There are still many unknowns. Will the Tesla Bot have features similar to Siri or Amazon Alexa / Echo?

In addition to being a large automaker, Tesla is showing that they are very much a robotics, artificial intelligence, and software company.

Disclaimer: TSLA shareholder

Sources and references

  1. Criticism of Tesla (wikipedia article)
  2. Tesla.com AI day

How To Get Hired At SpaceX

What does it take to get a job at SpaceX?

SpaceX’s prime objective is to build a self sustaining colony on Mars.

Achieving a mission of this level of impact requires the company to hire the brightest minds in the world. If you have what it takes and believe in the mission, you should try to work there. What SpaceX is trying to do is not easy – the team needs all the help they can get.

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As of 2021, SpaceX wants to hire engineers, supervisors, and technicians for its Starship project.

The company’s career website mentions that it is looking for world-class talent ready to tackle challenging projects that will ultimately enable life on other planets.

The company of course mentions that they are an equal opportunity employer offering competitive salaries, comprehensive health benefits and equity packages.

“We hire great engineers as fast as we can find them” – Elon Musk.

They are also looking for hardware, software and firmware engineers. Firmware engineers are needed specifically for the Starlink project, which will be one of SpaceX’s first revenue streams to help fund missions to Mars.

Firmware is software (often written in C) that is stored on hardware device to make it run properly.

SpaceX Hiring Strategy:

“There’s no need even to have a college degree at all, or even high school” – Elon Musk

No Degree Required

You don’t need a college degree to work for SpaceX. CEO Elon Musk has both tweeted about this as well as mentioned it in multiple interviews.

When the founder of SpaceX was starting the company, he had no experience building rockets. Elon came from a background in the software industry. He reportedly cold-called rocket scientists to learn about building and launching rockets, and even apparently tried to buy a ballistic missile from Russia to use as a first test.

Elon mentioned that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, all did not graduate from college. However, if you had the opportunity to hire any of them, it would be a great idea.

Americans and Internationals:

SpaceX is legally prevented from hiring people from outside the US. According to the US Government, working on Rocket Technology in the United States requires employees to be a US Citizen or green-card holder.

How Does Elon Describe Hiring at SpaceX?

In an online video, when asked about what skills he wants people to have, CEO Elon says he is looking for evidence of exceptional ability.

He asks candidates share the story of their career. He specifically wants to know about challenging problems the candidate has dealt with and how they make decisions. Elon stated that he wants to know if the person was truly responsible for the accomplishment or if someone else was – he can ask for details and the one that was will have those details.

The SpaceX hiring team looks for at track record of exceptional achievement. In order to actually get to Mars, the company needs to hire people that have “some evidence of exceptional ability that includes innovation”. Since the company is creating new technology, they expect their employees to have a deep drive to do so too.

TechCrunch has called SpaceX “one of the world’s most demanding engineering companies.” As you can imagine, the hiring process at SpaceX is unsurprisingly grueling.

By hiring only the greatest minds, SpaceX’s strict approach to hiring let’s the company focus on that which truly matters: solving big problems.

Next steps for job seekers

I follow the company on LinkedIn and they publish new jobs all the time. The company is in fact rapidly hiring, albeit incredibly selective, and will be for many years (going to Mars is no small task).

Wanna give the SpaceX application process a shot? They have job openings on their website, or hit the company up on Twitter and maybe you’ll get lucky.

SpaceX Earth to Earth Travel

Earth to Earth Key Takeaways

  • Air travel will be 20 times faster.
  • Under 1 hour travel time to and from anywhere on Earth.
  • Ticket price may be significantly higher than airlines, at least initially.

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The experience for consumers will start with a boat ride from the departing city, to the rocket launch site roughly 20 miles offshore. Passengers will exit the ferry and begin boarding Starship. The reason it is in the ocean a few miles from any cities is strategic – for safety and to help minimize noise pollution.

In an interview, Gwynne Shotwell has described Earth to Earth in depth and states with confidence that this is something that will definitely exist.

After launch, Starship will exit Earth’s atmosphere and enter orbit, where the vacuum of space will allow frictionless travel at 16,777 miles per hour. Most journeys will take less than 30 minutes, and will be able to go anywhere on Earth in under an hour. For example, passengers will be able to travel from New York City to Shanghai, China in under 39 minutes. The same distance on an airplane would take 15 to 20 hours.

SpaceX has a list of estimated time-tables on their website:

spacex earth to earth travel times
Earth to Earth travel time comparisons. Source: spacex.com

The voyage will feel incredibly smooth, without any of the turbulence often experienced during airplane flights.

In addition to human transport, the US Transportation Command has teamed up with SpaceX to apply the technology in the area of distribution and logistics, where “point-to-point rapid movement of vital resources” would enhance a global supply chain. [1]

SpaceX’s Advantage

SpaceX profitability is important because the company needs to fund future space exploration endeavors; they aim to establish a base on the moon, colonize Mars, and invest in R&D to further advance rocket technology.

“In addition to vastly increased speed, one great benefit to traveling in space outside of Earth’s atmosphere is the lack of friction as well as turbulence and weather.
– SpaceX

With point to point rocket travel on Earth, if SpaceX succeeds in being first to market, they will gain the first mover advantage. The first mover advantage for a space exploration company may be broken down into a couple components:

  • Brand Recognition: SpaceX has done well with establishing strong brand recognition, although spending practically $0 on marketing.
  • Technology: The company has made more than a few advancements and has achieved quite a lot in the way of space technology – from creating Starlink satellite network to landing rockets and making the first fully reusable ship, space travel is significantly cheaper than before. While a typical commercial airplane cannot fly more than one route per day, SpaceX will be able to run 10X the number of flights per day thanks to rocket reusability and faster vehicle turnaround time.
  • Customer Loyalty: The company has built customer loyalty by consistently and successfully helping NASA with various projects [2]. NASA will certainly appear as a repeat customer into the future, and they seem to have a strong partnership.
  • Consumer trust: SpaceX has a rigorous testing process and spent many years before attempting a mission carrying humans. SpaceX makes a point of putting safety first, and has spoken about their goal of making risk not small, but “tiny”. SpaceX has already, for example, sold its first commercial moon flight to art investor Yusaku Maezawa with the #DearMoon mission. [3]
  • Competition: Space travel, exploration and associated technologies are a big whitespace in the market. There are few – if any – competitors entering the market for most of SpaceX’s services. The aerospace industry has Blue Origin, NASA (government), Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, but none of these companies are doing quite the same thing as SpaceX. Given the lack of competitors, SpaceX will play a major role setting the market price for this new type of air travel, which brings negotiating power and optimum competitive positioning. CEO Elon Musk has stated that “competition is good, bring it on” [4] in response to a question about Boeing as a competitor. The SpaceX Earth to Earth service will effectively compete with international airlines, but the target market / end consumer is a small portion of travelers who need to get to their destination quickly and have the financial means to do so.
  • Economies of scale: As SpaceX serves these of customers, the company will continue to try to develop cheaper and better ways to launch people and cargo into outer space. As more people take journeys, the economies of scale that result from these innovations will create a more cost efficient means of doing so.

Carbon Capture

Elon Musk replied to a question about carbon-capture for rocket fuel, stating that “rocket flights will be zero-net carbon long term.”

Airplanes account for 9% of US emissions from transportation. Believe it or not, rockets will be a more environmentally friendly method of transportation than a traditional airplane.

Cost of Earth to Earth rocket service versus Airlines?

Airlines are actually not super profitable. Airlines have been quite un-profitable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although large by revenue, airline expenses are also very large, so they operate on low margins.

For example, the cost of operations of one of the larger commercial airplanes, the Airbus A30, averages $27500 per hour, which extrapolates to roughly $550,000 total to fly from New York City to Shanghai, China.

The Cost of SpaceX Earth to Earth travel depends on a couple of factors. Passenger cost to break-even essentially comes down to cost per launch / number of passengers. Financials – total operating expenses and margins per flight to calculate minimum sales price to break even. These numbers aren’t yet published.

How much will consumers pay?

Note that carrying capacity (number of passenger seats) on Starship is around 1000 passengers for Earth to Earth, compared to only 100 passengers for a mission to Mars due to the need for spacious amenities on a longer mission. With more passengers onboard for an Earth to Earth voyage, costs could be driven down since it would be divided among more passengers.

source: spacex

Like airlines in the 1940’s, rapid Earth to Earth transit via rocket may likely be a luxury high end service for the first few years. There are 46.8 million people in the world who have a net worth of $1 million or more, so SpaceX probably has a sizeable target market to sell rocket seats.

The amount a consumer is willing to pay depends on the amount of value created. The best way to approach this by thinking about the value of a person’s time. A 20 hour NYC to Shanghai flight versus 1 hour rocket ship ride means 19 hours time saved. When you consider that someone travelling on business could add 19 hours of hypothetical productive time, the value becomes much more clear. Companies would even likely be willing to pay more for this service as they have to write off travel time as an employee payroll expense anyways.

The question is, how much is your time worth? The value is saving people time on air travel. How much is this 19 hours of time saved worth to you?

How much will tickets cost?

According to Head of Operations Gwynne Shotwell, tickets will be cheaper than a first class ticket, but more than economy. Gwynne has mentioned that SpaceX may likely charge a few thousand dollars per passenger per flight. Perhaps one day, the company may provide flights to consumers at a low enough cost to be affordable to the average person. We don’t quite know how much it will cost

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Sources:

  1. https://www.ustranscom.mil/cmd/panewsreader.cfm?ID=29ADE173-D927-8E46-7C6CBC100BAD9F71&yr=2020
  2. https://www.nasa.gov/johnson/HWHAP/welcome-home-bob-and-doug
  3. https://dearmoon.earth/
  4. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/251129

Artificial Intelligence: Threats and Risks

artificial_intelligence_quote_2

We’ve seen science fiction movies like Terminator where robots go nutz and are exponentially more powerful than humans. These are cool to watch. They’re just science fiction though. It may seem somewhat silly to consider technologies like artificial intelligence or machine learning becoming as powerful or more powerful than human cognitive abilities. Researchers have been thinking about AI for years:

Many of the smartest people in the world are cautiously fearful of the power that artificial intelligence may bring as it becomes more and more developed. Below I’ve included some important resources for someone interested in impacting the future of AI in a positive way.

But first…

If you haven’t yet read the “Parable of Caution” where we included the Unfinished Fable of the Sparrows, that post is a necessary first read to understand the implications of artificial intelligence presented in analogical format.

And, this:

“Many experts believe that there is a significant chance that humanity will develop machines more intelligent than ourselves during the 21st century. This could lead to large, rapid improvements in human welfare, but there are good reasons to think that it could also lead to disastrous outcomes. The problem of how one might design a highly intelligent machine to pursue realistic human goals safely is very poorly understood. If AI research continues to advance without enough work going into the research problem of controlling such machines, catastrophic accidents are much more likely to occur. Despite growing recognition of this challenge, fewer than 100 people worldwide are directly working on the problem.” – 80000hours.org

  • Tim Urban posted an important article on Wait But Why about the Road to Superintelligence.
  • The Great AI Awakening, an article published by the New York Times.
  • Deepmind, a company acquired by Google in 2014, is a world leader in artificial intelligence research and its application for positive impact.
    • The founders of Deepmind believe that AI will serve as a multiplier for human ingenuity, increasing our capacity to understand the mysteries of the universe and to tackle some of our most pressing real-world challenges
  • OpenAI is a non-profit AI research company founded by Elon Musk that seeks to discovering and enact the path to safe Artificial General Intelligence by influencing the conditions under which it is created.

    “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

  • The Machine Intelligence Research Institute at Berkeley is working on using mathematics to ensure smarter-than-human artificial intelligence has a positive impact.
  • The Center for Human-Compatible AI concisely brings up the problem of control with AI: “given that the solutions developed by such systems are intrinsically unpredictable by humans, it may occur that some such solutions result in negative and perhaps irreversible outcomes for humans.”
  • The Partnership on AI is an organization founded by partners from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Deepmind, and others. The partnership was established to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.

Additionally, there’s a short video depicting the Unfinished Fable of the Sparrows:

or you can read the story below if you prefer:

The Unfinished Fable of the Sparrows

It was the nest building season, but after days of long hard work, the sparrows sat in the evening glow, relaxing and chirping away.

“We are all so small and weak. Imagine how easy life would be if we had an owl who could help us build our nests!”

“Yes! said another. “And we could use it to look after our elderly and our young”.

“It could give us the advice and keep an eye out for the neighborhood cat,” added a third.

Then Pastus, the elder-bird, spoke: “Let us send out scouts in all directions and try to find an abandoned owlet somewhere, or maybe an egg. A crow chick might also do, or a baby weasel. This could be the best thing that ever happened to us, at least since the opening of the Pavilion of Unlimited Grain in yonder backyard.”

The flock was exhilarated, and sparrows everywhere started chirping at the top of their lungs.

Only Scronkfinkle, a one-eyed sparrow with a fretful temperament, was unconvinced of the wisdom of the endeavor. Quoth he: “This will surely be our undoing. Should we not give some thought to the art of owl-domestication and owl-taming first, before we bring such a creature into our midst?”

Replied Pastus: “Taming an owl sounds like an exceedingly difficult thing to do. It will be difficult enough to find an owl egg. So let us start there. After we have succeeded in raising an owl, then we can think about taking on this other challenge.”

“There is a flaw in that plan!” squeaked Scronkfinkle; but his protests were in vain as the flock had already lifted off to start implementing directives set out by Pastus.

Just two or three sparrows remained behind. Together they began to try to work out how owls might be tamed or domesticated. They soon realized that Pastus had been right: this was an exceedingly difficult challenge, especially in the absence of an actual owl to practice on. Nevertheless they pressed on as best they could, constantly fearing that the flock might return with an owl egg before a solution to the control problem had been found.

It is not known how the story ends, but the author dedicates this book to Scronkfinkle and his followers.

— Nick Bostrom in “Superintelligence

Well, what do you think? Should more effort be placed on helping Scronkfinkle figure out how to master the art of owl-taming and owl-domestication before trying to raise an owl on their own? Or, should more effort be placed on trying to find an owl egg and raise an owl? What are the dangers of raising an owl for the sparrows?