AI

Google's AI Boss Blasts Musk's Scare Tactics on Machine Takeover (bloomberg.com) 108

Mark Bergen, writing for Bloomberg: Elon Musk is the most-famous Cassandra of artificial intelligence. The Tesla chief routinely drums up the technology's risks in public and on Twitter, where he recently called the global race to develop AI the "most likely cause" of a third world war. Researchers at Google, Facebook and other AI-focused companies find this irritating. John Giannandrea, the head of search and AI at Alphabet's Google, took one of the clearest shots at Musk on Tuesday -- all while carefully leaving him unnamed. "There's a huge amount of unwarranted hype around AI right now," Giannandrea said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. "This leap into, 'Somebody is going to produce a superhuman intelligence and then there's going to be all these ethical issues' is unwarranted and borderline irresponsible."
Transportation

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If a Hyperloop Train Failed? 719

dryriver writes: I've been following Elon Musk's Hyperloop initiative with great interest. The idea of getting from one city to another at 700 MPH without having to suffer through an airport and all that jazz is revolutionary. I'm glad that somebody is trying to innovate in the area of land travel. My question though: When conventional trains going at much slower speeds derail or crash, the result is often serious injuries or deaths. What happens if something goes wrong with a 700 MPH Hyperloop train/pod or with part of the track? Would a Hyperloop accident at that speed even be survivable?
Earth

Elon Musk Releases Supercut of SpaceX Rocket Explosions (hardocp.com) 61

Eloking shares a report from HardOCP: Elon Musk is demonstrating how one should not land an orbital rocket booster: the video, currently trending on YouTube, is essentially a blooper reel of SpaceX rocket tests that went explosive. While the company has more or less perfected launching Falcon 9 rockets, it is still working hard on recovering as much of the multi-million-dollar system as possible.
Transportation

India Just Might Be Getting a Hyperloop (wired.com) 149

California may have produced the horrorshow traffic that prompted Elon Musk to pitch the hyperloop, but it's hardly the only place eager to ditch cars for levitating pods hurtling through tubes at speeds approaching the sound barrier. India wants in, too. From a report: Today, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, one of the companies formed to realize Musk's vision of tube travel, announced it has signed a deal with the state of Andhra Pradesh, in southeast India. Working with the state's economic development board, HTT will spend six months studying possible routes for a hyperloop connecting the cities of Vijaywada and Amaravati -- a move that would transform a 27-mile, hour-long drive into a six-minute whoosh. And then, over an undisclosed period of time, the Los Angeles-based company says it will build the thing. The India deal is just the latest for HTT, which also plans to build networks of tubes in South Korea, Slovakia, and Abu Dhabi. But to make all -- or any -- of that happen, the company's 800 engineers (most of whom have day jobs and work on this in their spare time, in exchange for stock options) must first master the practical aspects of the hyperloop. That means building and maintaining a near-vacuum state across miles of tubes, propelling levitating pods through them, getting people or cargo into and out of those pods, and much more.
AI

AI Could Lead To Third World War, Elon Musk Says (theguardian.com) 244

An anonymous reader shares a report: Elon Musk has said again that artificial intelligence could be humanity's greatest existential threat, this time by starting a third world war. The prospect clearly weighs heavily on Musk's mind, since the SpaceX, Tesla and Boring Company chief tweeted at 2.33am Los Angeles time about how AI could led to the end of the world -- without the need for the singularity. His fears were prompted by a statement from Vladimir Putin that "artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind ... It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world." Hashing out his thoughts in public, Musk clarified that he was not just concerned about the prospect of a world leader starting the war, but also of an overcautious AI deciding "that a [pre-emptive] strike is [the] most probable path to victory." Musk added, "Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 in my opinion. [...] Govts don't need to follow normal laws. They will obtain AI developed by companies at gunpoint, if necessary."
China

China Plans 600 MPH Train To Rival Elon Musk's Hyperloop (shanghaiist.com) 159

In addition to relaunching the world's fastest bullet train, China is working on developing technology similar to Elon Musk's Hyperloop, which will allow passengers to travel at speeds up to 4,000 km/h (~2,500 mph). The first stage of the company's plan, however, will be to create a network of these "flying trains" operating at 1,000 km/h (~600 mph). Shanghaiist reports: Earlier today, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), one of the nation's major space contractors, announced that it had begun research and development into a new, futuristic type of transport which would operate via supersonic "near ground flight." The system would presumably be similar to that of the Hyperloop, proposed earlier this decade by Elon Musk, in which capsules would fly at ultrafast speeds down reduced-pressure tubes, dramatically reducing travel times. Of course, the CASIC isn't looking to reach speeds of 4,000 km/h right away. The first stage of the company's plan will be to create an intercity network of these "flying trains" operating at 1,000 km/h. In the second phase, this network would be extended and the max speed of the pods increased to 2,000 km/h. Finally, in the third stage, the speed would be boosted all the way up to 4,000 km/h -- five times the speed of civil aviation aircraft today.
Transportation

201 MPH Pod Run Wins SpaceX's Second Hyperloop Competition (geekwire.com) 212

An anonymous reader quotes GeekWire: The speediest team from SpaceX founder Elon Musk's first Hyperloop pod competition has done it again: WARR Hyperloop from Germany's Technical University of Munich won today's second contest by sending its magnetic-levitation pod through a nearly mile-long test tunnel at a peak speed of 201 mph [video]. Musk announced WARR's victory to a crowd in the stands at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and in a tweet... This weekend's competition brought about two dozen teams to Hawthorne, including a student group from the University of Washington. Each of the teams developed a pod that was designed to test engineering approaches for Musk's Hyperloop rapid-transit concept, which calls for sending people and cargo through low-pressure tubes at near-supersonic speeds.
Musk also tweeted that it "might be possible to go supersonic" in the 0.8-mile test Hyperloop tube, though he conceded it would require an extremely high acceleration (and deceleration) because of the short distance.

"For passenger transport, this can be spread over 20+ miles, so no spilt drinks."
The Almighty Buck

Elon Musk's Neuralink Gets $27 Million To Build Brain Computers (bloomberg.com) 76

An anonymous reader writes: Neuralink, the startup co-founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has taken steps to sell as much as $100 million in stock to fund the development of technology that connects human brains with computers. The San Francisco-based company has already gotten $27 million in funding, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Musk said via Twitter on Friday that Neuralink isn't seeking outside investors. In June, Musk said Neuralink is a priority after much more demanding commitments to his automotive and rocket companies. "Boring Co. is maybe 2 percent of my time; Neuralink is 3 percent to 5 percent of my time; OpenAI is going to be a couple of percent; and then 90-plus percent is divided between SpaceX and Tesla," said Musk at the electric-car maker's annual shareholder meeting.
Power

Tesla's Electric Semi Truck Will Reportedly Get 200-300 Miles Per Charge (reuters.com) 322

According to Reuters, Tesla next month plans to unveil an electric big-rig truck with a working range of 200 to 300 miles, a sign that the company is targeting regional hauling for its entry into the commercial freight market. From the report: Chief Executive Elon Musk has promised to release a prototype of its Tesla Semi truck next month in a bid to expand the company's market beyond luxury cars. The entrepreneur has tantalized the trucking industry with the prospect of a battery-powered heavy-duty vehicle that can compete with conventional diesels, which can travel up to 1,000 miles on a single tank of fuel. Tesla's electric prototype will be capable of traveling the low end of what transportation veterans consider to be "long-haul" trucking, according to Scott Perry, an executive at Miami-based fleet operator Ryder System. Perry said he met with Tesla officials earlier this year to discuss the technology at the automaker's manufacturing facility in Fremont, California.
Software

Elon Musk Rolled Out Autopilot Despite Engineers' Safety Concerns, Says Report (theverge.com) 195

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: When Elon Musk announced last fall that all of Tesla's cars would be capable of "full autonomy," engineers who were working on the suite of self-driving features, known as Autopilot, did not believe the system was ready to safely control a car, according to the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ report sheds more light on the tension that exists between the Autopilot team and Musk. CNN previously reported in July that Musk "brushed aside certain concerns as negligible compared to Autopilot's overall lifesaving potential," and that employees who worked on Autopilot "struggled" to make the same reconciliation.

A major cause of this conflict has apparently been the way Musk chose to market Autopilot. The decision to refer to Autopilot as a "full self-driving" solution -- language that makes multiple appearances on the company's website, especially during the process of ordering a car -- was the spark for multiple departures, including Sterling Anderson, who was in charge of the Autopilot team during last year's announcement. Anderson left the company two months later, and was hit with a lawsuit from Tesla that alleged breach of contract, employee poaching, and theft of data related to Autopilot, though the suit was eventually settled. A year before that, a lead engineer warned the company that Autopilot wasn't ready to be released shortly before the original rollout. Evan Nakano, the senior system design and architecture engineer at the time, wrote that development of Autopilot was based on "reckless decision making that has potentially put customer lives at risk," according to documents obtained by the WSJ.

Space

Elon Musk Posts First Photo of SpaceX's New Spacesuit (arstechnica.com) 142

Early Wednesday morning, SpaceX founder Elon Musk posted a photo of the spacesuit that will be used by astronauts flying aboard the company's Dragon spacecraft, perhaps as early as next year. Ars Technica reports: In his Instagram post, Musk added that this suit was not a mock-up but rather a fully functional unit. "Already tested to double vacuum pressure," he wrote. "Was incredibly hard to balance aesthetics and function. Easy to do either separately." (Double vacuum pressure simply means the suit was probably inflated to twice the pressure of sea level and then put into a vacuum chamber.) Musk gave no other technical information about the suit. Most strikingly, it is white, in contrast to the very blue spacesuits unveiled by Boeing in January. These are not, strictly speaking, "space suits." Rather, they are more properly flight suits designed to be worn during the ride to space and again on the ride back down to Earth. They have a limited time in which they can operate in a full vacuum and are not intended for spacewalks.
AI

Elon Musk Backs Call For A Global Ban On Killer Robots (cnn.com) 214

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Tesla boss Elon Musk is among a group of 116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence companies who are calling on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons. "Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the experts warn in an open letter released Monday...

"Unlike other potential manifestations of AI, which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability," said Ryan Gariepy, the founder of Clearpath Robotics and the first person to sign the letter. More than a dozen countries -- including the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain -- are currently developing autonomous weapons systems, according to Human Rights Watch.

Businesses

After Losing Support, Trump's Business and Manufacturing Councils Are Shutting Down (theverge.com) 642

Over a dozen anonymous readers share a similar report: Two White House advisory councils that once included tech leaders like Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick have dissolved, after several members resigned over President Donald Trump's weak condemnation of white supremacists. A member of the Strategic and Policy Forum told CNBC that it wanted to make a "more significant impact" by disbanding the entire group: "It makes a central point that it's not going to go forward. It's done." Soon after, Trump took credit for shutting down both that group and a separate Manufacturing Council, "rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople." The councils' members came from a range of industries, including several major Silicon Valley companies. Besides Musk and Kalanick, executives from Intel, IBM, and Dell had joined. It's been controversial from the start -- Musk and Kalanick both left months ago -- but a major exodus started this week, after Trump issued a vague statement blaming "many sides" for violence at a white supremacist rally that left one woman dead. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned on Monday, saying that politics had "sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base." Axios has more details.
AI

Why AI Won't Take Over The Earth (ssrn.com) 298

Law professor Ryan Calo -- sometimes called a robot-law scholar -- hosted the first White House workshop on AI policy, and has organized AI workshops for the National Science Foundation (as well as the Department of Homeland Security and the National Academy of Sciences). Now an anonymous reader shares a new 30-page essay where Calo "explains what policymakers should be worried about with respect to artificial intelligence. Includes a takedown of doomsayers like Musk and Gates." Professor Calo summarizes his sense of the current consensus on many issues, including the dangers of an existential threat from superintelligent AI:

Claims of a pending AI apocalypse come almost exclusively from the ranks of individuals such as Musk, Hawking, and Bostrom who possess no formal training in the field... A number of prominent voices in artificial intelligence have convincingly challenged Superintelligence's thesis along several lines. First, they argue that there is simply no path toward machine intelligence that rivals our own across all contexts or domains... even if we were able eventually to create a superintelligence, there is no reason to believe it would be bent on world domination, unless this were for some reason programmed into the system. As Yann LeCun, deep learning pioneer and head of AI at Facebook colorfully puts it, computers don't have testosterone.... At best, investment in the study of AI's existential threat diverts millions of dollars (and billions of neurons) away from research on serious questions... "The problem is not that artificial intelligence will get too smart and take over the world," computer scientist Pedro Domingos writes, "the problem is that it's too stupid and already has."
A footnote also finds a paradox in the arguments of Nick Bostrom, who has warned of that dangers superintelligent AI -- but also of the possibility that we're living in a computer simulation. "If AI kills everyone in the future, then we cannot be living in a computer simulation created by our decedents. And if we are living in a computer simulation created by our decedents, then AI didn't kill everyone. I think it a fair deduction that Professor Bostrom is wrong about something."
AI

Elon Musk + AI + Microsoft = Awesome Dota 2 Player (theverge.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: Tonight during Valve's yearly Dota 2 tournament, a surprise segment introduced what could be the best new player in the world -- a bot from Elon Musk-backed startup OpenAI. Engineers from the nonprofit say the bot learned enough to beat Dota 2 pros in just two weeks of real-time learning, though in that training period they say it amassed "lifetimes" of experience, likely using a neural network judging by the company's prior efforts. Musk is hailing the achievement as the first time artificial intelligence has been able to beat pros in competitive e-sports... Elon Musk founded OpenAI as a nonprofit venture to prevent AI from destroying the world -- something Musk has been beating the drum about for years.
"Nobody likes being regulated," Musk wrote on Twitter Friday, "but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that's a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too."

Musk also thanked Microsoft on Twitter "for use of their Azure cloud computing platform. This required massive processing power."
Google

Tesla Looking To Start Testing Autonomous Semi In 'Platoon' Formation (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Tesla is developing a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in "platoons" that automatically follow a lead vehicle, and is getting closer to testing a prototype, according to an email discussion of potential road tests between the car company and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), seen by Reuters. The correspondence and meeting show that Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric truck it has said it plans to unveil in September, and is advancing toward real-life tests, potentially moving it forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and Alphabet Inc's Waymo. After announcing intentions a year ago to produce a heavy-duty electric truck, Musk tweeted in April that the semi-truck would be revealed in September, and repeated that commitment at the company's annual shareholder meeting in June, but he has never mentioned any autonomous-driving capabilities. An email exchange in May and June between Tesla and Nevada DMV representatives included an agenda for a June 16 meeting, along with the Nevada Department of Transportation, to discuss testing of two prototype trucks in Nevada, according to the exchange seen by Reuters.
Businesses

Can Elon Musk Be Weaned Off Government Support? (thehill.com) 270

mi shares an opinion piece written by Jenny Beth Martin via The Hill: A study published in 2015 by The Los Angeles Times revealed that just three of Musk's ventures -- SolarCity Corp. (which manufactured and installed solar energy systems before its 2016 merger with Tesla Motors Inc.), Tesla Motors Inc. (which manufactures electric vehicles), and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX (which builds rocket ships) -- had received $4.9 billion in government subsidies to that point in time. By now, Musk's various ventures have sucked well over $5 billion from government coffers. Worse: in order to induce car buyers to spend their money on electric vehicles, the federal government offers a $7,500 rebate on the purchase price. Some states enhance that rebate with rebates of their own. In California, for instance, purchasers of electric vehicles get a state-funded rebate of $2,500 more.

Slashdot reader mi asks: "Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products and when will his businesses be able to compete on their own?"

Space

SpaceX Releases Animation of Planned Falcon Heavy Launch (gizmodo.com.au) 108

intellitech writes: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently shared a new (and, really freaking cool) animation demonstrating how the company plans to launch the maiden flight of their Falcon Heavy system later this year, which will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V used for the moon landings during the Apollo-era. According to Elon Musk's Instragram post, "FH is twice the thrust of the next largest rocket currently flying and ~2/3 thrust of the Saturn V moon rocket." He also reiterates that there's a "lot that can go wrong in the November launch."

Direct link to the YouTube video.

Government

'Elon Musk's Hyperloop Is Doomed For the Worst Reason' (bloomberg.com) 304

schwit1 quotes a Bloomberg column by Virginia Postrel: What makes Musk's Hyperloop plan seem like fantasy isn't the high-tech part. Shooting passengers along at more than 700 miles per hour seems simple -- engineers pushed 200 miles-per-hour in a test this week -- compared to building a tunnel from New York to Washington. And even digging that enormously long tunnel -- twice as long as the longest currently in existence -- seems straightforward compared to navigating the necessary regulatory approvals... The eye-rolling comes less from the technical challenges than from the bureaucratic ones.

With his premature declaration, Musk is doing public debate a favor. He's reminding us of what the barriers to ambitious projects really are: not technology, not even money, but getting permission to try. "Permits harder than technology," Musk tweeted after talking with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti about building a tunnel network. That's true for the public sector as well as the private... SpaceX and its commercial-spaceflight competitors can experiment because Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to protect them from Federal Aviation Administration standards. usk is betting that his salesmanship will have a similar effect on the ground. He's trying to get the public so excited that the political pressures to allow the Hyperloop to go forward become irresistible. He seems to believe that he can will the permission into being. If he succeeds, he'll upend not merely intercity transit but the bureaucratic process by which things get built. That would be a true science-fiction scenario.

Transportation

Elon Musk Inspired an Industry of Hyperloop Startups. Now He's Building His Own (bloomberg.com) 153

An anonymous reader shares a report: Elon Musk introduced his vision for a futuristic mode of tube-based transportation called the hyperloop in 2013. In an exhaustive white paper, he laid out a body of research conducted with his team at Space Exploration Technologies demonstrating the system's viability and seemingly offered it as a gift to the entrepreneurial community. "I don't have any plan to execute because I must remain focused on SpaceX and Tesla," he said in a conference call at the time. He apparently changed his mind. Last month, the SpaceX and Tesla chief executive officer revealed on Twitter that he'd received "verbal government approval" to build a hyperloop capable of ferrying passengers between New York and Washington, D.C., in 29 minutes. The tweet came as a shock to executives at the various startups racing to develop their own hyperloops based on Musk's specifications. Several of them initially expressed hope that Musk would simply dig the tunnels and perhaps choose one of their startups to create the physical infrastructure, which involves a tube-encased train traveling at speeds faster than an airplane. Nope. A person close to Musk said his plan is to build the entire thing, including the hyperloop system. Musk also holds a trademark for "Hyperloop" through SpaceX, which could be used to prevent other companies from using the term, according to U.S. public records. The billionaire's unexpected entry into the hyperloop business could threaten the ambitions of three startups, which have raised about $200 million combined from venture backers. "There's probably a finite amount of capital willing to bet on this space -- and bet against him," said Jonathan Silver, the former loan programs director at the U.S. Department of Energy. Silver learned not to underestimate Musk after overseeing a 2010 loan of $465 million to Tesla, which the electric carmaker paid back, with interest, nine years ahead of schedule.

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