Skip to content

Elon Musk

Elon Musk Develops Hyperloop Concept

Elon Musk has been one of the most innovative people in modern history. He is best known for developing Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX. While he has had a major impact on a range of industries and transportation, another one of his current ventures could prove to be the most impactful overall. Musk is currently in the development stage of the Hyperloop, which he is now referring to as the “fifth mode of transportation” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/hyperloop-will-future-transport/).

The Hyperloop is a futuristic mode of transportation that could prove to be the safest and most efficient transportation option ever. The Hyperloop will essentially be a high-speed train that will have the ability to transport people at speeds of up to 700 miles per hour. In an ideal situation, this could allow someone to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco is less than one hour.

While the Hyperloop has been in the concept stages for a long time, it appears to be gaining some traction and could soon be a more realistic goal. The train system has already been built on a much smaller scale and has shown that it will have the ability to move at the speeds quoted. While there is a lot of potential for the idea, and Musk has the ability to capitalize the project, there are a lot of challenges ahead that will need to be addressed.

One of the biggest concerns will be about the safety and comfort for the passengers. Taking off at 700 miles per hour could end up being a bit too much for some people and the seating arrangement need to be figured out to ensure customer comfort. There are also security concerns that need to be considered, which could end up adding to the overall commuting time from one city to the next.

The Tsunami of Artificial Intelligence

How smart is too smart? According to Elon Musk, artificial intelligence will become too smart too soon. He is calling for government regulations, but he isn’t exactly a Cassandra.

Musk provided an audience at the International Space Station R&D Conference with an example of technology that is too smart: DeepMind’s AlphaGo. The machine’s intelligence isn’t the concern so much as the speed at which the machine was able to learn and apply its knowledge. AlphaGo is years ahead of schedule and this lack of predictability is disturbing. It indicates that AI is unpredictable and if it goes on “learning” at rates that are faster than developers anticipate it can cause a “tidal wave” of problems.

Musk’s claims aren’t dramatic. He put his concerns in context by comparing AI to other technologies that had been revolutionary at the time – including air travel and telecommunications. Both of those technologies evolved alongside government agencies, like the FAA and the FCC, that monitored and controlled their development. Musk suggests that a similar agency needs to be developed now so that AI developers have limits to what their bots can accomplish.

The idea of tighter regulations seems to go against entrepreneurial innovation and Musk is aware of his own contradictions. As an entrepreneur and inventor he often rails against government regulations but he does see how they are necessary. He is calling for regulations now because he knows that artificial intelligence is growing more sophisticated and powerful each day. By the time the government catches up, Musk warns that artificial intelligence is, “…going to come on like a tidal wave.”

Economics the Only Obstacle to Mars Colonization

Elon Musk is making the rounds, speaking at the International Space Station R&D Conference which was on the heels of his talk at the National Governors Association. Though quite a bit of attention has been spent on Musk’s concerns regarding artificial intelligence, SpaceX’s progress on the Mars colonization front is still a high priority for many investors and other people. Though familiar obstacles, from physics and weather and technology and experimentation, have conspired to create a typical recursive process in the development of spacecraft, ultimately money might be the singular factor that prevents people from living on Mars.

First the tech. SpaceX is backing away from propulsion rockets because developers have determined the craft no longer needs a controlled descent to land on Mars. Replacement rockets are being designed and developed. Those will likely not be unveiled this year, but the highly anticipated Falcon Heavy inaugural flight is slated to occur later this year. The Falcon Heavy will likely not get far from the launch pad, despite the nine rockets strapped to the spacecraft. According to Musk, the design proved to be “way, way more difficult” than anticipated. The lift-off will provide some real world data that cannot be created in simulation. The slow-down on the design translates to a slow-down on capital.

TechCrunch reports that part of the SpaceX plan to colonize Mars is dependent on money generated from a smaller spacecraft capable of orbiting the Earth. Whether used for space tourism or government-backed missions, the earnings from the smaller spacecraft will fund the development of the larger craft and the Mars mission. It seems that even one of the world’s richest men needs to pay for his dreams.