Elon Musk is someone who is known well for his eclectic interests, bold claims and the ability to deliver on those claims. Musk is the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, and also the founder/co-founder of The Boring Company, Neuralink and OpenAI. With his hands in numerous honey jars, it’s difficult to tell what Musk is up to. Last week, he made a bunch of new announcements, some of which again fall in the bold claims category and are bordering on sci-fi.
World’s first fully self-driving car incoming
Self-driving car tech has been around for a while now but there are still major hurdles when it comes to taking a drivers’ hands completely off the steering wheel. Tesla is one of the automobile companies which is constantly working on closing the gap and improving the tech. Elon Musk, in an earnings call last week, said that he is already testing an updated version of Tesla’s Autopilot software on his commute to work in Los Angeles.
“It’s almost getting to a point where I can go from my house to work with no interventions, despite going through construction and widely varying situations,” he said. “So this is why I’m very confident about full self-driving functionality being complete by the end of this year. It’s because I’m literally driving it.”
So, it seems like this could be the year Tesla might add Level 5 autonomous driving features to some of its cars. Tesla uses Autopilot software that relies on a radar, eight external cameras, and 12 ultrasonic sensors. Other companies such as GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota and others are also working on full autonomous driving technology and aim to perfect the feature by 2021.
AI-based text generator
Elon Musk’s OpenAI released a new AI text generator last week. The company has made its GPT-3 (Generative Pre-training) language-generation tool available for a select few who requested early private access. The feedback and first impressions on an AI-based text generating software that is said to be still in its infancy is both exciting and worrying.
“It’s far more coherent than any AI language system I’ve ever tried,” entrepreneur Arram Sabeti wrote in a blog post after testing the software. “All you have to do is write a prompt and it’ll add text it thinks would plausibly follow. I’ve gotten it to write songs, stories, press releases, guitar tabs, interviews, essays, technical manuals. It’s hilarious and frightening. I feel like I’ve seen the future.”
The software is currently in testing and is expected to be commercially released later this year. However, the internet seems to have mixed reactions to the new AI tool as it is also spewing racist and sexist language for standard inputs. Reports of biased AI systems are nothing new. An AI learns from the data it is fed and hopefully, some initiatives could help make AI of the future better.
Music to my brain
The final bit of exciting news from Elon Musk is about Neuralink’s capabilities. Neuralink is a startup specialising in brain-computer interface (BCI), which is made possible by numerous gossamer-thin wire implants in a brain via a surgical robot. These implants intercept signals being fired by a group of neurons and are said to help accomplish a lot of things that sound straight out of a sci-fi movie.
One such impossible sounding feature is playing music directly in your brain, which has been confirmed by Musk. He recently tweeted about open positions at Neuralink and another user replied to the tweet with a question asking whether Neuralink will let one listen to music directly. Musk simply replied with “Yes”. We are expecting some Neuralink progress updates next month.
While Elon Musk’s confirmation about streaming music directly into your brain is big news, it is not entirely surprising. Everything we perceive is based on our senses picking up signals from our environment and converting them into electric impulses, with the help of neurons, that are interpreted by our brain.
With Neuralink directly capturing and sending similar signals, the same effect can be achieved without requiring any external stimuli or apparatus such as headphones or a screen. Theoretically, it should be possible to ‘trick’ your brain using artificial signals into tasting, seeing, or smelling something. This notion does sound fascinating but also terrifying to me at the same time and reminds me of the renowned steak scene from The Matrix.
Main image Screenshot credit: PowerfulJRE / YouTube