Posts tagged with "Elon Musk"

Sam Altman tightens grip over OpenAI as he strikes deal with Apple

May 31, 2024

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has consolidated his grip on power at the tech firm that briefly ousted him last fall by striking a deal with Apple to incorporate artificial intelligence into its products, reports the New York Post.

The 39-year-old tech mogul has pushed out his rivals from the company’s board and is moving full steam ahead with plans to overhaul its nonprofit structure.

With the Apple deal, Altman is now hoping bring the company closer to its goal of one day replacing Google as the iPhone maker’s search partner for its Safari web browser, according to The Information.

What’s more, Altman’s ambitions extend beyond OpenAI. He is working on building several factories that will make AI chips. Altman is also partnering with former Apple designer Jony Ive on a personal device that would be powered by AI.

But Altman’s plans face potential roadblocks. Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI, is reportedly concerned about how the deal with Apple could affect its own AI ambitions. Altman recently held a meeting with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to discuss Microsoft’s concerns.

Altman also has been at loggerheads with some of his employees, who have publicly questioned his commitment to install safeguards and mitigate risks associated with AI-powered technology.

Altman received some bad publicity recently after actress Scarlett Johansson blasted OpenAI for using a voice that sounded similar to hers for a new ChatGPT feature—this after she refused the firm’s overtures to use her voice.

OpenAI was founded by Altman, Elon Musk, and other tech luminaries in December 2015.

Research contact: @nypost

First human with Neuralink brain chip can play video game by ‘telepathy’

March 22, 2024

On March 20, the first human to have a Neuralink computer chip surgically implanted in his brain demonstrated how he uses his thoughts to move a computer cursor around a screen to play online chess and toggle a music stream on and off, reports the New York Post.

Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old man who is paralyzed from the shoulders down due to a diving accident eight years ago, joined a livestream alongside a Neuralink engineer on X to show the public how the brain-computer interface tech works.

“It’s all being done with my brain. If y’all can see the cursor moving around the screen, that’s all me, y’all,” he said while the livestream showed his cursor moving across an online chess game. “It’s pretty cool, huh?”

The chip contains 1,000 electrodes—programmed to gather data about the brain’s neural activity and movement intention and send that data to a Neuralink computer for decoding to transform the thoughts into action.

Arbaugh explained that he simply imagines the cursor moving where he wants it to go and it does.

“Basically, it was like using the Force on the cursor and I could get it to move wherever I wanted. Just stare somewhere on the screen and it would move where I wanted it to, which was such a wild experience the first time it happened,” he said, referencing Star Wars.

The quadriplegic became the first human test subject of the chip developed by the Elon Musk-owned company when a robot surgeon plugged the implant into his brain at the end of January.

He said the surgery was “super easy” and he was released from the hospital a day later with no cognitive impairments since.

“It’s crazy, it really is. It’s so cool. I’m so friggin’ lucky to be a part of this,” he said. “Every day it seems like we’re learning new stuff and I just can’t describe how cool it is to be able to do this.”

Before receiving the chip, Arbaugh would need another person’s help to play online chess and video games like Civilization VI. “Now I can literally just lie in bed and play to my heart’s content,” he said—at least until the battery of his rechargeable chip dies.

The brief, nine-minute video stream posted on Neuralink’s X account is the closest look the human tech startup has shared with the public. The company, founded in 2016, has mostly kept information about its technology and human trials under wraps—prompting calls for greater transparency.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration greenlit human trials of the brain chip last year after the company did hundreds of tests on animals—and faced backlash from animal rights groups in the process.

Neuralink has not disclosed how many people will be enrolled in the six-year trial or where the trials will be held. It also has not registered its study on a government website logging medical trials involving human test subjects, according to Wired.

For his part, Arbaugh said, he signed on to try the implant because he “wanted to be a part of something that I feel like it’s going to change the world.”

But he admitted that being the first-ever human to get the chip implanted in his brain has not come without its challenges, without elaborating.

“It’s not perfect. I would say that we have run into some issues,” he told those watching the livestream. “I don’t want people to think that this is the end of the journey. There’s a lot of work to be done. But it has already changed my life.”

Research contact: @nypost

Paranormal mystery: Tesla driving through ‘Conjuring’ graveyard senses people walking

February 12, 2024

Are there real ghosts walking around in a famous graveyard in Rhode Island? According to the sensors in one man’s Tesla, the answer may be an eerie yes! In a bizarre event shared on TikTok, the driver’s Tesla sensors purportedly detected what appeared to be several “people” walking around his car. The problem is he and his passengers were driving through an empty cemetery, reports Study Finds.

For those who believe in ghosts, you may be excited to learn that this potentially paranormal shocker took place on the road along a cemetery near the Arnold Estate, the real-life inspiration for the 2013 movie “The Conjuring.” As the unnamed driver of the Tesla passed this graveyard, the images of people walking appeared on the motion sensor display.

In the video on TikTok, a group of people driving in the car stops to stare at the terrifying sight unfolding on the pedestrian sensor screen, you can hear them react in shock as more and more “ghosts” appear in the graveyard!

At one point, it even looks as if the ghosts are surrounding the Tesla, which spooks the riders even more. The video does show someone standing in front of a grave as they pull in, and the driver says his cousin and a friend were outside and eventually got in the car. That certainly would indicate an instance of the sensors picking up a person, but as the number of individuals grows and they appear to be in multiple places, the travelers are left laughing in confusion.

The unnamed driver, who claims to be a Tesla employee, adds that this isn’t some funny prank built into the car’s software by Tesla founder Elon Musk.

“[I can] confirm this is not an Easter egg Elon added as I’ve tried this many times. It’s not just picking up the gravestones, as even if it was they would show as stationary on the screen,” the driver said, according to a report by SWNS.

So, what was the car picking up on its screen? It might help first to understand how the sensors on a Tesla work. These sensors are calibrated to detect objects and people in typical driving environments. A graveyard, with its unique layout and objects, might present atypical conditions that the car’s system isn’t optimized to handle—leading to unusual readings on the sensor system.

Tesla’s pedestrian detection recently underwent a major transition. Prior to 2022, the system used a combination of sensors and software. This combined:

  • Radar: Radar sensors emit radio waves that bounce off objects and return to the sensor, providing information about the object’s distance and speed. However, radar waves can penetrate some materials but not others, and they’re generally not capable of detecting objects buried underground.
  • Cameras: Tesla vehicles use multiple cameras to provide a 360-degree view around the car. The cameras feed visual information to the car’s computer system, which uses image recognition algorithms to identify objects like cars, pedestrians, and road signs.
  • Ultrasonic sensors: These are used primarily for close-range detection and are especially useful for parking assistance. They use sound waves to detect objects around the vehicle. Like radar, these waves are not designed to penetrate the ground significantly.
  • Autopilot and full self-driving (FSD) software:This software analyzes the combined data from the sensors to identify pedestrians, predict their movements, and take potential actions such as braking or issuing warnings.

Since 2022, most Tesla models (Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and Model X) have transitioned to Tesla Vision, a system that relies solely on cameras and vision-based software. This approach uses a sophisticated “occupancy network,” which analyzes camera footage to identify and differentiate objects—including pedestrians—with high accuracy.

It’s highly unlikely that the sensors were detecting bodies underground. More plausible explanations could include:

  • False positives from the sensor system: The car’s sensors, particularly the cameras, might be misinterpreting tombstones, trees, or other structures as people. This can happen due to the shapes, sizes, or even reflective properties of these objects.
  • Software glitches: The algorithms processing the sensor data might misinterpret what the sensors are picking up—especially in unusual environments like a graveyard.
  • Environmental factors: Things like shadows, lighting conditions, or weather might affect how the sensors perceive their surroundings.

While it’s unclear which type of Tesla this was, it’s clear that the high-tech car sees “something” in one of the creepiest places in the United States.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

‘Bluesky,’ a trendy rival to ‘X,’ finally opens to the public

February 7, 2024

When Jack Dorsey, then Twitter’s CEO, tweeted in 2019 that he planned to create a new, “decentralized” form of social media, most people scratched their heads. But Jay Graber immediately got excited, reports The Washington Post.

An idealistic, former software developer who had tried unsuccessfully to build her own social media system, Graber, then 28, saw Twitter’s involvement as the key to making the idea a reality. She applied and was chosen in August 2021 to lead the project, called Blueskyand soon convinced the Twitter honchos that it would work best as an independent organization, so that it wouldn’t be dependent on Dorsey for support.

“I didn’t see the future,” Graber said in an interview on Monday, February 5—referring to the subsequent ouster of Dorsey as Twitter’s CEO and sale of the company to Elon Musk. “But as I like to say, the captain can always sink the ship.”

Today, Bluesky is opening to the public after operating for nearly a year as an invitation-only app, with Graber as its CEO. With a little over 3 million users, it’s mounting a long-shot bid to take on the company that spawned it—and to set social media on a course that no single captain can control.

On the surface, Bluesky looks familiar to anyone who has used Twitter or Meta’s Threads, with a feed full of text posts and images from people you follow.

Underneath, however, the company is building what Graber calls “an open, decentralized protocol”—a software system that allows developers and users to create their own versions of the social network, with their own rules and algorithms. She compared the idea to email, where users of different apps like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail can interact freely because they all run on the same underlying technology.

That system is a work in progress. So far, Bluesky is the only social network using its protocol. But it already has some features that set it apart.

For instance, users can subscribe to feeds where algorithms prioritize the most popular posts overall or the posts most popular among the people they follow. There are also options for feeds geared to their specific areas of interest, such as science or art. And users can toggle personal moderation settings that either “hide,” “warn,” or “show” categories of content such as nudity, violence, spam, and hate-group iconography.

The idea of a decentralized social media system is similar to that behind Mastodon, a seven-year-old nonprofit that relies on individual users and organizations to host and moderate their own, sometimes insular corners of its network. But Bluesky said its protocol would work differently, letting users customize their experience but keeping the network fundamentally public.

Rose Wang, who oversees operations and strategy for Bluesky, said its goal is to combine the ease of use and shared experience of closed platforms like X and Threads with the user choice and openness of systems like Mastodon’s. With Mastodon, which requires you to select and join one of thousands of differently managed servers before you can participate, “there’s almost too much user choice,” Wang said. “You don’t understand what you’re joining.”

But, for Bluesky, which now has a few dozen employees, mounting a serious challenge to X or Threads would be an uphill battle. Some of the early enthusiasm appears to have waned, with high-profile users such as Chrissy Teigen and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) going dormant or leaving the platform after making headlines when they joined last year. Even Dorsey, who remains a Bluesky board member, appears no longer to have an active account.

A page that tracks user statistics on Bluesky shows that the number of users actively posting each day has dipped slightly over the past month.

Still, at a time when the content moderation decisions of tech’s giants routinely alienate swaths of users, Wang said she’s optimistic the company’s choose-your-own-adventure approach will have enduring appeal.

“Lots of people want a different experience that’s not something run by Mark Zuckerberg or another billionaire,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to go back to a world where there’s only one microblogging client like Twitter.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Sorry Elon, Americans don’t want a brain chip!

February 6, 2024

Last week, entrepreneur Elon Musk announced that his company Neuralink—which is attempting to develop brain implants to mediate connections between the brain and technology—had implanted a product in a human test subject, reports Business Insider.

But now, a new poll of 1,000 respondents, conducted by YouGov, suggests that interest in such devices will be limited by skepticism about their potential,

The poll found 82% of respondents probably or definitely would not, and 10% were undecided.

Interest from potential test subjects is rather slim, as is: Just 2% would “definitely” consider getting a computer chip implanted in their brain “within the next year,” below the margin of error for the poll. Overall, just 5% of respondents would at all consider getting a chip in the next year—and many of them can be found among the science-fiction fan set.

The idea of altering or treating one’s mind in order to accrue considerable mental powers has a rich history in science fiction literature. Granted, it’s often a cautionary tale about the hubris of mucking around with the very foundations of human cognition, but it does have some fictional precedent, from the mentats of Dune to the tragic success of Flowers for Algernon.

Familiarity with these texts tended to be linked to an increased appetite for the brain chips. While 8% percent of respondents would be down for a chip if it were commercially produced and no longer experimental, that rose to 19% among those who had reported reading, for instance, Ender’s Game.

Indeed, if there is a demographic of interest for Neuralink, it’s basically “people who say they have read Frank Herbert’s Dune.” All told, 19% of respondents who said they read Dune would get a commercially available brain chip, and 11% of respondents who said they read Dune would get one this year.

Men were more than three times as likely as women (13% vs. 4%) to be down for a commercially produced brain chip eventually. Democrats and Independents were twice as likely as Republicans (10% vs. 5%) to consider such a piece of tech.

And somewhat distressingly, among those who had reported reading Flowers for Algernon—the iconic short story about a disastrous brain augmentation procedure —fully 13% were still interested in the chip.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Advertisers say they do not plan to return to X after Musk’s comments

December 4, 2023

Advertisers said on Thursday, November 30, that they did not plan to reopen their wallets anytime soon with X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, after its owner, Elon Musk, insulted brands using an expletive and told them not to spend on the platform, reports The New York Times.

At least half a dozen marketing agencies said the brands they represent were standing firm against advertising on X, while others said they had advised advertisers to stop posting anything on the platform. Some temporary spending pauses that advertisers have enacted in recent weeks against X are likely to turn into permanent freezes, they added—noting that Musk’s comments giving them no incentive to return.

Advertisers are “not coming back” to X, said Lou Paskalis, the founder and chief executive of AJL Advisory, a marketing consultancy. “There is no advertising value that would offset the reputational risk of going back on the platform.”

Musk has repeatedly criticized and alienated advertisers since buying Twitter last year. At one point, he threatened a “thermonuclear name & shame” against advertisers who paused their spending because they were concerned about his plans to loosen content moderation rules on X.

In recent weeks, more than 200 advertisers had halted their spending on X after Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory and researchers called attention to instances of ads appearing alongside pro-Nazi posts on the platform. The company, which has made most of its revenue from advertising, is at risk of losing up to $75 million this quarter as brands back away.

The situation was compounded on Wednesday when Musk made incendiary comments against advertisers at the DealBook Summit in New York. In a wide-ranging interview at the event, Musk apologized for the antisemitic post, calling it “one of the most foolish” he had ever published, but also said that advertisers were trying to “blackmail” him. He singled out Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, who also attended the DealBook Summit.

“Don’t advertise,” Musk then said, using an expletive multiple times to emphasize his point.

Hours later, Linda Yaccarino, X’s chief executive, tried to mitigate the damage. In a post on X, she shifted attention to Musk’s apology for associating himself with antisemitism and appealed to advertisers to return.

“X is enabling an information independence that is uncomfortable for some people,” Yaccarino wrote. “X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street—and the X community is powerful and here to welcome you.”

A representative for X did not respond to a request for comment.

Among the brands that have been big spenders on X and that have recently halted their campaigns are Apple, Disney, and IBM. Other brands have remained, including the National Football League and The New York Times’ sports site, The Athletic.

At the DealBook event on Wednesday, Musk acknowledged that an extended advertiser boycott could bankrupt X. But the public would blame the failure on brands, he said, not on him.

“I will certainly not pander,” he said.

Research contact: @nytimes

Thousands of people are reportedly lining up to have one of Elon Musk’s brain chips implanted

November 8, 2023

Thousands of people have expressed interest in receiving one of Neuralink‘s brain implants, according to a recent Bloomberg report from one of Elon Musk‘s biographers, Ashlee Vance, reveals Business Insider.

Neuralink, which Musk co-founded in 2016, has yet to implant its device in a human—but aims to operate on 11 people next year and over 22,000 by 2030; according to Vance, who said he visited the company’s facilities ten times over the course of three years.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Neuralink approval to launch human trials of its device, which Musk has described as a “Fitbit in your skull.”

The FDA previously had rejected Neuralink’s bid for human testing in March, Reuters reported, citing safety concerns, including that the wires connected to the brain chip could move around within a subject’s head or that the chip could potentially overheat.

In September, the company began recruiting for its very first human trial. Neuralink said in a blog post that it was looking for people who had paralysis in all four limbs due to a spinal cord injury or ALS. The company eventually hopes to make a device that would create a sort of symbiosis between humans and machines; and would allow people to send messages or play games, using only their thoughts. But, first the company aims to help people with neurological disorders.

 Vance, who authored the 2015 biography “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” said in his report that despite “an outpouring of interest from thousands of prospective patients,” the company is still looking for its first volunteer or “someone willing to have a chunk of their skull removed by a surgeon so a large robot can insert a series of electrodes and superthin wires into their brain.”

Musk’s biographer said it takes a “couple of hours” for a surgeon to perform the craniectomy and then about 25 minutes for the robot to insert the device, along with its ultra-thin array of about 64 different threads. The device will replace the portion of skull that had been removed. Vance said the threads are so thin they’re about 1/14 the width of a single strand of human hair.

Neuralink has done 155 implantation surgeries using the robot on a variety of animal test subjects, including pigs and monkeys, Vance wrote. But, in typical Musk fashion, the billionaire has continued to push for the robot to move faster, as well as for the surgery to be performed without human help.

A spokesperson for Neuralink did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.

The biographer said Musk has pointed to the need to combat competition from other brain-computer startups like Synchron and Onward, which already have begun human trials.

“They are currently kicking our ass,” Musk said after Synchron implanted its first device in a U.S. patient in July 2022. (In December 2021, one of the Synchron’s patients in Australia was the first person to send a tweet using only his thoughts.)

The billionaire also has warned that Neuralink needs to pick up its pace “like the world is ending” to keep up with AI and the possibility of an AI being that wouldn’t be friendly to humans, Vance wrote.

Yet while Musk’s “maniacal sense of urgency” might work at Tesla or SpaceX—where he has initiated sprints and slept on the factory floor to meet deadlines—at least one Neuralink executive has taken a note of caution.

“We can’t blow up the first three. That’s not an option here,” Shivon Zilis, Neuralink’s director of Special Projects and the mother of two of Musk’s children, told Vance in a reference to SpaceX’s first three rockets, which exploded.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Silicon Valley billionaires have spent over $800 million to build a new city near San Francisco

August 29, 2023

A mystery company backed by Silicon Valley billionaires has been snatching up land at up to $15,000 per acre in a northern California county in an apparent bid to build an entirely new city in the state. The company, Flannery Associates, has over $800 million to purchase thousands of acres of farmland in Solano County, which sits northeast of San Francisco, court documents obtained by Business Insider show.

The New York Times has reported that the investors include some of the Valley’s most recognizable names, from Marc Andreessen to Laurene Powell Jobs.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Flannery has purchased about 52,000 acres of farmland around Travis Air Force Base since 2018. According to the report, government officials began investigating the purchases due to concerns that foreign interests may be behind the company.

“So the entire base is encircled now,” Catherine Moy, mayor of Fairfield, told ABC 7 News. “So there’s no part that isn’t touched by Flannery.”

Little is known about Flannery Associates or its specific city plans. According to the Times, the company is led by Jan Sramek, a 36-year-old former Goldman Sachs trader.

Flannery’s backers include Andreessen, Powell Jobs, Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and others, according to the report.

It’s unclear how much they each invested in the company. In 2017, Flannery Associates pitched an idea to turn the Solano County land into a walkable city powered by clean energy and housing tens of thousands of residents, the Times reported. Real estate data shows that the current median housing price in the county is $585,000.

Silicon Valley has long sought to build a city from scratch, sometimes with a utopian vision of a “smart city.”

In 2016, Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator, began looking into how it could build a city that could address California’s affordable housing crisis.

“We want to build cities for all humans—for tech and non-tech people,” the accelerator wrote. “We’re not interested in building ‘crazy libertarian utopias for techies.'”

Tech founders, including Bill Gates and Elon Musk, also have had visions of their own cities. Musk recently purchased 3,500 acres of land outside of Austin, Texas, to build a town he intends to call “Snailbrook.”

Sources told the Journal that he envisioned a “sort of Texas utopia along the Colorado River.”

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Tesla’s new Model X and S standard range electric cars are cheaper—but with one big caveat

August 17, 2023

Tesla‘s new “standard range” versions of its popular Model X and Model S electric vehicles (EVs) offer consumers a lower price tag, but with one major caveat: They can’t travel as far on one charge, reports USA Today.

This week, Tesla quietly rolled out versions of the vehicles—which are $10,000 cheaper than the regular models. Electrek, a news outlet focused on electric transportation, was the first to report on the new models.

The lower price of the new models—$88,490 for the new Model X SUV, and $78,490 for the new Model S sedan—comes at the expense of the distance they can travel before needing to be recharged.

The Model X’s standard vehicle has an estimated range of 269 miles, or 79 miles less than its more expensive version. The estimated 320-mile range of the standard Model S has been reduced by 85 miles.

The regular models of both vehicles also have a slightly faster acceleration speed. 

The new options comes as the carmaker run by billionaire Elon Musk is facing more competition in the electric vehicle industry.

In late July, seven major automakers— General Motors, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, and Stellantisannounced intentions to join forces to build a North American electric vehicle charging network that would rival Tesla’s.

The multibillion-dollar investment would see nearly double the number of fast-charging plugs in the United States and Canada by next summer; as more and more consumers switch from gas-powered vehicles to those that run on electricity.

The move would be a direct challenge to Tesla’s long reign. The company’s network currently has the largest number of fast chargers in North America, with 2,050 stations and more than 22,000 plugs, according to the Department of Energy.

The network formed by the seven automakers would be open to all electric vehicle owners, including Teslas.

Research contact: @USATODAY

Mark Zuckerberg shuts door on cage fight, saying Elon Musk ‘isn’t serious’

August 15, 2023

Mark Zuckerberg has said he is moving on from a rumored cage fight with Elon Musk, claiming the Tesla boss “isn’t serious,” reports The Guardian.

The rival billionaire tech bosses seemingly agreed to a brawl in June when Musk tweeted that he was “up for a cage fight.”

Zuckerberg, who manages Facebook and Instagram, took a screenshot of Musk’s tweet, replying “send me location.” However, on Sunday he said on his other social media platform, Threads: “I think we can all agree Elon isn’t serious and it’s time to move on.

“I offered a real date. Dana White (Ultimate Fighting Championship boss) offered to make this a legit competition for charity. Elon won’t confirm a date; then says he needs surgery, and now asks to do a practice round in my backyard instead.

“If Elon ever gets serious about a real date and official event, he knows how to reach me. Otherwise, time to move on. I’m going to focus on competing with people who take the sport seriously.”

Musk, the owner of Twitter which he has renamed X, appeared to suggest the fight would be held in an “epic location” in Italy. He outlined streaming options and an ancient setting for the proposed event, claiming he had spoken to the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Tensions have been high between the two tech billionaires’ companies after the launch of Threads, a text-based conversation app, by Zuckerberg’s Meta in July.

Twitter sent a cease-and-desist letter to Zuckerberg after the launch—claiming Meta had made “unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property”.

Zuckerberg is trained in mixed martial arts, posting about completing his first jiu jitsu tournament earlier this year.

Musk said last week he was training for the fight by lifting weights. He wrote on X: “Don’t have time to work out, so I just bring them to work.”

Research contact: @guardian