Musk Time Frame

You know how one “dog year” is equal to seven human years, because your furry friends squeeze a whole lot of living into their shorter lifespans?

Well, serial entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk seems to experience life in somewhat the same way. The Tesla, SpaceX, and Boring Company boss believes everything should happen more quickly than most people assume is possible. In Elon’s world, deadlines are shorter, three months is a long development time, and 2020? That’s the distant future.

An “Elon year,” it’s clear, doesn’t equal one lap around the sun. So we broke out the slide rules and crunched the numbers, based on his deadlines, deliveries, and predictions. Our (totally scientific, promise!) calculations show that for Mr. Musk, one year is equivalent to something like 8 years for the rest of the world.


Building a Rocket

In 2002 Musk decided to start SpaceX to build his own rockets, after deciding buying Russian ones was too expensive. In 2008 his Falcon 1 became the first privately funded rocket to reach orbit. In 2000, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos launched Blue Origin, another private space venture. Although the company has also demonstrated a soft landing of a rocket, it has only managed to make it to the relatively accessible edge of space. Its New Glenn launch vehicle which will actually make it into orbit is expected to launch prior to 2020.

That’s six years, versus 20, or a time ratio of 1:3.33

Make a Self-Driving Car

Ford says it’ll have a fully self-driving car serving customers by 2021. Uber and Volvo are working on the same timeframe. Musk, meanwhile, says a Tesla will drive itself across the country sometime by the end of 2017.

One year, versus four, or a time ratio of 1:4

Zip From Los Angeles to San Francisco

California’s High Speed Rail project promises travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles at up to 220 miles per hour, or under three hours for the whole trip. Elon conjured up the Hyperloop, which would allow travel in near-vacuum tubes at around 700 mph, and do the trip in 30 minutes. At this stage both are probably equally unrealistic.

30 mins versus 180 mins, or a time ratio of 1:6

Dig a Tunnel

Elon is digging a tunnel. Nobody really knows why—something to do with avoiding traffic. He calls it the beginning of an experiment. He says a snail moves 14 times faster than a modern tunnel boring machine. His Boring Company’s goal is to defeat the snail in a race, and in the process upend the tunneling industry and save humans from soul-sucking traffic.

That’s a time ratio of 1:14.

Sell an Affordable Electric Car

“Starting a car company is idiotic and an electric car company is idiocy squared,” Musk in his Master Plan, Part Deux in 2016. That didn’t stop him, and this is one area where Musk’s insane, public, deadlines influenced another company to do better. Chevrolet took a concept Bolt EV, shown at the Detroit Auto Show in Jan 2015, and had it on sale by December 2016. Pretty impressive. The Tesla Model 3 was first shown to the public in March 2016, and production of cars is due to start in July 2017, although the first off the line will go to employees. (Of course, both vehicles were in development long before they were shown, but still.)

16 months, versus 24, or a time ratio of 1:1.5

Run a Car Production Line

Elon is big on building the machine that builds the machine. His factories are just as important a product as the car, battery, or solar panel they spit out. And he thinks he can make them run a lot faster. “The exit rate of cells will be faster than bullets from a machine gun,” he said of battery cells from the Gigafactory in 2016.

A modern car production line runs fast enough to easily spit out a completed car every three minutes. Musk’s Model S and Model X production line in Fremont, California currently runs at about 5cm per second. He says Tesla can make it 20 times faster. That’s one meter per second. That would mean a car is spat out every 10 seconds, ish, maybe faster.

180 seconds, versus 10 seconds, is a time ratio of 1:18

Go to Mars

NASA hopes to get humans to Mars by the 2030s. Musk wants his SpaceX company to start a civilization (of millions) on the red planet by the 2060s, with first manned missions in the 2025 timeframe.

1 year, versus 8 is a time ratio of 1:8

The Math

Average out the time ratios on Elon Musk’s various projects, and you get 1:7.83, indicating that Musk typically plans to do in one year, what it would take the average human to do in nearly eight years. Not that dissimilar to your canine companion. No wonder the busiest man in tech gets so much done.

(From Wired, 2017)

Jobs and AI

According to a survey of artificial intelligence experts, AI will probably be good enough to take on pretty much most of our jobs within half a century.

AI jobs

The predicted applications of AI could serve as an alarm bell for us to consider how our economy and job market will adapt to ever smarter technology. A team of researchers from the University of Oxford and Yale University received 352 responses to a survey they’d sent out to over 1,600 academics who had presented at conferences on machine learning and neural information processing in 2015. The survey asked the experts to assign probabilities to dates in the future that AI might be capable of performing specific tasks, from folding laundry to translating languages. They also asked for predictions on when machines would be superior to humans in fulfilling certain occupations, such as surgery or truck-driving; when they thought AI would be better than us at all tasks; and what they thought the social impacts could be. The researchers then combined the results to determine a range of time stretching from a low 25 percent confidence to 75 percent certain, calculating a median point when most experts were hedging their bets.

You can check out the results in the table below.

AI predictions 

Most of the academics seem fairly confident that we’ll have an AI be better than all humans at playing Angry Birds within the next seven years, and that we can start to place bets on AI winning World Series Poker within a decade. We can bet there’s a 50 percent chance robots will be better than us at folding laundry in about six years, followed very soon by an AI winning the strategy computer game StarCraft. If you drive a truck for a living, there’s a slim chance you’ll be competing with automated drivers in just over five years, but you can be fairly sure there’ll giving up the road to driverless trucks in just over 20 years. There’s a good chance we’ll see a book written by an AI in the New York Times bestseller list in 26 years and a top 40 pop song in maybe 12 years.

The researchers set the 50 percent chance line for artificial intelligence being better at just about everything – a point they describe as High Level Machine Intelligence – in just under 50 years. At which point they think there’s a likelihood that AI will be capable of doing just about any job you can imagine by 2140.