What's it like Seeing Elon Musk In Person?

AI Day 2022 Reflections


On September 30, 2022, I was close enough to Elon Musk to take this picture. After snagging an invite last minute, there I was, only one row of chairs and a short gap lay between me and one of the brightest lights in the US, and indeed the world. It was 6 PM on a Friday evening in Tesla’s main Machine Learning headquarters in Palo Alto, and I was getting ready to see the main event where Elon would introduce a fantastic team of engineers and of course show off the latest TeslaBot prototypes, named BumbleCee and AI-2. Needless to say, I was in nerd heaven!


From Dojo hardware, to Full Self Driving vision systems, to occupancy networks, to simulation, to Quality Assurance, and much more, there were around 20 stations at the outside of the hall

The room’s central area was set up with chairs for the presentation, the front was the main stage with giant sliding panels covering a massive LED panel, while the entire outside ringing the chairs was set up as a series of stations covering what Tesla’s AI team does. From Dojo hardware, to Full Self Driving vision systems, to occupancy networks, to simulation, to Quality Assurance, and much more, there were around 20 stations at the outside of the hall, each one manned by a couple of Tesla engineers.

It felt like an amusing cross between a high school science fair and a massively compressed academic conference.

The main event started with Elon himself introducing BumbleCee and AI-2, the presentation reviewed Tesla AI team’s amazing work during the past year. TeslaBot hardware and software was dissected, then Full Self Driving Beta (or fully autonomous driving) was explored in great detail, then came Dojo, the star of last year’s AI Day, and finally was an extended Q&A session specifically set aside for students to ask questions of Elon and the team. As the presentation was live streamed, you too can watch it and I highly recommend it, though you might want to break it up into smaller segments.


What was my reaction to the evening? It felt like an amusing cross between a high school science fair and a massively compressed academic conference.




Elon Musk and Tesla are sort of “anti-Apple” when it comes to demos

What was Elon like? First, he is radically honest, which is unusual for people, and which many misunderstand. Prior to AI Day 2022, Elon repeatedly told people this was a recruiting event for the best AI students in the world, that it wasn’t a press event, and that most people who weren’t best-in-class AI software, hardware, or robotics experts would find it mind numbingly boring. Elon is a very precisely honest person, and he also loves to tell us what he can. In fact the entire reason AI Day 2022 was pushed back to September rather than August was because Elon announced that they wanted a working prototype of the TeslaBot–and in fact we saw multiple prototypes!


Second, Elon Musk and Tesla are sort of “anti-Apple” when it comes to demos. The main live demo of the evening was BumbleCee walking out on stage right at the beginning, waving to the crowd, and walking off stage, followed immediately by its sibling, AI-2. This demo was done straight away at the beginning of the presentation, rather than building to Steven Jobs’s famous “one more thing” at the end of the presentation. Additionally, AI-2 had to be wheeled out awkwardly, and its torso tipped over a bit as the team was moving it to the side of the stage. This foible elicited a wonderful “Tesla demos, coming in hot!” quip from Musk.




My third observation: Tesla’s team is not only some of the most brilliant people one could meet, but Musk actually lets them talk about what they’re working on! Of course many of the really deep details I wanted to know about weren’t covered, for the very good reason that it would be a bad move to let the competition know every detail about what you’re working on. Given this factor, however, the team was allowed to speak at great depth both during their presentations and at their stations around the outside of the hallway. The chance to hear people at the top of their respective disciplines go into some degree of detail about their work is always exciting for me, and getting to hear people who are working hard to change the world was doubly so.


After AI Day, I am even more convinced that Elon Musk and Tesla are changing the world

What are my big picture thoughts about seeing Elon Musk at Telsa’s AI Day 2022? The TeslaBot will absolutely change the world–and soon! The Full Self Driving Vision team is already changing the world with their incredible Neural Network architecture and training. No one will catch Tesla on Full Self Driving because Tesla keeps improving the ways in which they capture and label data. Dojo is a reality this year, rather than a vision. And finally, Elon Musk is a huge presence in any room–as soon as he walks into a room with his massive size and personality, people turn to him as if he’s magnetic–yet at an event like AI Day 2022 he is incredibly generous, ceding focus to the team leaders who work hard every day and very much deserve the attention they got at this event.



In short, after AI Day, I am even more convinced that Elon Musk and Tesla are changing the world, I am even more excited to be a part of this amazing future!



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