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Elon Musk, who’s scared robots might kill us all, just unveiled this horrifying Tesla Bot

August 20th, 2021 at 3:19 PM
Tesla Bot

Exactly four years ago this month, Tesla CEO and perma-Cassandra Elon Musk tweeted his umpteenth warning about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity. “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be,” he wrote. “Vastly more risk than North Korea.” And his tweet included an image with the perhaps overwrought prediction that “In the end, the machines will win.” Suffice it to say, though, it wasn’t immediately obvious when he penned that tweet that he would find himself four year later in a position to unveil the Tesla Bot — a “humanoid” robot creation that Musk said his carmaker will probably launch a prototype of next year.

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Tesla Bot revealed

“We’re also good at sensors and batteries. And we’ll probably have a prototype next year that looks like this,” Musk said during Tesla’s AI Day event. By “this,” the self-styled Technoking was referring to the actor dressed up to look like a Tesla Bot who’d just showed off some flashy dance moves on stage.

Tesla’s website adds more detail. The company says it will “develop the next generation of automation, including a general purpose, bi-pedal, humanoid robot capable of performing tasks that are unsafe, repetitive or boring. We’re seeking mechanical, electrical, controls and software engineers to help us leverage our AI expertise beyond our vehicle fleet.”

The robot, code-named Optimus, will have the same chips and sensors built into it which also power Tesla’s cars. The same self-driving cars, we should add, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said have crashed into vehicles at first responder scenes at least 11 times since January 2018.

The Tesla Bot will also supposedly stand five foot eight inches. A screen would be displayed on its head. And it would be designed so that humans could overpower it or successfully outrun it.

“It should be able to, you know, please go to the store and get me the following groceries,” Musk said. “That kind of thing.”

Musk = Mr. Robot?

Look, I have no idea if we’ll ever see one of these in the real world. With Musk, there’s not so much a line between fact and fiction as there is a fuzzy Venn Diagram between them. One in which reality and showmanship only sometimes intersect. And thus, an even smaller space between them is created, where the Twitter-addled billionaire thrives.

Don’t forget: Musk is on record as being pretty terrified of the implications of unfettered AI advancement. His AI company once created a fake news generator it was too scared to release to the public. Another time, it trained AI by feeding it Reddit posts.

Also, remember the Solar Roof that Musk showed off at a Los Angeles event back in 2016? How many of those from him have you seen in the wild? Or, what about the autonomous robotaxis that he said would take to the roadways in 2020?

As we noted in our post from a few days ago, even Boston Dynamics — which has very clearly and very obviously mastered a thing or two about the creation of skilled robots — has described their machines as mostly R&D projects. Which is to say, it’s hard to have a sense that the Tesla Bot will be anything more than a Tesla Tequila-style announcement from America’s richest car salesman: A few true believers get excited early, while, for everyone else, the dream is like Tesla’s overpriced liquor. Out of stock.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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