I admit, Elon Musk is gifted with more innate intelligence than most people and has achieved greater success than most of us will ever be.
And that’s why I walked away in shock after realizing it that Musk and his team had overlooked a very big problem this week when they were discussing the physical design of a life changing new idea.
Then I started thinking about why this might have happened.
To understand this, we need to start with the news that Tesla is working on a humanoid robot – something that looks like it stepped right out of the way I robot. Musk seemed to take the idea really seriously when he announced it on Tesla’s AI Day, and he promised a true prototype is about a year away:
“The Tesla bot will be real. Our cars [at Tesla] are like semi-feeling robots on wheels. … It kind of makes sense to put that in a humanoid form. “
The problem I think we’ll run into has to do with how Musk describes how the “humanoid form” will look and behave:
- “Kindly, of course.”
- “5 feet eight inches tall.”
- “You can run away from it and most likely overwhelm it.”
“Hopefully that never happens,” added Musk with a laugh. “But you never know. Five miles an hour;
I took a break here. And honestly, I’ve been looking at the suggested height here – because at 5 feet 8 inches, Musk’s robots would be about an inch taller than me.
Yes, Musk was a little bit sardonic, but imagine building these things as described and then cutting them they get lost in society in order to run more or less independently. A practical use case would be, as he put it: “Please go to the store and get me the following groceries. “
Imagine what it would be like if these things were walking around your town, in front of you in the stores you visit frequently, wrestling with people on sidewalks for space.
So I think the suggested height and size is a very big deal.
Forget about my personal height; many media sources wrong parroted the idea that Tesla robots would be about the size of the average American.
But that’s not right. The robot size reported by Musk is just below the height of the average American Man, but it is also significantly higher than that average american Mrs: 5 feet 4 inches.
Now Musk is reportedly six feet tall. Despite his years of warning about the dangers of AI and robotics and his joking remark (I think it’s a joke) that you should be able to “overwhelm” any of these things, I can imagine why the size suggested is not a problem for him.
But even if Musk doesn’t get it, why shouldn’t others around him get in touch? Even if the men on his team had no idea, wouldn’t the women have understood?
Oh right Where are the women?
Let’s get to the numbers. Last December, Tesla published an audit Explain the demographics of its employees, including its leadership team. They shared the following on gender representation:
- 83 percent men.
- 17 percent women.
In fact, I’m pretty sure the group that gathered around Musk on stage during the unveiling of the robot idea was 100 percent male. Most of the men were significantly taller than the actor who played the robot in the presentation; some of them were also bigger than Musk.
Look, diversity isn’t just about being fair or being a good corporate citizen. It’s also about capitalizing on benefits, including knowledge and empathy, that you will never get if it’s not built into the make-up of your team.
If you don’t even hit the 20 percent threshold for gender, there’s a good chance you’re robbing yourself of talented people, but also giving up the ability to quickly understand how large swaths of your stakeholder communities are likely to see products and services.
Anyway, my hope is that people close to Musk’s ear will point out the intrinsic problem of this “slightly bigger than most real human” idea when it comes to humanoid robots.
By the time Tesla is really ready to unleash its army on the world, they may have listened. Perhaps they will not only become smaller for them, but also cuter and even more obviously harmless.
(Maybe fuzzy. Maybe they could start with something that looks more like an Ewok instead of bordering on UFC Champion Connor McGreggor.)
Anyway, if you agree and want to help Tesla “build the future of artificial intelligence,” it turns out they shared this application link during the AI day. Why not apply.
Otherwise, this problem may only get bigger and the ultimate prototype will turn out to be a 6 foot 4 inch, 250 pound robot designed to subtly get non-Tesla customers out of the way in the physical world.
Hopefullyas Musk could say that never happens.
But then again, you never know.
(If you haven’t had a chance to watch it, you can find the AI Day video below. The humanoid robots section starts at around 2:05 am. And don’t forget, the free e-book is called Elon Musk has very big plans, and you can download here.)