Discover more from Exponential View by Azeem Azhar
🔮 Tesla revolution; lithium mines; AI eye; rave therapy, UFOs ++ #440
Your insider guide to AI and exponential technologies
The latest from Exponential View
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Sunday chart: Tesla takes over
Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) v12 marks a revolutionary shift in autonomous vehicle technology. Using a neural network, it processes data from only eight onboard cameras to help the car learn and adapt to a myriad of road situations autonomously — as opposed to the 20+ sensors and pre-set algorithms of the FSD technologies of the past.
As I remarked seven years ago:
Musk has forged a system wherein every human driver contributes to the generation of a rich dataset, nurturing the ecosystem of algorithms that empower a car to navigate autonomously.
Now, seven years later, all that data has allowed Tesla to build a highly adept neural network. Their Tesla Model Y is already the best-selling car globally, and the FSD technology looks to cement Tesla’s position as number one.
This has caused existential worry in the European automobile industry. BMW’s chief, Oliver Zipse, argues that the EV transition is going too quickly — not quickly enough for climate change, that is, but still enough to put BMW in a bind as it tries to manage both EVs and ICE vehicles. Zipse warned that the EU’s plans to ban ICE vehicles will mean that the car market “will not be done by European manufacturers”. On that, he could be right: VW has struggled to meet its EV sales targets in both Europe and China.
As Exponential View member Sam Butler-Sloss points out in his new report, within seven years, EVs could make up as much as 86% of global car sales. I suspect that process may go even quicker than that in many markets.
The future value of the auto industry will be defined by the sophisticated software that governs them, such as Tesla’s FSD. Musk himself envisaged that “[a]lmost all of Tesla’s value long-term will be from AI and robots, both vehicle and humanoid.” And Morgan Stanley agrees, bullishly setting its share price target at $400, up from $276 at the time of writing.
This scenario poses a Herculean challenge for incumbent manufacturers who now find themselves playing catch-up, not only in software development but also in powertrain technology, supply chains and EV manufacturing expertise. Tesla, along with China, have carved out a substantial market share, by taking advantage of economies of scale. The game-changer here is that EVs, with their software and associated charging infrastructure, are the pioneers in leveraging network effects in the automobile sector.
Good luck, BMW.
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A lithium gold mine. The recent discovery in the U.S. of the world’s largest deposit of lithium, an essential mineral for the renewable energy transition, marks a significant win in the nation’s efforts to bolster its energy independence. At an estimated 20-40 million tonnes, this is at least double the size of the next largest deposit, in Bolivia (9.3 million tonnes). This is good news for a world that will need at least ten times today’s lithium production in 2050.
While this find is a big boost for the U.S. energy transition, the road to battery supply chain independence from China remains long and bumpy. China is still responsible for over 50% of worldwide lithium processing. The Inflation Reduction Act has accelerated the development of the U.S. domestic battery supply chain but self-sufficiency is still a long way away.
An eye-opening breakthrough. Poised to revolutionise global healthcare diagnostics, RETFound is a pioneering open-source foundational model developed by the team at Moorfields and UCL, which includes EV reader Pearse Keane. By learning generalisable features, it is capable of identifying eye diseases with 10 times less labelled data than previous approaches, and even anticipate systemic illnesses like heart disease. The model’s availability means it could serve as new public infrastructure, and researchers could fine-tune it to craft their own diagnostic tests.
There is a second part to this story. RETFound’s inception was facilitated by access to the NHS’s healthcare data. Pearse Keane says, “if there was any way for UK universities to get access to NHS data easily and at scale, I think it’s almost guaranteed that the UK would become a world leader in AI-enabled healthcare.”
StabilityAI releases Stable Audio, a generative AI product for music and sound.
Microsoft Water consumption spiked 34% in 2022, likely due to AI research.
An open-source implementation of ChatGPT’s Code Interpreter lets LLMs directly interface with your computer.
Starman. Elon Musk’s decision to sell a portion of Starlink to the U.S. Department of Defense has been described as the “right outcome” by his biographer, Walter Isaacson. As we discussed in a previous newsletter, “Musk’s endeavours highlight the transformative potential of private enterprise — and the enormous power that a private citizen can hold.” Here, Musk autonomously chose to relinquish the weight of geopolitical decisions, handing over monumental responsibilities to a government entity — specifically the U.S., not Ukraine. This was, ostensibly, a strategic move to maintain the neutrality of his business, particularly concerning Russia and China. But ultimately, it was Musk’s personal choice to shift this burden. Looking ahead, this raises a critical question: can we rely on organisations and individuals to make such discerning choices by themselves, or is there a growing need for a democratic mechanism to oversee such significant decisions?
Even on the coldest winter days, air-source heat pumps are twice as efficient as boilers or electrical heaters.
100%: the proportion of hydrogen-fuelling stations for hydrogen-powered cars that will close in Denmark.
A majority of students plan to use ChatGPT to assist with their assignments (57%) while a majority of professors plan to treat the use of ChatGPT as plagiarism (69%). Who wins? I think the students.
The UK has leapfrogged France to become the 8th largest manufacturer in the world with an annual output of £224 billion.
There are 2.6 million people out of the workforce due to long-term sickness in the UK, up by 30% since pre-COVID.
Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
🌱 A major milestone for MDMA therapy and psychedelic research: a new FDA approval is on the horizon. via EV member Josh Hardman.
🗣️ Audiobooks as a return to our oral storytelling roots.
🤰 Human trials of artificial wombs could be starting soon.
🚗 Carjacking? Now it’s car hacking.
🗣️ Wayve connects an LLM to its self-driving cars so they can explain their decisions. Impressive demo.
🔬 AlphaFold unleashes a Pandora’s box of proteins.
📖 Members of the Exponential View private Slack get together every few months around a virtual book club. In the next one, hosted by EV member Gustav Stromfelt on 5 October, members will discuss Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. You are invited to join — RSVP here [open to members with an annual subscription]. I hope to see you there!
In the meantime, check out the member updates below. Readers of Exponential View never cease to amaze me. 🤩
🇩🇪 P.S. Our team will be in Berlin for the Falling Walls Science Summit in early November, one of our favourite annual technology and science events. Exponential View readers get an exclusive 20% off on tickets with code exp_view23. Register here.
What you’re up to — community updates
Nicola Morini Bianzino announces the launch of the artificial intelligence platform EY.ai following a $1.4 billion investment.
Sam Butler-Sloss co-authored a new RMI report on the exponential growth of electric vehicles.
George Zarkadakis has written an essay in the AI & Society Journal on the integration of the body and mind in the era of artificial intelligence.
Claudia Chwalisz and her team at Democracy Next have published a guide on how to assemble and run citizen assemblies.
Ramsay Brown’s Mission Control is hosting the second annual Leaders in Responsible AI Summit, to be held in-person on March 22, 2024, at Jesus College, Cambridge.
Dan Smith wrote an explainer on why the concerns over the downfall of the UK offshore wind industry are overblown.
Tom Richardson on whether software can improve climate action through better data analysis.
Share your updates with EV readers by telling us what you’re up to here.
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Consider these dynamics. As ICE share of new sales declines, the incentives for car manufacturers to invest in those platforms reduce, making the cars functionally less good than EVs (powertrains aside). In addition, dealer networks will inevitably want to focus on the things that sell, rather than the things that don’t, favouring forecourt EV sales, presuming they manage to transition their businesses from after-care and service. For ICE vehicles to shift, OEMs will need to offer discounts and rebates both to customers and channel making this outdated product less, or even un-, economic. The EV / ICE cross-over point will happen sooner than people expect as the effect of learning curves, economies of scale and a desire to win market share will see price cuts by EV manufacturers. So it won’t be long before a mid-priced long range EV will be a better, cheaper car than an ICE equivalent and be more profitable for dealer or OEM. Arguably this is already the case in markets where Tesla offers the Y and 3 models.
Hydrogen for road vehicle transport is a nonsense.