POWER PLAYERS
Elon Musk: ‘Paper money is going away’
Published Wed, Feb 20 201911:52 AM ESTUpdated Mon, Apr 8 201910:21 AM EDT
Catherine Clifford
@CATCLIFFORD
Elon Musk
Elon MuskJoe Skipper | Reuters
Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk has sounded the death knell for cash. “Paper money is going away,” Musk said in a podcast released Tuesday.

“Crypto[currency] is a far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper, that’s for sure,” Musk said on the “FYI — For Your Innovation” podcast.

In particular, Musk said the technology behind bitcoin is “quite brilliant” and “it seems like there is some merit to ethereum and maybe some of the others.”

However, Tesla will not be getting involved with digital currency, because Musk says it’s not a good use of the company’s resources. Plus, creating or mining cryptocurrency takes a lot of computer power, and therefore electricity.

“I think one of the downsides of crypto is that it, computationally, it is like quite energy intensive,” Musk said. “It is very energy intensive to create the incremental bitcoin at this point.”

Though Musk says he has friends that are “really involved in crypto,” in February Musk said he “literally” owns “zero cryptocurrency” other than .25 BTC that someone gave him years ago. (Bitcoin closed trading at $3,924.24 on Tuesday.)

In the tweet, Musk references, @Jack, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, who is a proponent of bitcoin.

“The world ultimately will have a single currency, the internet will have a single currency. I personally believe that it will be bitcoin,” Dorsey told The Times of London in March. It will happen “probably over 10 years, but it could go faster,” he said.

See also:

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Elon Musk: This is the ‘why’ of Tesla

Meet Tom Mueller: From Idaho logger to SpaceX co-founder who makes Elon Musk’s rockets lift off

DOM GALEONNOVEMBER 21ST 2017
Elon Musk: A Man Of Many Dreams
To say that billionaire tech-preneur Elon Musk is a busy man would be an understatement. Musk finds himself at the helm of a number of companies, each of which have goals firmly set on the future.

To bring electric autonomous vehicles (EAVs) and renewable energy solutions forward, he has Tesla. To give humankind a chance at becoming a multi-planetary species, there’s SpaceX. To transform transportation — and build better tunnels — he’s working with the Boring Company. To have a hand at the conscientious development of artificial intelligence (AI), he’s involved with OpenAI. And, lastly, to augment the human brain’s capabilities, he’s put up Neuralink.

It’s easy to get lost with so many multifarious goals that Musk has across this smorgasbord of companies, so let’s put these down in a list; Here’s what Musk plans to achieve by 2030:

A Timeline Of Projects
2017: Quite a number of the goals Musk set for his many endeavors look at the really near future, as close as 100 days in fact when it comes to building the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in Australia. Musk said back in March that he’s planning to complete the battery in just a hundred days, or else it’ll be free.

The countdown officially started in September, which puts 100 days in a little over three months. However, by the end of September, construction was already half done. Meanwhile, Musk has promised to begin deliveries of Tesla’s improved SolarRoofs by the end of 2017.

elon musk tesla spacex boring company
Image Credit: Tesla

2018: What’s possibly on top of Musk’s priorities is getting the Model 3 production on track. The goal now is to hit 5,000 cars per month by March 2018. With some set-backs in production, it’s difficult to say if Tesla would actually reach its goal. Around the same time, Tesla has promised updates to their Autopilot self-driving car software, which would purportedly bring their autonomous vehicles a step closer to reaching Level-5 autonomy before 2020. Back in Australia, a solar and wind farm project where Tesla would be providing Powerpacks is expected to be finished by 2018.

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2019: Exciting things lie ahead this year. The recently unveiled Tesla electric semi, though scarce on details, is slated to begin production by 2019. Around this time, between October 2018 to April 2019, Tesla will also unveil an electric pickup truck. Also in the same year, a long-been-hinted-at compact SUV called the Model Y would supposedly be launched, as well as a Tesla flying car dubbed the Model F. Editor’s note: The Model F was just an April Fools joke.

Then there’s the Boring Company’s tunnel under Los Angeles. Although Musk hasn’t exactly revealed a concrete timetable for it, we can assume that — with the rate of work being done and approvals from local authorities having been given — this advanced tunnel transportation system could be completed and could become operational within the next couple of years.

2020: Some three years down the road, Musk’s plans get even bigger. For starters, the Tesla Roadster 2.0, which has been unveiled as a surprise this November, is set for a 2020 release. Then, if all went well with the Model 3 production, Tesla should be producing one million of these EVs per year by 2020.

Also by this year, Tesla’s EVs would supposedly have reached a range of 1,000 kilometers on a single charge. Add to this are plans for a Tesla fleet mobility service.

2021: Musk might narrowly complete a Tesla gigafactory in China around 2020, which would begin EV production by 2021. The plans to build a manufacturing plant in China goes hand-in-hand with the country’s efforts to have more EVs on the roads by 2030. Together with a gigafactory, Tesla also plans to put up 1,000 superchargers in China.

2022: Perhaps the biggest moment for Musk would come in 2022, with the first planned cargo mission to Mars aboard the revamped BFR. The new reusable rocket would become the standard for SpaceX missions, in an effort to bring down the costs of space travel.

2024: Two years later, Elon Musk plans to send the first crewed mission to the red planet. At some point between 2022 and 2024, SpaceX might also launch a new kind of city-to-city transport aboard an earth-to-earth version of the BFR.

2030 And Beyond
Elon Musk also has a number of other projects that don’t yet have a definite timetable, or at least none have been made public. On top of these is the Hyperloop, which Musk decided would be something either Tesla or SpaceX would be more involved with. Another project that’s currently in its earliest stages of development is the Neuralink, Musk’s attempts to merge the human brain with AI.

So, Musk has a lot on his plate. We could expect a few stumbles along the way, but for someone who is quite familiar with criticism, cynicism, and skepticism like Musk on the helm, we’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the multitude of plans he completes by deadline.

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Elon Musk is CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has plans to colonize Mars, and
Elon Musk thinks and acts on a larger, more cosmic scale than we’re accustomed to from entrepreneurs. Elon Musk has become a household name synonymous with the future.

Whether he’s working on electric vehicles (Tesla) or sending rockets into space (SpaceX), his larger-than-life reputation attracts its fair share of hero-worship. Musk can get a hundred breathless reporters to write about him and his companies with little more than a concept drawing and a tweet.

His main projects take on almost every major industry and global problem conceivable, and imagine a disruptive fundamental rewiring of that space or sector.

Whether he can deliver on his vast promises is often beside the point. And Musk himself is more than happy to feed into this hype machine.

We’ve decided to take a different kind of look into the Musk ecosystem.

Rather than assess Elon Musk and his companies on promises and hype, we wanted to look at the ways in which his companies are or are not transforming the industries in which they live — with numbers, hard evidence, and concrete demonstrations of disruption.

To do this, we took a deep dive into 8 different industries where Musk and his companies operate to understand how they have begun to change:

Energy: Read on to learn about how, according to a utilities lobbying group, Musk’s efforts with Tesla and SolarCity could “lay waste to US power utilities and burn the utility business model.”
Automotive: Musk wants Teslas to not just be affordable — he wants them to do something strange: make money for their owners. They’d do this through next-generation AI and self-driving technology. We investigate how he’s making it happen.
Telecommunications: While few realize it, Musk’s work in space could revolutionize how we get online, and provide fast, affordable internet for the 4+ billion without access today.
Transportation: We dig into how the Hyperloop, Musk’s proposed “fifth mode of transportation” that’s a “cross between a Concorde and an air hockey table,” plans to cut down the 6-hour trip from DC to New York to 30 minutes
Infrastructure/Tunneling: We look at how Musk’s Boring Company is trying to cut costs in the notoriously expensive tunneling industry, where a mile of tunnel costs $1B to dig and each additional inch in diameter costs millions more.
Aerospace/Airlines: Find out how SpaceX plans to build a “freeway” to Mars by reducing the cost of flying a space shuttle to a fraction of what it is today, and to harness rocket technology for earth travel as well.
AI: We investigate why Musk, who is certain that the race for AI superiority is the “most likely cause” of WWIII, is investing so much into building better AI.
Healthcare: We dig into the high-bandwidth, minimally-invasive brain machine interfaces that Neuralink is developing to create futuristic humans.
Elon Musk’s Companies Across Industries

Elon Musk’s Companies
Elon Musk is the CEO, founder, inventor, or adviser for some of the world’s most-hyped companies, including:

SpaceX
Tesla
SolarCity
Starlink
The Boring Company
Hyperloop
OpenAI
Future of Life Institute
Neuralink
Read on for a deep dive into how Elon Musk and his companies are transforming vital industries.

1. Energy
First with SolarCity and now with Tesla, eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels and instead drawing energy from the “giant fusion reactor in the sky” (aka the sun) has been one of Musk’s priorities for more than a decade.

SolarCity, his first attempt to make solar power mainstream and ubiquitous, was at the forefront of the early 2000’s “solar gold rush.” In some ways it was a failure, but it remains important to understand its trajectory to understand how Musk and Tesla plan to take renewable energy.

SolarCity grew to become the country’s largest provider of residential solar, then suffered some very public financial problems before being purchased Tesla for $2B.

That 2016 acquisition was controversial, with many observers calling it a thinly veiled bailout. And yet Tesla’s continuation of SolarCity’s work has helped make a stronger case for solar than SolarCity was ever able to make on its own.

WHY SOLAR?
Elon Musk originally suggested the concept for the company that became SolarCity to his cousins, Peter and Lyndon Rive, in 2004.

The concept for SolarCity emerged out of a simple realization: the clock was running low on fossil fuels. The need for a replacement was emerging fast. “If they started now,” as Men’s Journal reports Musk telling Lyndon in 2004, “They might rule the market.”

Evidence that other forms of energy production were vulnerable was abundant in 2004.

Coal production had been in a plateau since the late 1990s, as had electricity generation from nuclear. And while some predicted a “nuclear renaissance” in the early 2000s, as of 2004, that had not arrived either.

Electricity generation from nuclear power has remained fairly steady since 2000 — though growth has all but stopped.

As of 2004, a majority of the generators of nuclear and coal-based power in the United States were also starting to reach end-of-life status. They would soon need either expensive upgrades or maintenance, or to be refashioned into generators for alternate sources of energy.

The average nuclear or coal installation lasts about 40 years. Today, about 250 gigawatts of our total energy consumption comes from generators that are in imminent need of upgrade or maintenance or replacement.

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At the same time, solar was looking like an attractive alternative. Prices on solar power had been dropping for decades, going from $76.67/watt in 1977 to just a few dollars/watt in 2004.

The Swanson Effect observes that the price of building photo-voltaic cells for use in solar power generation tends to fall by about 20% every time the volume of solar panels produced doubles.

The price of installing solar panels on roofs decreased as well — and has continued to do so in the ensuing years.

A SHIFT IN STOCK
Musk and SolarCity took on the last-mile challenge of making solar truly accessible and mainstream.

By 2013, it was the leading installer of solar systems in residential buildings in the United States.

Its key innovation, though, was less on the technology side and more on the accounting side. Before SolarCity, the cost for getting a solar roof installed was between $30,000 and $50,000 upfront. SolarCity pioneered the “solar lease” strategy, which allows homeowners to get their roofs installed for free and pay back the installation costs over time. GTM Research reports that solar leases made up 72% of new solar installations as of 2014.

February 2014 was SolarCity’s stock price peak. But cancellation rates on SolarCity contracts soon spiked to 45% or more, according to Fast Company.

Some critics pointed to SolarCity’s aggressive sales tactics as the culprit. SolarCity salespeople would book installations using savings promises that critics say “bent the truth” on the numbers. Customers, once they realized they wouldn’t be saving as much as they had been promised, cancelled their installations in droves.

All the while, the SolarCity sales team was growing by hundreds of people a week, and they were incentivized to book installations. Revenue, however, was not increasing at nearly the same rate.

Towards the end of 2015, SolarCity promised investors it would right the ship — by reducing its growth rate. Wall Street wearied. After SolarCity announced a particularly bad quarter in February 2016, its stock price dropped by a third.

“This is a company that I regard in a first-class crisis that acts as if everything is fine,” TV anchor Jim Cramer said afterwards. “You know I’m an aficionado of conference calls. You may have found the bottom. Yes, [this is] the worst conference call of 2016.”

TESLA BUYS SOLARCITY
In February 2016, Musk proposed that Tesla buy SolarCity. Tesla was developing the technology to help people charge their Teslas at home and on the road. These so-called Powerwall batteries were being installed in homes and connected to solar generators by third parties. After the deal was approved, SolarCity’s business became organized under the Tesla “Solar Roof” product offering — allowing Tesla to provide end-to-end residential solar energy rather than just the battery.

With a one-story ranch house in California, it’s estimated that Solar Roof customers would save $41,800 over the course of thirty years. That doesn’t factor in state and local tax credits and other types of subsidies and incentives, or the potential property value increase from having a Solar Roof installed.

The Solar Roof, in many instances, saves consumers a net amount of money over time, paying itself back in full and more.

If customers can install systems which make them virtually self-reliant when it comes to energy, what is the role of utilities companies?

“Solar power and other distributed renewable energy technologies could lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model” – Grist Magazine

At a 2017 National Governors Association meeting in Rhode Island, Elon Musk announced that — with solar technology from SolarCity and battery technology from Tesla Powerwall — a 100 square mile patch of land could provide enough power to supply the entire United States.

The first Solar Roof preorders took place in May 2017. They almost immediately sold out “well into 2018” and Tesla announced it would begin installations in the summer. In August, the first installations did take place — at the homes of a few Tesla employees.

Tesla’s factory in Buffalo, “Gigafactory 2,” has had numerous production delays getting the Solar Roofs out to their preordering customers. Tesla brought Panasonic in to help make up some of the shortfall, which in December announced that it’s “getting ready” to start producing the cells needed for the Solar Roof.

The first non-employee installations began in Spring 2018.

The first Solar Roof running

Early results suggest mixed success. Amanda Tobler’s Solar Roof was one of the first to get hooked up to a local energy provider and to start producing electricity for her family. The full roof cost about $50K (including federal tax credits) for about 2K square feet of roofing, of which 40% were solar tiles.

In the summer, the solar panels started producing higher amounts of electricity, getting to the point where, even with A/C use and two electric vehicles charging, Tobler was pumping electricity back into the grid, according to her Twitter account.

In just one week, the solar roof produced 394 kWh of electricity, far more than the average US residential electricity use of ~225 kWh/week.

During this phase, her family used just 2.9kWh from the grid but gave back 101 kWh to other Californians.

Though the technology is promising, Tesla has not been able to roll out the tiles to many buyers. In Tesla’s Q2’18 earnings call, Musk stated that the company “now [had] several hundred homes with the Solar Roof on them,” though the company later clarified that he included roofs that are scheduled for installment or partially installed. However, in May’18, only 12 roofs had been installed and connected to the grid, according to Reuters.

The Tesla Solar Roof has not been the only product to see roll-out struggles, slowdowns, and production problems — so has the Tesla Model 3.

2. Automotive
The Model 3’s troubles are just the latest chapter in the Tesla roller coaster ride.

First started in 2003, Tesla was Musk’s second project post-PayPal, and still one of his most ambitious.

Tesla is a car company working to make the traditional car company a thing of the past. It envisions a future of self-driving cars, where the majority of people travel by autonomous Tesla vehicles. It’s also a future where car owners frictionlessly rent out their vehicles to serve as self-driving cabs while they’re not using them.

Production problems have plagued the California-based company, however, causing delivery delays and concerning many Tesla shareholders. The enormity of the hype around Tesla has made the company an attractive target for short sellers, though short sellers were punished more in 2017 than for any other company when they lost $3.7 billion betting against the carmaker.

But Musk’s antics may be catching up with him. In 2018 YTD (as of 9/24/18), Tesla’s stock price has declined about 6%. Even so, many believe that Musk can deliver on his vision, or at least a hefty fraction of it, despite the “production hell” the Model 3 has experienced recently. Musk articulated his vision in a 2016 “Master Plan” post on the Tesla blog:

Create a low volume car, which would necessarily be expensive
Use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price
Use that money to create an affordable, high volume car
Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it
The plan began as promised, with the creation of an expensive, low volume sports car: the original Tesla Roadster.

Musk financed the Roadster’s creation with money he made from starting PayPal. The Roadster was the first domino of the Master Plan, a “catalyst to accelerate the day of electric vehicles.”

Then came the Tesla Model S. It won 2013 “Car of the Year” awards from both Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine. In 2015, it won “Car of the Century” from Car & Driver. It went on to become the best-selling electric vehicle worldwide in both 2015 and 2016 (among models that plug in). But at about $70,000, it still wasn’t the affordable mass market car Musk wanted to build.

Betting on electric vehicles becoming mass market always made sense. Great Britain and France voted to ban diesel and gasoline auto sales starting in the year 2040. China has made it a point that 20% of cars sold in the country should run on some alternative source of fuel by 2025. GM plans to have 20 electric vehicle models on the road by 2023. Volvo has decided to get rid of traditional fuel-powered cars entirely by 2019.

Bloomberg’s growth forecast for electric vehicles over the next several decades.

In this landscape, owning the electric vehicle market begins to look a lot more like one day owning the entire automobile industry.

Today, according to the Department of Labor, Americans pay something like $2,000 a year in gasoline and “motor oil expenses” alone. Freight companies pay as much as $200,000 a year to fuel up each semi. Electric vehicles, though still relying on the grid for energy, could help to reduce that economic burden.

The Tesla Semi will reportedly save drivers up to $200,000 a year on fuel costs.

Then there’s the AI component of Tesla EVs. In 2016, Tesla announced that it would outfit Tesla vehicles with the constituent elements of a machine learning self-driving car program:

Eight cameras
Twelve ultrasonic sensors
A forward-facing radar
A computer
As car owners drive their Teslas around, these sensors work together to create a lifelike model of the surrounding environment. Those models are uploaded to Tesla, where they’re studied and compared with millions of hours of footage compiled from other Tesla vehicles.

The resulting “Autopilot” technology has already been rolled out to Tesla vehicles, though a driver can’t fall asleep while their Tesla drives for them — yet. Musk anticipates that functionality will be ready around 2019.

This self-driving functionality also includes the ability to control the car via smartphone, as in this example below. A user has his car pick him up under an overhang during a rainstorm through his iPhone.

Autopilot and the summoning technology are available in all three Tesla Model (S, X, and 3).

Within 48 hours of announcing the Model 3 in March 2016, the car — Tesla’s first true mass market electric vehicle — had almost a 250K preorders. That amounted to over $10 billion in potential sales. But production problems would plague the roll out.

Musk promised 1,500 Model 3 units in the third quarter of 2017, up to 20,000 per month by December.

In reality, only 260 units were produced in the third quarter.

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In November 2017, the date for hitting 5,000 Model 3 units a week in production was moved from December to March 2018. Production issues for the Model 3 have continued to plague Tesla throughout 2018. By the end of Q2’18, the total number of Model 3s produced stood at 41,030.

The goal of 5,000 cars/week was finally reached in the last week of June, when production for the Model 3 hit 5,031. To help hit the 5,000 goal, Musk:

Had the team build a tent in two weeks to house an entirely new assembly line
Was at the facility “24/7” and working 120-hour work weeks to help solve production bottlenecks
Called employees from other business functions to try and speed up production

Inside the Tesla tent

The goal of 5,000 new Model 3 units/week was hit once, though Bloomberg predicts production has now fallen to 3,000 cars/week with about 90K total units produced by September 2018.

Meanwhile, Musk has been on Twitter, announcing that Tesla would soon develop “intelligent windscreen wipers,” a “disco mode” for its interior lights, and a pickup truck.

Some analysts have advised Musk to stop “over-promising and under-delivering.” But while Tesla’s stock price hadn’t flourished amidst the Model 3’s production problems, it still finished 2017 about 50% higher than it started. However, Musk’s recent tweets about taking the company private among other poor publicity have caused the stock to drop about 20% since highs in August.

Even setting aside the Model 3’s problems, there is a chance that the Tesla machine learning program won’t be successful. There’s a chance the auto dealer lobby will be able to legislate Tesla out of business (Tesla bypasses traditional dealer networks that are supported by legislation in some areas), or that Tesla’s factories will never produce at required levels.

And another existential threat which Musk is already addressing head-on — data.

Every Tesla car on the road communicates back to the company via the AT&T LTE network. Each one sends and receives several gigabytes of data every month, from software updates to driver data. Usually, Musk pursues the “full-stack” approach — such reliance on another company is a danger to the company.

That’s a big part of the thinking behind Starlink, his plan to leverage SpaceX into providing cheap, fast internet for all.

3. Telecommunications
For all the talk of Musk’s innovation, his average project seems to revolve around a set formula — find an old idea that failed because of lackluster technology, and attack it with some of the world’s best engineers.

That’s exactly how Musk and SpaceX are going after the satellite internet industry.

The idea of beaming the internet down from satellites is an old one. Teledesic was founded in the early ’90s to build a constellation of satellites that could provide a wide network of broadband internet. It, and a few other similar companies, failed and went bankrupt given the logistical challenge of getting so many satellites into space and maintaining low latency connections.

Elon Musk first talked publicly about satellite internet in early 2015. In November 2016, SpaceX filed an application with the FCC requesting to launch more than 11,000 broadband satellites over the course of six years and “provide robust broadband services on a full and continuous global basis.”

By the mid-2020s, this new satellite-driven internet service, Starlink, has the potential to become the world’s largest telecommunications provider on Earth — potentially a $1 trillion prize.

SpaceX plans to deliver global broadband internet from orbit, creating a mesh network that could cover the entire globe.

A few months later, SpaceX flew a used rocket into space for the first time. It was a big step in the SpaceX “Master Plan,” part of which is to reuse rockets so that a spacecraft can land and go back into space within hours of releasing its payloads.

It is a technology which, when combined with SpaceX’s broadband aspirations, has the potential to massively disrupt the way telecommunications companies do business.

SpaceX has already brought the cost of a satellite launch down to ~$300 million under what it costs to fly one with Boeing or Lockheed — about $85-95 million compared to $420 million. Its first reusable rocket launch, the Falcon 9, cost less than half of its original launch. There are still various pieces of the puzzle that SpaceX is working on to make rockets fully reusable, a project which Musk projects will be done by late 2018. There’s only one aspect of launching that can’t be reused — the fuel — which costs about $250,000 per mission.

A unit cost of under a million dollars per mission would make it possible to launch thousands of internet satellites with ease. And those satellites, once in space, would blanket the entire Earth — including areas without internet currently — with persistent gigabit, low latency broadband.

Most of the world still doesn’t have access even to a land-locked gigabit internet connection.

There have been a number of prominent satellite internet company flame-outs in the last few decades — Iridium and Teledesic to name two. The Starlink project differs in some significant ways:

Cost: As discussed above, SpaceX has brought (and continues to bring) the cost of launching a satellite down to a fraction of what it once was
Speed: Traditional satellite internet caps out at about 25 Mbps, while SpaceX’s could reach 1 Gigabit
Latency: The amount of time it takes for a data packet to travel between Earth and a satellite — current providers post about 600+ milliseconds (ms) latency, while SpaceX is aiming at about 30ms, a significant improvement
SpaceX put the first two Starlink satellites — Tintin A and B — into orbit on February 2018. As the company drives down the cost of launch, and launches more of its satellites into space, SpaceX has a higher chance of winning versus the current system of land-based broadband networks.

SpaceX received the go-ahead from the FCC in March 2018 to launch 4,425 broadband satellites.

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SpaceX wasn’t the only company recently approved to build constellations by the FCC, but they were by far the largest.

The approval does come with two new challenges for SpaceX:

The FCC requires that half of the satellites be launched within six years, by March 2024 — SpaceX had only planned on launching one-third, or 1,600, by that time. Since the FCC is reserving a band of telecommunications spectrum for the Starlink system, it wants SpaceX to fully deploy the satellites as soon as possible.
SpaceX also has to provide an updated “de-orbit plan.” This shows how SpaceX is going to deal with all of the space debris from more than 4,000 satellites once they start to deteriorate. With more than 500,000 pieces of space debris already in orbit around the earth as of 2013, the FCC wants to make sure SpaceX isn’t contributing further.
If Starlink took hold, it would revamp satellite internet, which has been relatively stagnant for decades. And it’s not the only “old idea” that Musk and his companies are working on restoring.

One of the oldest ideas in transportation, for example, is transportation by vacuum tube. In 1812, an Englishman named George Medhurst was the first to propose building tunnels underground and shooting passengers through them pneumatically, in pods.

In 2012, Elon Musk was one of the first to convince people that he might be able to bring that vision to reality.

4. Transportation
Musk first started talking publicly about the Hyperloop in 2012, at a PandoDaily event in Santa Monica.

This “fifth mode of transport” (after cars, planes, trains and boats) would be a “cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table.” Riders would travel in a low-pressure tube, inside pod-like capsules supported by air and powered by a “magnetic linear accelerator.”

Musk’s original model of a Hyperloop pod from SpaceX’s 2013 whitepaper on the topic.

In a whitepaper, he worked with the SpaceX and Tesla teams to test the idea’s feasibility and understand its economics. They found that a “pod” would be able to travel a distance of 30 miles in just 2.5 minutes, cutting a six hour trip to just 30 minutes. And it would only need to cost about $20 USD each way to sustain itself.

It would be cheaper than the high-speed rail California was planning to implement at the time.

Combine pressurized pods with a depressurized tunnel, and you get a form of transportation that’s much faster than any mode conceived before.

As far as speed, the Hyperloop would be the fastest mode of transportation in existence, on average. Commercial airlines are second, traveling at an average speed of 575 mph. The Hyperloop would travel at about 600 mph, or about 3x as fast as the Shinkansen (bullet) train in Japan.

The Hyperloop could have a major impact on a few different industries. For one, the $660B airline industry. With the exception of travel over oceans, the Hyperloop could transport passengers faster and for less money than an airplane.

That speed could alter where and how Americans live, dramatically changing both residential and commercial real estate. One could easily work in Manhattan and live a six-hour drive away, in Burlington, Vermont — with a 30-minute Hyperloop commute.

And it could revolutionize freight shipping. Almost half of all American import goods flow through the ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach. 14,000 truck drivers bring those goods to warehouses and rail yards all across Southern California, according to SCPR. They move about 11,000 containers a day and burn about 68 million gallons of fuel every year, according to PWC.

While you would still need trucks and their human drivers for last-mile delivery, a Hyperloop-like system could transport goods an order of magnitude faster at much lower expense (with far less pollution).

Of course, the Hyperloop has its critics. One major criticism — where will the train go? Achieving the right-of-way necessary to build a train above-ground and the cost of construction has doomed high-speed rail projects for decades. And tunneling technology isn’t there yet.

One day, when Musk was sitting in traffic outside LA, he tweeted out a complaint that became the impetus for the company that would attack this problem head-on.

5. Infrastructure/Tunneling

And so started The Boring Company.

Construction is a vital field, one that the US is currently not a world leader in. When it comes to spending on construction projects, in 2012, the US only just outspent Greece as a proportion of GDP. It ranked #143 in construction spending, or 13% of GDP, one of the lowest globally. When you look at the largest infrastructure projects currently running, Asia and Europe are the big spenders.

US construction development has plateaued. With The Boring Company, Musk wants to improve the tech behind tunnels and bringing infrastructure capabilities back to the US.

The Boring Company has four active projects. The first is the test tunnel at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, built solely for R&D.

The problem with tunneling is cost.

The cost of tunneling is approximately $1B/mile. Musk considers that this needs to fall by an order of magnitude to $100M/mile for tunneling to be economically viable.

Reducing cost comes down to two things: size and speed.

The cost of a tunnel is proportional to the cross-sectional area of the tunnel. The wider the tunnel you want, the more you have to pay for it. The NYC Second Avenue Subway tunnel is 23.5 feet wide. A one-lane road tunnel has to be 28 feet. The two-lane A-86 West tunnel in Paris, completed in 2011, is 38 feet wide.

The Boring Company intends to build tunnels of just 14 feet. This is half the diameter of the current required road tunnel, and leads to approximately one-fourth of the cross-sectional area.

Doubling the diameter quadruples the cross-sectional area and quadruples the cost. Reducing the diameter can save millions of dollars.

The Boring Company can drill smaller tunnels because cars won’t drive through — for example, via an inner-city tunnel in LA to relieve the city’s traffic congestion.

Each car in the tunnel will be transported on an electric skate, catapulting it through the tunnel network at 125 mph, rather than driving through it. Musk believes that you could cut the travel time from northern LA to LAX from 30-45 minutes to just six minutes.

The ultimate idea is that Tesla owners can drive around on the surface, find an entrance elevator, and head down into the tunnel. The company is also looking for ways to connect homes directly to the tunnel — in September 2018, the company got approval to build a test garage that links directly with the tunnel system.

The tunnels can be much smaller than traditional tunnels as these will be electric cars on electric skates. No internal combustion engines on site. If you look at the cross-section of the A-86 West tunnel, you can see why this makes a difference.

With all the fumes from the combustion engines, the majority of the space in the tunnel is needed for ventilation. Additionally, tunnels add extra space for larger vehicles and emergency vehicles. By only allowing specific electric vehicles in, these problems are negated.

Musk is also looking to further reduce the impacts of The Boring Company through one of its main assets: dirt.

Boring Bricks will reuse the dirt from tunneling — each one will cost 10 cents or will be free for affordable housing projects.

Boring Bricks

Recycling waste into building materials could reduce emissions derived from traditional concrete builds, furthering Musk’s vision for a cleaner planet.

The other factor in the high cost of building tunnels is speed. Tunnel boring machines (TBMs), used to drill holes for tunnels, are excruciatingly slow. The Boring Company has a pet snail, Gary, who can currently outpace its machines, moving 14X faster. “Victory is beating the snail,” says Musk. However, the company believes that TBM power can be increased without damaging the equipment, and power output could be tripled with the right power source and thermal management.

The third Boring Company project is a tunnel from Washington, D.C. to NYC. This is a journey that currently takes over four hours to drive. The company is currently planning to go as far as downtown Baltimore, with the eventual goal of making it to NYC.

By tunneling, you can go high speed the whole way. Coupling a Boring Company tunnel with a Hyperloop train, Musk thinks this journey to NY could be made in just 29 minutes. This turns the entire mid-Atlantic region into a massive metropolis.

The Boring Company has recently had a fourth project approved, providing mass transit from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport. Currently, if someone wants to get from downtown to the airport, there are two options — the “L” train (40 minutes), or driving (50-60 minutes).

With the proposed Boring Company tunnel, this travel time will allegedly shorten to 12 minutes. Since The Boring Company will pay for the entire project, Chicago has approved the project. In return, TBC will get all transit and advertisement fees. Unlike the LA project, this tunnel will not transport individual cars, but instead use EV shuttles. Each vehicle will hold 16 people and will depart downtown every 30 seconds. In theory, that is over 46,000 people per day.

For Musk, The Boring Company is little more than a hobby, taking just “2-3 percent” of his time. He bought the TBMs secondhand, and staffs the company with interns. But that shouldn’t downplay the importance of The Boring Company to his other projects.

The first is Tesla. The cost projections for the inner city tunnels are low because they will be exclusively for electric vehicles, reducing the need for ventilation and boosting speed. This will alleviate traffic congestion on the surface streets, transferring traffic underground. When the first tunnels hit capacity, the company plans to add more, creating a network of tunnels under each city. Musk expects more traffic from autonomous, electric vehicles as driving costs plummet due to cost sharing.

The second is also obvious: Hyperloop. These tunnels will have to be larger, but with the advancements learned through the smaller tunneling projects, The Boring Company can increase efficiency in these tunnels as well.

The third is a bit less obvious: SpaceX.

Musk aims to put 1M people on Mars, and tunnels are central to this vision. With a harsh atmosphere, humans may need to live underground. If Musk is going to build a colony on Mars, building a network of tunnels is essential.

6. Aerospace/Airlines
On December 15, 2017, SpaceX CRS-13 launched from Cape Canaveral on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. This was the 13th resupply mission on SpaceX’s NASA contract, and the 45th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket to date.

With 18 flights in 2017 alone, even landing a rocket on a moving boat is now routine. But this mission was different. It was the first to exemplify the core feature of SpaceX and how it plans to get us to Mars — it was an entirely reused rocket. The Falcon 9 Full Thrust first stage had previously flown as part of CRS-11 in June. The Dragon capsule had first flown as part of CRS-6 in 2015. This was the first time an entire spacecraft had used flying components.

For Elon Musk, this is the only way space travel makes sense. If rockets become reusable, then space can become the next air travel — a way to span great distances, open to all.

It comes down to the cost-to-weight ratio. The cheaper it is to put tons of equipment into space, the easier it is to launch. If you have to build an entirely new spacecraft each time, however, costs stay sky-high.

At the top end of the price spectrum are the “expendable launch systems,” such as Arianespace’s Vega launcher and Boeing/Lockheed Martin Atlas V (manufactured by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between the two companies). These are big rockets that can put a lot into orbit, but cannot be reused. The Space Shuttle (NASA) sits in the middle of the cost range. The shuttle was designed to be cheap and reusable, but the cost of the solid rocket boosters and main fuel tank that were expendable added to the cost and ultimately restricted the value of the program.

At the bottom of the spectrum sit SpaceX’s Falcon rockets, which have already shown a 3X-5X decrease in cost for getting a spacecraft into the sky. Even so, it needs to get lower.

Musk wants SpaceX to put 1M people on Mars. To do that, he says we need to “improve cost per ton by 5M percent.”

From Musk’s perspective, leaving humanity as a single planet species is crazy, a surefire path to extinction. The further we explore and get away from Earth, the more anti-fragile we become and the less susceptible we are to superhuman AI or the destruction of Earth’s natural resources.

Mars isn’t exactly hospitable, but it is the best of the local options.

The Martian day is similar in length, the temperature range is roughly the same, and the amount of land is almost identical. There is water under the surface and an abundance of important elements in the land and air.

Getting to that “5 million percent” cost improvement requires not just reusable rockets. That is just the first of four components that are needed to get to Mars economically:

Reuse of all rocket technology. This is what SpaceX has been focused on so far. CRS-13 shows that this is already a reality.
Refill the rockets in orbit. So much fuel will be needed for a trip to Mars, the rockets will likely need to refuel in orbit.
The ability to produce propellant on Mars. If we can’t even launch with the fuel to get there, it definitely isn’t cost effective to take the fuel to get back as well. The first thing the new colonists will need to do is build a gas station.
The ability to produce the right propellant. All of this is predicated on being able to make the right fuel on Mars.
The SpaceX vehicles will use Methalox, a combination of methane and oxygen. To make the methane, SpaceX will collect CO2 from Mars atmosphere (96% of the atmosphere is CO2) and mine water from the surface. Through this, the company can produce all the fuel its needs for the return trip.

The SpaceX plan for creating essentially a space highway between Earth and Mars includes finding a way to generate enough fuel to sustain a return trip on the Red Planet itself.

The vehicle won’t be the Falcon/Dragon combination currently in use. Instead, SpaceX is developing the BFR — the Big Falcon Rocket. Whereas the Falcon 9 can take 22,900 kg to lower earth orbit (LEO), the BFR will be capable of taking 500,000 kgs to LEO. With the Raptor engines the company is currently building, the trip to Mars will take just 80 days.

The Tintin-inspired BFR will be 118 meters tall — Falcon Heavy stands at 70 meters — and will have a diameter of 9 meters. Before it takes anyone to Mars, it plans to bring Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa close to the moon. In September 2018, Musk announced that the Japanese billionaire and his 6-8 artist guests will be the first humans to see the moon up close since the Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa paid an undisclosed sum to go to the moon in the BFR.

Initially slated for 2019, SpaceX has pushed back the trip to concentrate on developing the more powerful BFR, with a new launch schedule:

An unmanned Crew Dragon test will take place in December 2018
A manned flight carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley plans to fly in April 2019
Maezawa’s moon shot as early as 2023
Manned Mars trips from 2024 onward
Before BFR is built, the other Falcon rockets are still operating. This is part of Musk’s overall strategy that you see throughout his companies: build something really helpful to use now that finances the crazy stuff of the future.

Switching to reusable rockets reduces the cost of bringing objects into LEO. It is also opening up space exploration to commercial realities. A great point of comparison for the commercial feasibility of SpaceX’s plans is air travel. If Boeing had to write off each 737 after just one flight, a trip from LA to Las Vegas would cost something like $500,000 per person. Because we don’t crash or trash every plane after it’s been used once, Boeing can charge just $43.

This is the kind of cost structure Musk wants to bring to space flight. It’s not going to cost $43 to get to Mars, but it is planned to go from impossible to $300-500K. Expensive, but doable.

When we start to lower the cost of orbital spacecraft, the company comes into the economic reality of not just inter-planetary travel, but intra-planetary travel. As well as using BFR to get from Earth to Mars, Musk also sees a viable business in using BFR to travel from Sydney to Singapore a lot quicker than traditional aircraft.

A space flight route, even sub-orbital, around the globe could be significantly faster than a regular flight. Musk contends that with such a flight trajectory, you can reach anywhere on earth in under an hour. The economics then follow that of commercial flight — originally something only open to the rich, as more people take advantage, the price will come down until a spaceflight trip from London to Hong Kong is similarly priced to a regular flight.

That question of our long-term future is one that Musk takes seriously. Between climate change, nuclear war, and various other types of man-made disaster, few threats loom larger in Musk’s imagination as a problem for the long-term viability of the human race than artificial intelligence.

In September 2017, Musk announced that he believed AI and the competition for superiority would be the most likely cause of World War III. Of all the people to doomsay about AI, of course, Musk has strong credibility — his company OpenAI had just accomplished, one month prior, something no other AI company had ever done before.

7. Artificial Intelligence
In August 2017, during Valve’s Dota 2 tournament, a new top player emerged in the world of online gaming. Over the course of a week, this player beat a string of other top players, including world champions, in one of the toughest online games. And the player had only been playing for six months.

This tweet paints Musk and his non-profit AI research company, OpenAI, as following in the footsteps of Google with AlphaGo and Facebook’s DarkForest. But for Musk and OpenAI, this isn’t about playing games. As far as he sees it, if AI research continues down its current path, humanity has no future.

AI is now a core component of tech. It is prevalent not only in the obvious places — Siri’s natural language processing, Google’s RankBrain— but in almost all tech sectors.

AI research is progressing at a significant rate, and Musk sees this as an existential threat to humanity. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and all the companies in our AI 100 (featured above) are each contributing to the upside of AI: higher efficiency, higher productivity, less work for humans, and, ideally, a higher quality of life for humans.

But the race for these upsides is also a race towards a massive potential downside — a super-intelligent general artificial intelligence that is vastly smarter than humans and sees no use in keeping them around.

The purpose of OpenAI is to strengthen AI research. The above companies working on AI are naturally secretive. There is a commercial imperative: though you can read research papers from the DeepMind or Google Brain teams, the work is behind closed doors.

OpenAI wants to not only perform research, but also “occupy the meta level, such as platforms and infrastructure that enable faster research for everyone.” To accomplish this, the company has two core components:

Research: The foundation has attracted some of the best researchers in the field, promising them the opportunity to work on some of the biggest problems in AI. The group regularly publishes its own research into AI and machine learning. In addition, the team publishes broader ideas on its own site.
Systems: The team is building platforms to help other AI researchers understand the machines it is building better. For example, the team has built an AI Gym, “a toolkit for developing and comparing reinforcement learning algorithms.”
The overall concept of OpenAI is to bring high-quality AI research into the open with no commercial restraints. As the company says in its introductory blog post, “Since our research is free from financial obligations, we can better focus on a positive human impact.”

Is a super-intelligent AI a real problem? It sounds too sci-fi, even for Musk. Imagining colonies on Mars or self-driving cars is fairly easy. Imagining an AI-induced apocalypse isn’t. Machine learning leader Andrew Ng said, “worrying about superhuman AI is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars”.

But that is kind of Musk’s point. No one is thinking about this. Instead, they are all too focused on the commercial possibilities of AI. They can’t see the potential problems.

Those problems are two-fold:

An AI will unintentionally do harmful things
An AI will intentionally do harmful things
The first could be a problem even with current narrow AI. Say we build an AI cleaning bot. All this bot wants to do is make sure the world is as clean as can be. If the bot just wants to make sure everything is clean, it has a few options. The first option is to clean up all the mess. This is the outcome we want and that the AI developer is expecting.

But that isn’t the only option. Another possibility is that it will try and stop the mess occurring in the first place. Humans cause mess. “If there are no humans, there is no mess, so let’s get rid of all humans” increases the AI’s utility function and is a perfectly legitimate solution to the AI’s problem.

This AI safety research is the main focus of OpenAI. In 2016, the company co-authored a research paper into these issues titled Concrete Problems in AI Safety. The paper identified five areas of research that AI researchers need to strongly consider as they push forward with any type of AI:

Avoid negative side effects. How can we make sure that the AI won’t follow its programming too exactly, so that it will do anything to perform its function? For the cleaning robot, this could be destroying the room in an effort to clean faster.
Avoid reward hacking. If the AI uses a reward function to determine the right course of action, how can we make sure it doesn’t just try and maximize that reward function without performing the action? For the cleaning AI, this could include switching off its visual system so it can’t see the mess.
Scalable oversight. How can we make sure than an AI can train safely even when training examples are infrequent? The cleaning robot would know that it has to clean up coffee cups, but how does it learn not to “clean up” the cellphone that’s been left overnight on the desk?
Safe exploration. Can the AI explore possible outcomes and train without serious repercussions — say, learning how to mop the floor without trying to mop an electrical outlet?
Robustness to distributional shift. As the data or environment changes, can the AI continue to perform optimally, or at least define its ambiguity and “fail gracefully”? Can the cleaning AI try to clean a factory floor if it learned to clean in an office?
There are already attacks to test the limits of AI. Robustness is a particular concern for narrow AI. How well do they work when you test them outside of their comfort zone. As of today, not well. Image recognition machine learning algorithms often misclassify adversarial examples — images that have specific noise injected into them.

This is a benign example. It’s not hard to imagine a malicious implementation of this kind of hack, however. Imagine an adversarial attack on the AI in your self-driving car that changes “stop sign” into “green light” in its programming. Not only would it be potentially more deadly than something like cutting the brake lines in someone’s car, it would be a virtual attack and therefore (hypothetically) highly scalable.

The core problem with AI safety comes down to one simple question: How can we make sure the AI wants what we want? OpenAI is trying to lead research in this field, and it is not working alone. The concrete problems paper included researchers from Google Brain, Stanford, and UC Berkeley alongside OpenAI.

But with the non-concrete problems of a super-intelligent general artificial intelligence, OpenAI is on its own.

The core behind this worry is the learning rate for AI. The bot that won Dota2 is a prime example of this. From when it was switched on in April, it steadily increased its ability with each iteration.

This graph measures OpenAI’s best bot’s TrueSkill rating — similar to an ELO rating in chess — which is a summary of the bot’s win ratios against the other OpenAI bots it trained against.

What took humans years took an AI months. DeepMind’s recent success with its AlphaZero chess AI took this a step further. It learned how to beat the best chess computers in hours.

Starting from random play, and given no domain knowledge except the game rules, AlphaZero achieved within 24 hours a superhuman level of play in the games of chess and shogi (Japanese chess) as well as Go, and convincingly defeated a world-champion program in each case.

AI learns through reinforcement. The AI plays thousands of games, learning incrementally from each one. AlphaZero ran simultaneously on 5,000 tensor processing units, specially-built processing units designed to run machine learning algorithms using Google’s TensorFlow framework. The learnings from each are combined to produce “a superhuman level of play.”

These are still narrow AI implementations. But an artificial general intelligence, an AGI, could use these techniques to bootstrap itself.

AI is already learning to develop itself.

“A few months ago, we introduced our AutoML project, an approach that automates the design of machine learning models. … [we] found that AutoML can design small neural networks that perform on par with neural networks designed by human experts.” -Google Research Blog

An AGI could test millions of newer, better AGIs, picking the best parameters from each, combining them and immediately becoming smarter. That smarter AGI then starts the process anew. This is the law of accelerating returns. The future is approaching quicker. AI that learns quicker is being developed quicker.

Musk’s point is that we are the emperor at the chessboard. We won’t realize our mistake until it’s over. Within seconds, the AI vastly transcends our abilities.

However, in a Dota 2 rematch in August 2018, it was the humans who came out victorious. In a best-of-three match, “OpenAI Five” lost two games against the top rated human players.

These teams — paiN and Chinese Superstar Team — were superior to other teams the AI had played previously and highlighted some of the limitations of AI. In the analysis of the games, there were two opportunities for better strategy by the AI:

More risky play. During the game, the commentators pointed out that OpenAI preferred “to win by 1 point with 90% certainty, than win by 50 points with a 51% certainty.” These programs make moves that will result in a steady aggregation of points, but sometimes they miss the opportunity for a move that a human will take.
Long-term strategy. OpenAI Five played well in the initial minutes of the games but then started to fail. Long-term memory is something that AI programs have yet to master.
These two fundamental problems fight against each other. AI can’t take risks to win quickly but can’t think long-term enough to win slowly. These aren’t just issues with AI gaming — they are the fundamental problems of AI overall. Humans can take an action now knowing the reward is hours, months, even years away, while AI can’t (yet).

With OpenAI, the plan is to make the public sufficiently aware of the threat that AI could represent so that it will be regulated and controlled proactively. OpenAI isn’t, however, the only iron Elon has in this fire. He’s also investing in a hedge against the bet that humanity will save itself from AI in time.

It’s called Neuralink — and the idea is to digitally augment humans before we get replaced.

8. Healthcare
Most of Musk’s endeavors exist on a big scale: spaceships to Mars, tunnels from DC to New York, electric car-producing factories all across the globe.

Neuralink is an utterly different beast. It’s about the microscopic rather than macroscopic, and the mental rather than the physical world. But because of that, it has to rank as the most challenging, and thus most exciting, of Musk’s current companies.

Neuralink was also unveiled without the fanfare of many of Musk’s other companies. The project was announced in an article in the Wall Street Journal in March of 2017.

“Building a mass-market electric vehicle and colonizing Mars aren’t ambitious enough for Elon Musk. The billionaire entrepreneur now wants to merge computers with human brains to help people keep up with machines.“

Neuralink is Musk’s project to build a brain-machine interface (BMI) that will link human brains directly to computers. BMIs have existed in research for decades. But even though human trials have started, two big problems still exist with current BMIs:

The bandwidth of the systems is low. We have billions of neurons but BMIs only record a few neurons at any given time. This makes using them for any high-fidelity system difficult. You could move a cursor across a screen with your brain, but you couldn’t play the violin with your mind.
The invasiveness of the interface is high. The implant requires neurosurgery and a constant, hardwired link into the brain. This means that it is restricted to people with a live-saving need, as the hardwired link increases the chance of brain infection.
These are the two problems Neuralink is setting out to solve in the short-term. The company wants to build a high-bandwidth, minimally-invasive BMI that will be FDA approved so it can start to use in real-life patients within a few years, and everyone else soon after. Musk sees this as the only way the human race will survive given the ongoing encroachment of AI.

As Musk sees it, AI advancement is driven by capitalism. Companies like Amazon need to invest millions into developing its AI because if it doesn’t, Google and Microsoft and Facebook will, and so on. The question is not if this will lead to the creation of an artificial intelligence that can leave regular humans in the dust, the question is when.

“Even in the [most] benign scenario,” Musk says, “We would be pets.” The worst-case scenario would be the complete end of mankind.

One of Musk’s approaches to this problem is OpenAI — working to make sure we proactively regulate artificial intelligence.

With Neuralink, he’s coming at AI from a different angle. The goal is to augment the human level of intelligence and preemptively mesh us with the digital world so we can build ourselves up before an AI can surpass us.

Between here and there, Neuralink has the potential to help people suffering from stroke, neurodegeneration, cancer, spinal cord injuries, amputations, and dozens of other healthcare issues. These conditions afflict millions of people every year and costs the healthcare industry millions to treat. And if the Neuralink project is successful, years of expensive treatment and therapy (and in many cases risky surgeries) could be replaced with a simple microscopic brain implant.

18 months after launch, the company’s website still only consists of a single page highlighting the roles that need to be filled at the company, including machinists, electrical engineers, and software engineers.

The eclectic team the company is trying to build gives a brief glimpse into this multidisciplinary effort needed to understand the brain and engineer a patch for it.

BMIs are brain implants, usually a chip of electrodes a few millimeters square, that are surgically implanted directly into the brain.

The electrodes pick up the electrical activity from brain cells, neurons, and transmit them to a computer. While the brain activity is being recorded, the animal (or human) performs a task such as moving a joystick to guide a cursor around on the screen.

The scientists can then use algorithms to correlate the brain activity to the movement, teaching a computer that when certain neurons fire, the cursor should move left. Then you can turn the joystick off and move the cursor purely through the brain activity. Then you have a BMI.

The driving force behind BMIs in the past decade has been the military. As the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) became widespread in Afghanistan and Iraq, limb loss became more common among soldiers. Body armor improved, meaning soldiers were less likely to die in the blast, but extremities weren’t protected. From 2000 to 2015, approximately 1,600 soldiers had amputations.

Helping these soldiers was the goal of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program. Funding was given to research groups around the US with specialties in neuroscience, biomedical engineering, and robotics to develop new implants, new prosthetics, and new understandings of how to control the latter with the former.

Substantial progress was made, with human trials starting and patients capable of both controlling and sensing robotic arms:

The problems Neuralink need to solve include bandwidth and invasiveness. The bandwidth problem can be easily visualized through this graph:

There are about 85B neurons in the human brain. Up to 2013, the record for the most neurons recorded simultaneously from an animal brain was approximately 500. About 2,000 are possible over time from a single implant.

Only a fraction of all possible information is extracted by current BMIs. Millions of neurons are involved in the decision and movement when you move your arm to pick up a cup of coffee. To allow an amputee with a prosthetic limb the same degree of control as they had with their original limb requires the ability to record from significantly more neurons at one time.

Once a human is hooked up to a BMI, a learning phase starts. The person learns how to control the robotic arm with the limited bandwidth. The algorithms learn which neurons are signals and which are noise and get better at processing the information. The two symbiotically adjust until the person incorporates their new “arm.”

The second problem has more variables. The brain is usually cocooned away from the world in a sheath of meninges and sterile fluid. It does not like invasion. Non-invasive BMIs exist, but they have even lower bandwidth as they can’t discern the individual neuronal activity needed for close robotic control.

The Neuralink team is looking for ways to minimize the invasiveness of its BMI while still having high bandwidth. Wireless is an obvious choice, but presents its own problems:

How do you get power to the device? Wireless radios are power-hungry and processing and sending high-bandwidth information will also require significant power.
How do you dissipate heat from the device? Chips, radios, and batteries all produce heat. The brain can only heat up by a degree of two before damage occurs.
Additionally, the electrodes themselves cause damage as they are inserted. The brain’s natural defenses literally encapsulate them over time, cutting them off from the rest of the brain and rendering them useless.

These are all the issues that BMI researchers have faced over the past two decades. But the team assembled by Musk at Neuralink includes people who have completely novel ideas to overcome these issues. DJ Seo has developed “neural dust,” tiny silicon sensor nodes that could be spread throughout the cortex. Elsewhere, researchers are developing a “neural mesh” that can be injected into veins and travel up to the brain and record neural activity through blood vessel walls.

Musk himself calls these implants “neural lace” and imagines a mesh sitting over your cortex, acting as a digital layer above your animal limbic system and your human cortical system.

Neuralink is by far the most secretive of Musk’s companies so far. From the single page website to the lack of news, the company is operating like a stealth startup. But during his now infamous podcast with Joe Rogan in September 2018, Musk said:

“I think we’ll have something interesting to announce in a few months … that’s better than anyone thinks is possible. Best case scenario, we effectively merge with AI.”

Yikes.

For now, the main beneficiaries of Neuralink could be the 300K people in the US living with spinal cord injuries, the 5.5M Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and the 2.5M with stroke or traumatic brain injuries. Each could be treated with an implant that restores motor, memory, or other cognitive functions.

Make it Better
Each of Elon Musk’s companies is formulated on an existential bet on our future:

Tesla: Fossil fuel-powered cars will soon be a relic of the past and electric vehicles will reign supreme — and alternative power will be cheap and accessible
SpaceX: Being a multi-planetary civilization will be highly preferable to being a single-planet civilization
OpenAI: A super-intelligent AI would likely be the end of all life on Earth, and we might not even realize we’re building it until it’s too late — so it’s better that we prevent it now
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These are some of the biggest bets that anyone can make, let alone an entrepreneur. That’s important to remember when you look at the various industries that Musk and his companies are disrupting.

These companies represent huge possible disruptions, some sized in the trillions of dollars, because their potential payoff is much more than winning a specific vertical or market — its the future of humanity itself.

And yet behind those high stakes and innovations is a relatively “boring” fundamental strategy: rather than invent something entirely new, take something old and make it better.

Across industries, Musk and his companies aren’t disrupting the state of play by inventing new things out of whole cloth — they’re taking ideas that failed, and bringing them back to life.

This report was created with data from CB Insights’ emerging technology insights platform, which offers clarity into emerging tech and new business strategies through tools like:
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What to Know About Neuralink, Elon Musk’s Brain-Computer Interface Project

Photo: Mark Brake (Getty Images)
Elon Musk is set to make an announcement about Neuralink, a company designing brain-computer interface technology, on Friday, August 28. It sounds like science fiction, but research in this area has progressed rapidly in recent years, though we’re still far from being able to send emails with our minds. Unlike Musk’s other famous ventures, SpaceX and Tesla, however, Neuralink will be vastly more limited in terms of how fast it can innovate and push out consumer products. Here’s what you should know about the project, including what’s theoretically possible, how skeptical you should be, and who else is designing brain-computer interfaces.

Announced by Elon Musk in 2017, Neuralink will attempt to use “ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers,” or more simply, to connect human brains with computers via implantable brain chips.

At first, Neuralink’s brain-machine interfaces could be used to treat brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and depression. They could also be used in conjunction with advanced assistive devices, in which a person’s thoughts could control artificial limbs or other prosthetics. Should Musk’s ultimate vision be achieved, however, this technology would take on a more transhumanistic complexion, allowing future humans to control external devices with their minds, transmit thoughts directly to another person’s brain, and even augment cognitive capacities, such as increased intelligence and memory.

More conceptually, Musk has positioned Neuralink as a potential way for humanity to prevent an AI apocalypse, saying the technology could help us “achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” as he said when the project was launched three years ago. By boosting our puny brains, he argued, we will stand toe-to-toe with our advanced technologies, in a kind of “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” solution to the pending problem, which I critiqued back in 2017.

Illustration for article titled What to Know About Neuralink, Elon Musk’s Brain-Computer Interface Project
Elon Musk Is Wrong to Think He Can Save the World By Boosting Our Brains
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced a new venture called Neuralink, a startup which aims…

Read more
These ideas are nothing new, of course. Science fiction has been on top of this for decades, whether it be William Gibson’s cranial jacks, Iain Banks’s neural lace, The Matrix’s brain plug, or any speculative vision in which human minds commune directly with the digital realm.

So this all sounds very fascinating—and it is—but here’s the requisite bucket of cold water: Unlike electric cars or rockets, brain-computer interfaces are considered medical devices, which means the company will have to go through the appropriate regulatory channels to get its experiments and products approved for use in humans, including consent from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Like other drug and medical device developers, whether public or private, Neuralink will have to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of its products, typically through meticulous and time-consuming clinical trials. Given that the company wants to implant chips into people’s brains—including the brains of perfectly healthy people—this will present some unique challenges, involving timeframes that may be measured in decades. Neuralink will also be hampered by the fact that some of its more futuristic offerings will be considered an enhancement, not a therapy, which will undoubtedly further complicate regulatory approvals.

Despite these challenges, scientists have made great strides over the years as they try to turn science fiction into reality. Elon Musk might get the most media attention, but not-so-famous researchers have been making breathtaking progress in this area, giving us a sneak preview of what might actually be possible.

Last year, a team of neuroscientists from Columbia University translated brain waves into recognizable speech, while a team from the University of California San Francisco built a virtual vocal tract capable of simulating the mechanical aspects of verbal communication by tapping directly into the human brain. In 2016, a brain implant allowed an amputee to use their thoughts to move the individual fingers of a prosthetic hand. Brain-machine interfaces have also been used to create mind-controlled robotic exoskeletons and restore a sense of touch and partial motor function in people with spinal injuries. Some interesting work has also been done to mediate brain-to-brain communication in humans, though it’s still early days.

Work in nonhuman animals has also yielded good results. Notable examples include a wireless brain-machine interface that allowed a monkey to control a wheelchair with its mind and a brain implant that enabled monkeys to type at 12 words a minute using only their thoughts.

Musk’s foray into this world is hardly groundbreaking, at least for now. What’s potentially different is the scale, funding, and intent of the Neuralink mission, not to mention the charismatic nature of Elon Musk himself. That said, there are some rival projects outside of academia, including similar endeavors launched by Facebook (which recently purchased neural interface startup Ctrl-labs in a deal worth somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion); Kernel (a $100 million project launched by Braintree founder Bryan Johnson); and the U.S. government’s DARPA, which has devoted $65 million to its effort. Musk, it would seem, is hardly the only person throwing big money at this sort of initiatives, and it remains to be seen if Neuralink will succeed in what appears to be an increasingly competitive space.

The Neuralink system will employ “neural lace” technologies (an apparent hat tip to author Iain Banks)—presumably a method for using brain implants, or a kind of implantable mesh, to connect brains with an external computer using a “direct cortical interface,” as the Wall Street Journal reported back in 2017.

As of 2019, $158 million in funding has been channeled to the project, including $100 million from Mr. Musk himself, reports the New York Times. The company already employs 90 people and has plans to include neurosurgeons from Stanford University and possibly elsewhere.

Neuralink will take an incremental approach to the problem, starting with the treatment of brain disorders and then scaling up to more enhancement-minded applications. Boosting the bandwidth of information coming out from the brain will be critical to any progress. This will almost certainly have to involve wireless brain implants (as opposed to non-invasive techniques such as EEG), requiring surgery and flexible, durable, biocompatible components.

“Only time will tell whether Elon has backed the right horse.”
Musk disclosed further details of the Neuralink approach back in July 2019 during a live-streamed presentation at the California Academy of Science. Their solution, as also elucidated in the company’s whitepaper, would involve a sewing machine-like robot, which a surgeon would use to implant ultra-thin threads, or probes, into a person’s brain. At just 5 to 6 nanometers wide, these threads would be thinner than human hair.

These threads would connect to chips embedded in the skull, like strings of pearls. As noted in the whitepaper, the machine would be capable of implanting six threads, or 192 electrodes, per minute. The Neuralink team has already demonstrated “the rapid implantation of 96 polymer threads, each thread with 32 electrodes for a total of 3,072 electrodes,” according to the paper. Brain surgery would still be required, but Neuralink president Max Hodak envisions the same task being accomplished by lasers, as a way of avoiding mechanical drilling, according to the New York Times.

Neuralink has already demonstrated a system capable of reading information from 1,500 implanted electrodes, though in rats. Still, this is 15 times better than current systems used on humans.

“It’s impressive to see how quickly they have got to this point, and will be interesting to see how far they get,” wrote Andrew Jackson, professor of neural interfaces at Newcastle University, in an email. “Theirs is one of a number of efforts to ‘read’ the electrical activity of large numbers of brain cells. The Neuralink approach is to insert many flexible polymer threads into the brain using a sort of sewing machine. The threads attach to an electronic package implanted under the skin.”

Jackson described other notable approaches in which electronics are incorporated onto small silicon needles, including the Neuropixels probe developed by Tim Harris from the Naelia Research Campus at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The $5.5 million collaboration has already produced probes capable of recording more than 700 neurons simultaneously. Jackson also pointed to a concept called “neural dust,” in which many small, wireless implants are distributed throughout the brain.

“Only time will tell whether Elon has backed the right horse,” said Jackson. “One thing this does demonstrate is the potential for commercial investment to advance the field of neural interfaces. Until recently, neuroscientists were using some pretty old-fashioned equipment to record from the brain, so it’s great to see this kind of interest and investment from Silicon Valley.”

Neuralink was supposed to have started tests on human subjects by now, but it hasn’t. It’s possible the company was overly ambitious with its timelines, or it was denied the requisite approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but we really don’t know. The company has expressed interest in opening its own animal testing facility in San Francisco, highlighting its need for ongoing experimentation with animal models.

Kevin Warwick, an expert on brain-machine interfaces from Coventry and Reading Universities, likes that Neuralink is using thin polymer probes, and not just because they’re flexible.

“This is great because different patterns of multiple electrodes can be fabricated. It should also help with regard to mechanical issues, as they’re unlikely to break,” he explained in an email. “The problem is how to insert it into the brain, for which they have designed a robot.”

Warwick says the whitepaper includes a “hand waving” description of the robot, which is regrettable, as it’s “critical to the whole method,” he said. “If the robot can do what they say it can, then we would be able to have many electrodes in multiple sites. But for me, this is the part that needs to be proved—can they insert such polymer probes reliably, safely, accurately into the brain, and show that the robot works on the human brain?”

Looking ahead, the Neuralink team—and anyone else working on neural interface devices—will need to overcome several major challenges, including the invasive nature of the technology, developing a universal way to map brain signals (each system will have to learn the idiosyncrasies of each person’s brain), and scaling the required testing (both in nonhuman animals and people) in safe, ethical, and effective ways.

They’ll also have to deal with potential unforeseen problems, such as excessive heat generated by the implants or rapid obsolescence of implanted devices. Importantly, the researchers will have to determine if all that data being transferred out of the brain can actually be applied to something useful and in a way that attracts commercial interest. There’s still lots we don’t know about the human brain and how it works, so it may be a stretch to assume these current strategies will work as intended.

We’re interested to hear Musk’s announcement on August 28 and to learn what progress has been made in the past year. But we’re not ready to hype up this project just yet, as we should expect slow and incremental updates, given the complex nature of the endeavor.

George Dvorsky
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Email
Twitter
George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

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Elon Musk in 2017.
Elon Musk in 2017.
Photo: Mark Brake (Getty Images)
Elon Musk is set to make an announcement about Neuralink, a company designing brain-computer interface technology, on Friday, August 28. It sounds like science fiction, but research in this area has progressed rapidly in recent years, though we’re still far from being able to send emails with our minds. Unlike Musk’s other famous ventures, SpaceX and Tesla, however, Neuralink will be vastly more limited in terms of how fast it can innovate and push out consumer products. Here’s what you should know about the project, including what’s theoretically possible, how skeptical you should be, and who else is designing brain-computer interfaces.

Announced by Elon Musk in 2017, Neuralink will attempt to use “ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers,” or more simply, to connect human brains with computers via implantable brain chips.

At first, Neuralink’s brain-machine interfaces could be used to treat brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and depression. They could also be used in conjunction with advanced assistive devices, in which a person’s thoughts could control artificial limbs or other prosthetics. Should Musk’s ultimate vision be achieved, however, this technology would take on a more transhumanistic complexion, allowing future humans to control external devices with their minds, transmit thoughts directly to another person’s brain, and even augment cognitive capacities, such as increased intelligence and memory.

More conceptually, Musk has positioned Neuralink as a potential way for humanity to prevent an AI apocalypse, saying the technology could help us “achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” as he said when the project was launched three years ago. By boosting our puny brains, he argued, we will stand toe-to-toe with our advanced technologies, in a kind of “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” solution to the pending problem, which I critiqued back in 2017.

Illustration for article titled What to Know About Neuralink, Elon Musk’s Brain-Computer Interface Project
Elon Musk Is Wrong to Think He Can Save the World By Boosting Our Brains
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced a new venture called Neuralink, a startup which aims…

Read more
These ideas are nothing new, of course. Science fiction has been on top of this for decades, whether it be William Gibson’s cranial jacks, Iain Banks’s neural lace, The Matrix’s brain plug, or any speculative vision in which human minds commune directly with the digital realm.

So this all sounds very fascinating—and it is—but here’s the requisite bucket of cold water: Unlike electric cars or rockets, brain-computer interfaces are considered medical devices, which means the company will have to go through the appropriate regulatory channels to get its experiments and products approved for use in humans, including consent from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Like other drug and medical device developers, whether public or private, Neuralink will have to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of its products, typically through meticulous and time-consuming clinical trials. Given that the company wants to implant chips into people’s brains—including the brains of perfectly healthy people—this will present some unique challenges, involving timeframes that may be measured in decades. Neuralink will also be hampered by the fact that some of its more futuristic offerings will be considered an enhancement, not a therapy, which will undoubtedly further complicate regulatory approvals.

Despite these challenges, scientists have made great strides over the years as they try to turn science fiction into reality. Elon Musk might get the most media attention, but not-so-famous researchers have been making breathtaking progress in this area, giving us a sneak preview of what might actually be possible.

Last year, a team of neuroscientists from Columbia University translated brain waves into recognizable speech, while a team from the University of California San Francisco built a virtual vocal tract capable of simulating the mechanical aspects of verbal communication by tapping directly into the human brain. In 2016, a brain implant allowed an amputee to use their thoughts to move the individual fingers of a prosthetic hand. Brain-machine interfaces have also been used to create mind-controlled robotic exoskeletons and restore a sense of touch and partial motor function in people with spinal injuries. Some interesting work has also been done to mediate brain-to-brain communication in humans, though it’s still early days.

Work in nonhuman animals has also yielded good results. Notable examples include a wireless brain-machine interface that allowed a monkey to control a wheelchair with its mind and a brain implant that enabled monkeys to type at 12 words a minute using only their thoughts.

Musk’s foray into this world is hardly groundbreaking, at least for now. What’s potentially different is the scale, funding, and intent of the Neuralink mission, not to mention the charismatic nature of Elon Musk himself. That said, there are some rival projects outside of academia, including similar endeavors launched by Facebook (which recently purchased neural interface startup Ctrl-labs in a deal worth somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion); Kernel (a $100 million project launched by Braintree founder Bryan Johnson); and the U.S. government’s DARPA, which has devoted $65 million to its effort. Musk, it would seem, is hardly the only person throwing big money at this sort of initiatives, and it remains to be seen if Neuralink will succeed in what appears to be an increasingly competitive space.

The Neuralink system will employ “neural lace” technologies (an apparent hat tip to author Iain Banks)—presumably a method for using brain implants, or a kind of implantable mesh, to connect brains with an external computer using a “direct cortical interface,” as the Wall Street Journal reported back in 2017.

As of 2019, $158 million in funding has been channeled to the project, including $100 million from Mr. Musk himself, reports the New York Times. The company already employs 90 people and has plans to include neurosurgeons from Stanford University and possibly elsewhere.

Neuralink will take an incremental approach to the problem, starting with the treatment of brain disorders and then scaling up to more enhancement-minded applications. Boosting the bandwidth of information coming out from the brain will be critical to any progress. This will almost certainly have to involve wireless brain implants (as opposed to non-invasive techniques such as EEG), requiring surgery and flexible, durable, biocompatible components.

“Only time will tell whether Elon has backed the right horse.”
Musk disclosed further details of the Neuralink approach back in July 2019 during a live-streamed presentation at the California Academy of Science. Their solution, as also elucidated in the company’s whitepaper, would involve a sewing machine-like robot, which a surgeon would use to implant ultra-thin threads, or probes, into a person’s brain. At just 5 to 6 nanometers wide, these threads would be thinner than human hair.

These threads would connect to chips embedded in the skull, like strings of pearls. As noted in the whitepaper, the machine would be capable of implanting six threads, or 192 electrodes, per minute. The Neuralink team has already demonstrated “the rapid implantation of 96 polymer threads, each thread with 32 electrodes for a total of 3,072 electrodes,” according to the paper. Brain surgery would still be required, but Neuralink president Max Hodak envisions the same task being accomplished by lasers, as a way of avoiding mechanical drilling, according to the New York Times.

Neuralink has already demonstrated a system capable of reading information from 1,500 implanted electrodes, though in rats. Still, this is 15 times better than current systems used on humans.

“It’s impressive to see how quickly they have got to this point, and will be interesting to see how far they get,” wrote Andrew Jackson, professor of neural interfaces at Newcastle University, in an email. “Theirs is one of a number of efforts to ‘read’ the electrical activity of large numbers of brain cells. The Neuralink approach is to insert many flexible polymer threads into the brain using a sort of sewing machine. The threads attach to an electronic package implanted under the skin.”

Jackson described other notable approaches in which electronics are incorporated onto small silicon needles, including the Neuropixels probe developed by Tim Harris from the Naelia Research Campus at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The $5.5 million collaboration has already produced probes capable of recording more than 700 neurons simultaneously. Jackson also pointed to a concept called “neural dust,” in which many small, wireless implants are distributed throughout the brain.

“Only time will tell whether Elon has backed the right horse,” said Jackson. “One thing this does demonstrate is the potential for commercial investment to advance the field of neural interfaces. Until recently, neuroscientists were using some pretty old-fashioned equipment to record from the brain, so it’s great to see this kind of interest and investment from Silicon Valley.”

Neuralink was supposed to have started tests on human subjects by now, but it hasn’t. It’s possible the company was overly ambitious with its timelines, or it was denied the requisite approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but we really don’t know. The company has expressed interest in opening its own animal testing facility in San Francisco, highlighting its need for ongoing experimentation with animal models.

Kevin Warwick, an expert on brain-machine interfaces from Coventry and Reading Universities, likes that Neuralink is using thin polymer probes, and not just because they’re flexible.

“This is great because different patterns of multiple electrodes can be fabricated. It should also help with regard to mechanical issues, as they’re unlikely to break,” he explained in an email. “The problem is how to insert it into the brain, for which they have designed a robot.”

Warwick says the whitepaper includes a “hand waving” description of the robot, which is regrettable, as it’s “critical to the whole method,” he said. “If the robot can do what they say it can, then we would be able to have many electrodes in multiple sites. But for me, this is the part that needs to be proved—can they insert such polymer probes reliably, safely, accurately into the brain, and show that the robot works on the human brain?”

Looking ahead, the Neuralink team—and anyone else working on neural interface devices—will need to overcome several major challenges, including the invasive nature of the technology, developing a universal way to map brain signals (each system will have to learn the idiosyncrasies of each person’s brain), and scaling the required testing (both in nonhuman animals and people) in safe, ethical, and effective ways.

They’ll also have to deal with potential unforeseen problems, such as excessive heat generated by the implants or rapid obsolescence of implanted devices. Importantly, the researchers will have to determine if all that data being transferred out of the brain can actually be applied to something useful and in a way that attracts commercial interest. There’s still lots we don’t know about the human brain and how it works, so it may be a stretch to assume these current strategies will work as intended.

We’re interested to hear Musk’s announcement on August 28 and to learn what progress has been made in the past year. But we’re not ready to hype up this project just yet, as we should expect slow and incremental updates, given the complex nature of the endeavor.

George Dvorsky
Posts
Email
Twitter
George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

SHARE THIS STORY

How to Invest in Bitcoin

Investing in Bitcoin can seem complicated, but it is much easier when you break it down into steps. You don’t have to understand computer programming to realize that banks, businesses, the bold, and the brash are cashing in on cryptocurrencies. This guide will help you to get started, but always remember that Bitcoin investing carries a high degree of speculative risk.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The value of Bitcoin is heavily dependent on the faith of investors, its integration into financial markets, public interest in using it, and its performance compared to other cryptocurrencies.
  • Bitcoin investing still involves some technical and security issues that investors should be aware of before they begin.
  • Investors who want to trade bitcoin need a place to store them—a digital wallet.
  • They also need to buy bitcoin, which is usually achieved by connecting a wallet to a bank account, credit card, or debit card.
  • Investors can join an exchange or online marketplace to trade traditional currencies, bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin Background

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Volume 75%
 
 
 
 

 
1:57

What Is Bitcoin

It may seem hard to believe that a digital currency could be worth thousands of dollars. Although the lines of code that make up each bitcoin are worthless in and of themselves, markets value each bitcoin at thousands of dollars. Bitcoin has value in part because it has transaction costs that are much lower than credit cards. Bitcoins are also scarce and become more difficult to obtain over time. The rate that bitcoins are produced cuts in half about every four years. This rate is expected to halve again sometime in 2020. The total number of bitcoins in circulation is gradually approaching the limit of 21 million set in 2009 by Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto.

If the demand for bitcoins exceeds the rate at which it can be produced, the price will increase. As of Jan. 2020, 18.15 million, or 86.42%, of total bitcoins have already been created.1 This situation does not guarantee increasing prices. Cryptocurrencies are wildly unpredictable, even ones as popular as Bitcoin. Bitcoin was worth $19,116.98 on Dec. 17, 2017, but the price fell substantially and had yet to recover as of the beginning of 2020.2 The value of Bitcoin is heavily dependent on the faith of investors, its integration into financial markets, and public interest in using it. The performance of Bitcoin compared to other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, is also crucial in determining its value.

 
Bitcoin transactions are stored using a public record-keeping technology called blockchain. Investopedia

Bitcoin operates on a decentralized public ledger technology called the blockchain. When consumers make purchases using the U.S. dollar, banks and credit card companies verify the accuracy of those transactions. Bitcoin performs this same function at a lower cost without these institutions using a system called hashing. When one person pays another using bitcoin, computers on the Bitcoin blockchain rush to check that the transaction is accurate. In order to add new transactions to the blockchain, a computer must solve a complex mathematical problem, called a hash. If a computer is the first to solve the hash, it permanently stores the transactions as a block on the blockchain.

The rate that bitcoin can be produced cuts in half roughly every four years. Investopedia

When computers successfully add a block to the blockchain, they are rewarded with bitcoin. This process is known as bitcoin mining. Similar to winning the lottery, solving hashes is mostly a matter of chance. However, there are ways to increase your odds of winning in both contests. With bitcoin, arriving at the right answer before another miner has almost everything to do with how fast your computer can produce hashes. In the early years, bitcoin mining could be performed effectively using open-source software on standard desktop computers. Today, only special-purpose machines known as application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miners can mine bitcoin cost-effectively. Mining pools and companies now control most bitcoin mining activity.

Before Beginning

There are several things that every aspiring Bitcoin investor needs. A digital wallet, personal identification documents, a secure connection to the Internet, a method of payment, and an account at a cryptocurrency exchange are the usual requirements. Valid methods of payment using this path include bank accounts, debit cards, and credit cards. It is also possible to get bitcoin at specialized ATMs and via P2P exchanges. However, be aware that bitcoin ATMs were increasingly requiring government-issued IDs in early 2020. There are additional details on buying bitcoin that we will not cover here.

 
To buy bitcoin you need a digital wallet, personal identifying documents, a secure internet connection, a cryptocurrency exchange, and a form of payment. Getty Images

Privacy and security are important issues for Bitcoin investors. Even though there are no physical bitcoins, it is usually a bad idea to brag about large holdings. Anyone who gains the private key to a public address on the Bitcoin blockchain can authorize transactions. While it is obvious that the private key should be kept secret, criminals may attempt to steal private keys if they learn of large holdings. Be aware that anyone you make a transaction with can see the balance in the public address that you use. That makes it a good idea to keep significant investments at public addresses that are not directly connected to ones that are used for transactions.

 
Fist held up in front of blue background
Contrary to popular belief, bitcoin is confidential but not anonymous. Coinbase

Anyone can view a history of transactions made on the blockchain, even you. But while transactions are publicly recorded on the blockchain, identifying user information is not. On the Bitcoin blockchain, only a user’s public key appears next to a transaction—making transactions confidential but not anonymous.

 

That is an important distinction. International researchers and the FBI have claimed that they can track transactions made on the Bitcoin blockchain to user’s other online accounts, including their digital wallet. That’s a direct result of anti-money laundering policies.3 This should not concern most investors because Bitcoin is legal in the U.S. and most other developed countries.

 

Step One: Get a Bitcoin Wallet

The first thing that you’ll need to get started is a wallet to store bitcoin.

 
Bitcoins are not physical coins, and they must be stored in digital wallets.
Bitcoins are not physical coins, and they must be stored in digital wallets. Getty Images

When it comes to choosing a bitcoin wallet, you have options. However, the Louis Vuitton and Gucci of the cryptocurrency world right now are “software” and “hardware” wallets. Software wallets are mobile applications that connect with your traditional bank account. These wallets allow for quick and easy access to bitcoin, but the drawback is they put your money in the hands of a third-party company.

 

Although the leading software wallets are trustworthy, popular third-party companies have collapsed, or been hacked, in the past.4 5 Much like you wouldn’t store thousands of dollars in your mattress, users with larger bitcoin holdings should consider storing their money more securely.

 

Coinbase is the most popular software wallet available in the United States. In part, that is because it has a website, a mobile application, and stores 98% of customer currencies offline for added security. For beginners, Coinbase is the best and easiest place to start because it is connected directly to a bitcoin exchange, which simplifies the buying and selling process.

 

There are also many other bitcoin wallets available. Blockchain.com is another top wallet connected to a bitcoin exchange. Mycelium is one of the most secure mobile wallets, but it can be a little harder to use. Blockchain Wallet is a popular mobile wallet, while Electrum is an excellent open-source choice for desktop users.

 

Hardware wallets are a little more old-school but are generally considered to be more secure because they are kept offline. Trezor and Ledger are two of the leading hardware wallet manufacturers. These wallets store a user’s private key on a physical hardware device similar to a flash drive, which prevents hackers from accessing a user’s private key through an Internet connection.

 

Step Two: Connect a Bank Account

In order to purchase bitcoin, you need to connect your wallet to a bank account, debit card, or credit card. Although these payment methods all perform the same function—exchanging traditional currency for bitcoin—they each carry their own set of fees.

 
By linking a bank account to your wallet, you can buy and sell bitcoin and deposit that money directly into your account. Getty Images

Transactions made using a bank account can take four to five days to process on Coinbase, but are generally recommended for first-time investors.6 By linking a bank account to your wallet, you can buy and sell bitcoin and deposit that money directly into your account. Bank accounts are generally recommended if you are dealing with larger sums of money. At the time of writing, bank accounts let users spend as much as $25,000 per week.7

 

Debit and credit cards, on the other hand, allow you to buy bitcoin almost instantly. The drawback is that on Coinbase and other popular exchanges, debit cards can only be used to purchase crypto—and even then, only in smaller amounts. Users cannot sell bitcoin or deposit money into their bank account when their wallet is connected to a debit card.6

 

Step Three: Join a Bitcoin Exchange

Bitcoin exchanges are online marketplaces where you can trade bitcoin for traditional currencies, say BTC for USD. Just like when you go to make a purchase online, you have options. There’s eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and Alibaba—to say nothing of the millions of private retailers who use these websites to sell their products. The same is true of buying bitcoin.

 
Exchanges can vary in reputation, reliability, security, processing fees, exchange rates, and cryptocurrencies available for trading. Coinbase

Even when two exchanges trade the same cryptocurrencies, they usually offer slightly different services. Exchanges can vary in reputation, reliability, security, processing fees, exchange rates, and cryptocurrencies available for trading. Before settling down with an exchange, look around. Here are our top recommendations for where to start.

 
 While most exchanges offer wallets for their users, security is not their primary business. Except for Coinbase, we generally do not recommend using an exchange wallet for large or long-term cryptocurrency holdings.

Best for Beginners: Coinbase

Coinbase is the most popular and respected digital currency exchange in the United States. Coinbase lets users securely buy and store cryptocurrency in one location. Coinbase charges a 1.49% fee for U.S. transactions from a bank account or Coinbase USD wallet. Purchases made using a credit or debit card are charged a 3.99% fee.8 Plus, Coinbase secures cash balances up to $250,000 in the event of theft or breach in online storage.9

 

Best for On the Go: Square Cash

The Square Cash app is a leader in peer-to-peer money transfers, right alongside PayPal’s Venmo. The Cash app comes from Square, the company that makes those mobile credit card readers. Square is a huge financial technology company that includes many other services—one of which is trading bitcoin. Unlike most online exchanges, the Cash App stores your bitcoin in your Square Cash Account, rather than a separate digital wallet. If you’re worried about security, however, you can send the bitcoin in your Square Cash Account to another wallet of your choosing. Square limits deposits to $10,000 per week, but there is no limit to what you can sell.10

 

Best for Bitcoin on a Budget: Robinhood

Robinhood launched in 2013 as a fee-free stock brokerage. In Feb. 2018, the company expanded into the Bitcoin and Ethereum markets, along with market data for another 15 currencies, allowing users to trade cryptocurrency without a fee. As is the case with Square, Robinhood stores bitcoin in the same Robinhood account that is used for stocks. Robinhood is mobile-first and just recently added a web version, so it is best for people comfortable managing money from their phone or tablet.

 

Best for Big Spenders: Coinbase Pro (Formerly GDAX)

If you feel comfortable trading on Coinbase and want to step up your trading volume, you may be ready to switch from Coinbase to Coinbase Pro. Formerly known as Coinbase Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX), the trading platform uses interfaces similar to Bloomberg terminals and active stock, commodity, and option trading platforms. Coinbase Pro offers options to make market orders, limit orders, and stop orders in addition to traditional buying and selling. Coinbase Pro also allows users to trade between cryptocurrencies, say between Ethereum and Bitcoin. Coinbase Pro charges fees ranging from 0.04% to 0.50% based on your trading volume. Most people trade less than $10 million per month and will fall into the 0.20% tier. If you want to try Coinbase but with much higher volume, this platform is the way to go.11

 

Best for Buying in Cash: Peer-to-Peer

If you have a wallet, but it isn’t connected to a bank account, debit, or credit card, you can buy bitcoin using cash through a peer-to-peer exchange. Unlike typical bitcoin wallets, peer-to-peer exchanges work similarly to Craigslist for cryptocurrency. They allow buyers and sellers in the same areas to find each other and meet up to trade bitcoins for cash. With peer-to-peer exchanges, it’s important to remember that you are trading high-value currency with strangers you have never met before. If you choose to exchange bitcoin in this way, we recommend that you meet buyers and sellers in a public place with high visibility.

 

Step Four: Place Your Order

This gif from cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase walks you through the buying process. Coinbase

You’re now ready to buy bitcoin for the first time. It is crucial to keep in mind that although one bitcoin costs several thousand dollars, bitcoin can be divided up to eight decimal points. The smallest unit of bitcoin is known as a satoshi. Even if the price of bitcoin skyrockets, you’ll still be able to buy a satoshi for a tiny fraction of a cent.

Senior Branded Content Editor By Krista Soriano
January 15, 2020
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Mark Sisson—you know him as the founding leader of the paleo movement, a guest on mbg’s own podcast, and the bestselling author of books including The Keto Reset Diet—is back with his latest, long-awaited book release: a ketogenic eating and lifestyle plan focused on longevity. Written with former pro triathlete Brad Kearns, Keto for Life: Reset Your Biological Clock in 21 Days and Optimize Your Diet for Longevityis designed to be a holistic, actionable approach to living a long and happy life span. Check out an excerpt from the book below!
Time flies. Here I am today at age 65, talking about longevity—a concept I hardly ever considered during the first four decades of my life. Ironically, in my youthful oblivion, I engaged in an assortment of lifestyle choices that directly opposed longevity and compromised my day-to-day health. My obsession with qualifying for the United States Olympic Trials in the marathon meant running over 100 miles a week throughout my 20s.

My crazy workouts, and the nutrient-deficient, high-carb, high-insulin-producing diet that fueled them, resulted in systemwide inflammation, oxidative damage (aka free radical damage), glycation (excess glucose binding with important structural proteins and causing dysfunction throughout the body), hormonal dysfunction, musculoskeletal breakdown, and immune suppression. I caught at least six upper respiratory tract infections each year. I battled chronic fatigue, osteoarthritis in both feet, severe tendinitis in both hips, chronic gastritis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

While my youthful indiscretions accelerated my aging, I’m convinced that I have repaired much of this damage over the past two decades. Most prominently, I ditched grains and sugars in favor of nutrient-dense primal foods starting in 2002. This, along with abandoning my crazy training schedule some 15 years prior to my primal dietary transformation, took me from inflamed, immune-suppressed, and hormonally dysregulated to healthy and vibrant.

Today, with my Social Security paperwork filed, I am healthier, and in many ways fitter, than I was when I was a narrowly adapted creature suited for running or pedaling long and hard, and not much else. Come to think of it, the same “narrowly adapted” characterization might apply to when I became successful in business, but not very successful at regulating my attendant levels of stress and anxiety. This is one of the reasons that the scope of this book extends beyond superfoods, super workouts, wonder supplements, and biohacking strategies to embrace a comprehensive mind, body, and lifestyle approach to longevity. While overhauling your lifelong high-carbohydrate eating patterns can be a challenge, working on the intangible elements of longevity can be just as daunting, maybe more so.

Keto for Life will help unlock your peak performance potential and maintain it throughout your entire life—not only in the high-impact categories of shedding body fat, improving physical fitness, or minimizing disease risk factors in blood tests but also in the more refined aspects of healthy living, like nurturing interpersonal relationships or balancing stress and rest. Ultimately, my goal is to help you enjoy an extended health span: not just making it to 90- or 100-plus but feeling vibrant, energetic, happy, productive, and fulfilled until the end.

The four pillars of keto longevity.
As you might imagine, the ketogenic diet is a centerpiece of this approach, but this book branches out into four distinct categories that I call the four pillars of keto longevity. You’ll understand the scientific rationale and benefits of honoring each of these pillars and will also receive practical, step-by-step guidance to nail the objectives in each pillar. Finally, you’ll put everything together during the intensive 21-Day Biological Clock Reset, building momentum and clarity for a lifetime of healthy habits and happiness.

Here is where we are headed:

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Pillar 1: Metabolic Flexibility
Time to escape carbohydrate dependency and become a fat-burning beast! You’ll start by ditching toxic modern foods and progress comfortably through the multistage process detailed in The Keto Reset Diet to the highest level of metabolic flexibility through ketogenic eating. Then, you’ll discover and adopt some advanced strategies based on the latest anti-aging research that will help to promote longevity and make a huge improvement in your rate of aging. I’ll also help you create targeted goals for fat reduction and peak performance that you can sustain for a lifetime. Metabolic flexibility doesn’t have to mean rigid adherence to ketogenic macronutrient guidelines forever. Rather, I convey a concept of living in the keto zone, where you become adept at burning a variety of fuel sources based on your specific goals, eating preferences, genetic attributes, and ongoing experimentation and refining.

Pillar 2: Movement & Physical Fitness
How Paleo Expert Mark Sisson Uses Ketogenic Eating For Longevity
Image by Miquel Lloncc / Stocksy
Surprisingly, the priority here is not crazy sweating in the gym but rather to make a concerted effort to increase all forms of general everyday movement. Our genes are hardwired to move around all day long. This keeps us physically energized (thanks to turbocharged fat burning) and cognitively sharp. Fitness and health start with movement. Emerging science is showing that even a devoted workout regimen cannot save you from the destructive health consequences of too much stillness. Once you get into a good groove with daily movement patterns, you can boost your longevity quotient with a strategic blend of low-level cardio workouts and regular brief, intense strength and sprint efforts—in much less time and with less stress than you might think!

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Pillar 3: Mental Flexibility
Under this broad definition falls an assortment of powerful mindset and behavior practices that promote resiliency for life in the same manner that metabolic flexibility makes you resilient enough to skip meals and maintain energy and focus. Strategies to develop mental flexibility include reframing self-limiting beliefs, “pivoting” (going with the flow when facing life change), being mindful and appreciative of the present instead of ruminating about the past or the future, having a formal practice for meditation and/or gratitude, nurturing healthy reciprocative social connections (being vigilant about preventing digital connections from crowding out real ones), and pursuing your passions and highest purpose to make a positive contribution to society throughout your life. Put those all together, and I call it living awesome!

Pillar 4: Rest & Recovery
How Paleo Expert Mark Sisson Uses Ketogenic Eating For Longevity
Image by Austin Rogers / Stocksy
Optimizing your sleep practices will be the prominent focus here, but we must also consider a broad-based approach to chilling out amid the hectic pace and constant stimulation of modern life. Rest and recovery strategies for longevity include disciplining your use of technology, taking frequent breaks from peak cognitive function to refresh depleted brain neurons, and conducting specially designed workouts that promote relaxation and rejuvenation.

Keto for Life: Reset Your Biological Clock in 21 Days and Optimize Your Diet for Longevity is available now!

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Krista Soriano
Krista Soriano
Senior Branded Content Editor
Krista Soriano is the Senior Branded Content Editor at mindbodygreen. She holds a B.A. in journalism with a minor in communications from Messiah College, graduating summa cum laude. She…

Getty Images/RooM RF
There are so many diet hacks going around right now, it’s hard to keep track: Raw until 4, Keto until 5, Vegan until 6, Dry until Fri. (Okay so we are ignoring that last one too.) But if you want to eat healthy longterm, lose weight in the near term and try a vegan or plant-based diet, the best way to get back on track is to follow this simple rule: Go Vegan Before 6.

Created by Mark Bittman, former lead food writer for The New York Times and author of 16 food and cookbooks in all, Vegan before 6 was a book that came out in 2013, as his answer to the question: How to lose weight when his doctor told him he was 40 pounds overweight and needed to make a life change. There’s a reason it’s popular again now. It allows you to eat a healthy diet full of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds until dinnertime when you get to indulge in your usual favorite foods, so you end up going roughly 75 percent vegan. For many people it’s a great way to start being vegan, try out a plant-based approach, and lose weight and get healthy.

Part-time vegan as an approach to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss only works if during the rest of the time you stick to healthy habits and choose to eat whole foods that are low in calories, simple carbs, and fat–especially saturated fat. After all, you can do some major damage after sundown. In Mark Bittman’s book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health… for Good, he shares how his simple and doable rules of being vegan for 75 percent of the day turned his health around, helped him lose weight, and changed the way he viewed food forever. Sorry: Chips are off the menu.

The key to the Bittman method is to start your day eating vegan–defined as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds and no meat, dairy, poultry or other animal products–until 6 pm, or dinnertime when you can eat your usual favorite meals. Aside from filling your diet with as many plant-based foods as possible, and eliminating processed junk, the 28-day plan shows how when you stay satisfied, structured and healthy for most of the day, you make better choices at night and still reap the benefits that come with cutting back on meat and dairy.

Plant-based diets have been known to fight heart disease for years. A 2019 study showed that those who followed a mostly plant-based diet had lower cancer rates, possibly due to the fact the phytochemicals in plants help protect cells from free radical damage. The study found that eating just 10 grams or more of fiber a day (and remember fiber is only in plant foods) turns out to be enough to lower your risk of certain cancers. New studies have backed this up. The more fiber in your diet the lower your risk of breast cancer, for instance.

While it might seem intimidating to go 100 percent vegan all at once, know this: Mark Bittman thought he would be the last person to jump on the bandwagon. As a food writer at The New York Times for over 30 years, he made living eating and recommending all kinds of food. That was until at age 57, in his doctor’s office, feeling depressed over his health status, he had a decision to make.

With his blood numbers such as cholesterol out of control and 40 pounds to lose, he discussed with his doctor what steps to take. He was having trouble sleeping and persistent knee problems, and he recalls that he didn’t want to become a statistic, someone middle-aged on heart medication for the rest of his life. His long-time Doctor and friend had the guts to answer: “You should probably become a vegan. That will take care of all your problems.”

Bittman knew he was the type of person who would not do well with a vague intention to “eat more healthy foods.” He needed more of a structure than that. So he set himself a strict diet that started at breakfast and lasted just before dinner, thus observing 3/4 of his day on a vegan diet. His book proved that as long as you start your day with no animal products, as well as no packaged or processed foods, you can then treat yourself to what your love to eat so long as it’s healthy, for dinner.

His take: If a middle-aged food lover and writer who was brought up on meat and processed can go mostly plant-based, then why not you? Just try it as your day starts, and determine the rest as the day continues, you never know, you might unintentionally become a full-time vegan.

Here are Mark Bittman’s Secrets to Success on a Mostly Vegan Diet:
Start your day off right
Avoid any kind of animal product at breakfast and lunch. Saturated fats and processed sugars are the main ingredients in common breakfast foods, but while anything can be made vegan by skipping the dairy, the best option s a complex carb like oatmeal with fruit, or a smoothie with plant-based protein. For lunch, salads, soups, hummus or whole-grain pasta with tomato sauce. As long as it’s vegetable-based or full of healthy protein from legumes, and homemade, you’ll stay on track. We suggest a big salad with chickpeas, which are packed with protein. For a full list, The Beet has assembled all the best plant-based protein sources.

Fill your plate with as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible
By cutting out meat and dairy products it leaves a whole lot of space to fill up your plate with as many fresh plant foods as possible. That can be adding an extra leafy green to your stir-fry or making your new favorite soup a lentil or vegan split pea recipe. Try to source local and organic vegetables when possible to avoid pesticides in your food. See the recipes on The Beet or the Beginner’s Guide for seven days of meals. Remember, it’s all in the baby steps.

Avoid Processed and Packaged foods
Anything that contains processed flours and added sugars wreaks havoc on our metabolism, and if the goal of losing weight on VB6, then avoiding white sugar and flour is the top priority when you are shopping at the market (as opposed to the farm stand). Almost every chronic health problem can be avoided or abated by watching your intake of saturated fats, sodium and added sugar found in all processed foods. As you start out, savor your favorite treat for after 6 pm, but in small doses, and give your body enough time to digest before going to bed.

Not everything “vegan” is fair game
The word vegan is not synonymous with healthy, and most junk food is accidentally vegan since it does not contain animal products but neither is it healthy. Coca Cola, Oreos, and French fries don’t have animal products in them unless the fries are cooked in oil that has beef or chicken in it, but they are called fast-food for a reason. Quick snacks are convenient and cheap, but we pay for them in a different way, by driving up our cholesterol, insulin levels, blood sugar, blood lipids, and contributing to weight gain. Like Bittman, it can cost us our health in the long run.

No rules after 6 pm–other than to eat healthy, whole foods– and not junk
After 6 p.m. exhibit some form of self-control, even when you crave comfort food. Allow yourself a little digression (a glass of wine) but not a major falling off the diet cliff (inhaling the whole bag of chips, or an entire pint of ice cream). This way you can continue the diet for longer.

One change that Bittman noticed immediately when he did this was the change in energy level. Over time he realized that while a cheeseburger could be in his near future if he chose to go that route for dinner, his body craved more of the healthy stuff at night. And his energy soared.

Don’t focus too much on the specific time. Vegan till 5:59 is also great
Sometimes dinner happens after, or even before, 6 pm, or perhaps you’re suddenly on East Coast time and your body still thinks it’s mid-afternoon in LA. Six is not a magic time, it’s just a guideline. Dinner being our last meal of the day, it also happens to be more social, so when you are having a shared experience, this approach is helpful to go back to being plant-based in the morning and see how long you can last the next day. Try to push it through dinner if you are feeling great. Before you know it, you may just not want to eat any other way than vegan at all.

Eat home-cooked meals whenever possible

This sounds simple coming from a cookbook author but Bittman advises that not only will this keep you on track, but you’ll feel more satisfied know exactly what went into your meal. It also provides you with plenty of leftovers for breakfast and lunch for the rest of the week.

Everyone is at their own pace
A lifestyle change is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be made into a big production. For some people, small increments are the way to go, and Bittman’s method is the right step. If you overindulge one night, just forgive yourself, then start again the next day. Or if you eat a non-vegan meal one lunchtime, make up for it at night and make dinner from veggies.

Little changes can make a big impact
In his Ted Talk, “What’s Wrong with How We Eat,” Bittman explained how the traditional western diet is failing us, and our demand for meat, dairy and refined carbohydrates has been fed to us via our overly simplistic food pyramid. The USDA is not our ally, and as they revise the guidelines every 5 years, we await their latest recommendations, due out soon, which we can only hope will include more plant-based or vegan foods.

Until then, we have to take matters into our own hands, not only to advocate for a better diet in a country where 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese but by improving our own health as well. The more vegan or plant-based we eat, the better it is for our longterm health, for the environment, for the welfare of farmed animals, for your own weight loss goals–and for all the possible reasons combined.

Going mostly vegan, or mostly plant-based will help you be healthier longer
A new study found that eating mostly plant-based fights high blood pressure, and reduces your overall risk of heart disease and premature death. The idea of going vegan or plant-based 75 percent of the time happens to be quiet easy. Simply start the day with vegetables and grains, fruit and nuts, seeds and whole plant-based foods. Then once evening comes, eat less meat and dairy, less junk, and still more plants. It’s a simple formula, eat real food.” So start out your week, day and meal as best as you possibly can, stay clean and focused and you might discover how being a part-time vegan might be the best way for you to turn your health around.

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Getting started

In this guide, we will show you how to get up and running with the Rodecaster Pro. Follow the sections below to get started

  1. Downloading the Rodecaster Pro software
  2. Hardware & software connections
  3. Navigating the Rodecaster Pro
  4. Recording with a DAW

Downloading the Rodecaster Pro software

IMPORTANT: PC users will need to download and install the third-party audio driver, ASIO4All, for it to work correctly with your DAW. Be sure to check out our guide for more information on how to download, install, and use ASIO4All.

Before you can use the Rodecaster Pro, you first need to download and install the Rodecaster Pro app, as well as the firmware. The Rodecaster Pro is considered class-compliant on Mac, which means it doesn’t need third-party audio drivers. PC users will need to download ASIO4All for proper connectivity. Follow the steps below to get started.

  1. Go to the Rodecaster Pro download page and download the Rodecaster Pro installer.
  2. Go to your Downloads folder and run the Companion App installer.
    • PC: Right-click the rodecaster_app_installer.zip file, select Extract all…, and then click Extract.
    • Mac: Double-click the rodecaster_app_installer.zip file.

Updating the firmware

Connect the device using the included USB-C cable to your computer, then power it on. Launch the firmware updater application within the rodecaster_app_installer folder, and follow the on-screen instructions. The unit will restart automatically after it’s completed.

Reloading sounds on the device

If the factory sounds are erased when you perform a factory reset, follow these steps to reload the sound onto your device.

  1. Log into the Rode website. If you don’t have an account, you can create one here.
  2. Click Register Your Warranty on the top right of the page.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to register the product, and then scroll to your Roadcaster Pro warranty.
  4. Click Download Sound Effects Pack, as well as the Rodecaster Pro companion app.
  5. Click and drag the sounds into the companion app. They will be automatically uploaded onto your device.

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Hardware & software connections

Once the Rodecaster Pro Companion app is installed, the next step is to connect it to your computer. Before recording in your DAW or on to an SD card, be sure to update the firmware to the latest version. Follow these steps to update the firmware connect the unit.

Hardware connections

  • Speakers: connect ¼” TRS cables to the main outs on the back of the unit.
  • Headphones: Connect the headphones to one of the four Headphone Out jacks.
  • MicroSD: Insert the MicroSD card in the indicated slot. If transferring the files using a MicroSD to standard SD adapter, be sure that the adapter’s lock is off!
  • Media device: Use a TRRS cable to connect a media device such as a smartphone or mp3 player.
  • USB-C: Use the included USB-C cable to connect to your computer. Do not use a Thunderbolt cable! Read more about the difference here.

Software connections

  1. Connect the device to a USB port and verify that it is listed in the system’s hardware as well as sound settings.
  2. Launch your DAW, navigate to its audio settings, and set the Rodecaster Pro as your driver.
    • PC users: The Rodecaster Pro will not appear as an audio driver within your DAW, so be sure to select ASIO4All.
  3. Turn the Microphone Input(s) & USB Output faders up to an appropriate level to where it isn’t clipping.

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There are three primary menus on the device. These menus are where you will make changes such as USB connectivity, microphone level, and connectivity, as well as recording sounds which are triggered by the pads on the right-hand side of the unit. Press the Cog icon to get these settings.

Channel

The channel menu is where you will make changes to individual channels such as the type of microphone that’s connected, the overall level of the channel, and turning effects on or off.

Sounds

The sounds menu is very straight forward. Open the menu, then tap a button on the screen to record audio to the assigned pad.

Hardware

The hardware menu is where you will enable or disable multichannel USB recording, view the microSD card capacity, and also make changes to the Bluetooth settings.

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Recording within a DAW

Before you can begin recording within a DAW, you’ll need to make sure that the Microphone and USB settings are set correctly. Make sure to change these settings in the order below; microphoneUSB, then DAW. Follow these steps to change the settings appropriately.

Microphone settings

  1. Press the channel’s pad you wish to edit located above the channel fader.
  2. Press Microphone, then select the microphone you are using. Be sure to press Condenser to engage Phantom Power (+48v)!
    • You can also engage or disengage Phantom Power by pressing Level then pressing the Phantom Power slider at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Go back to the Channel menu, then press Advanced to enable or disable any effects such as the compressor, high-pass filter, or de-esser.

USB settings

  1. Navigate to the Hardware menu, then press Advanced.
  2. Enable USB in the Multichannel Recording section. You will be prompted to disconnect then reconnect the USB cable to save the change.
  3. Turn up the channels you wish to record, as well as the USB fader up to an appropriate level.

DAW settings

NOTE: This is not a DAW controller, so you will need to manually start and stop recording in your DAW.

  1. Create a mono track for each channel you will be recording, and then record enable them.
  2. Press Record on the Rodecaster Pro, as well as within your DAW. Doing this will record both to your DAW and also the MicroSD card (if inserted).
    • If you hear an echo or feedback coming through your headphones or speakers, make sure that input monitoring is turned off; either within your DAW or on the device.

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Additional resources

 
Phone Connectivity
 
Loading Sounds
 
Advanced Audio Settings
 
Sound Pads

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When you need help, Sweetwater has the answers!

Our knowledge base contains over 28,000 expertly written tech articles that will give you answers and help you get the most out of your gear. Our pro musicians and gear experts update content daily to keep you informed and on your way. Best of all, it’s totally FREE, and it’s just another reason that you get more at Sweetwater.com.

Nearly two years ago, Megan Faraday, a now 25-year-old woman from Ontario, Canada, decided she was ready to make a change to her health.

“I just felt really uncomfortable with myself for a really long time, a whole lifetime of dieting and binge eating,” Faraday told “Good Morning America.” “I woke up one morning and was like ‘I’m going to try keto and see if it sticks,’ and it did.”


Faraday has since lost more than 100 pounds following “lazy keto,” a version of the popular ketogenic, or keto, diet, known for its focus on foods high in fat and low in carbohydrates.

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For Faraday, following a “lazy keto” diet meant skipping counting every macronutrient, like proteins and fats, she was eating and focusing solely instead on the amount of carbohydrates, or carbs, she was eating every day.

 
2:15
Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, breaks down the keto diet to see if it’s right for you.

“It’s keto without all of the hardcore rules,” Faraday said of her “lazy keto” approach. “I figured out how to calculate net carbs [the total grams of carbohydrates in a food minus the grams of fiber] and just went from there.”

Faraday said she moved from a diet full of fast food, breads, potatoes and pasta to one that includes a lot of fresh vegetables and lean proteins. Within one month, Faraday had lost 15 pounds.

“I think the reason why this time really stuck with me was it was so easy for me to get into the swing of things with keto,” she said. “Seeing the weight come off was the biggest motivator. I saw that and it just kept me determined to keep going.”

Faraday said she lost just over 100 pounds in one year on a “lazy keto” diet and since then has been slowly introducing carbs back into her diet while still losing weight.

“It’s a lot of things you would be eating otherwise, just minus the carbs. Things like chicken wings that you wouldn’t normally think of as diet foods,” she said of her approach. “And it’s easy to make regular recipes that I would have been eating before more keto-friendly.”

Where two years ago Faraday had difficulty walking up a set of stairs, she now goes on runs and exercises three to five times a week.

“My total attitude to life has changed completely,” she said. “I’m more outgoing and like to put myself out there more and I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life and it’s a lot easier for me to deal with now.”

“I’m a lot happier now, a lot happier with myself,” said Faraday.

Here are four weight loss tips from Faraday

1. Make eating simple: “I keep my diet really simple because I like to know exactly what I’m eating. It’s easier to track it when you’re not trying to make super complicated recipes.”

2. Drink lots of water: “Everybody says that but it’s seriously so important.”

3. Have a support system: “Have people you can reach out to when you’re having a bad day or someone you can ask a question to. It’s so much easier than trying to navigate it on your own.”

4. Make a change to make yourself happy: “You need to do it for yourself. You can’t be worried about doing it for other people. There will be times you don’t see the scale move. You need to keep moving past that and know what your goal is for yourself. You need to make yourself happy at the end of the day.”