Elon Musk recently sat down for a fireside chat with Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, during the Air Force Association’s 2020 Air Warfare Symposium.
The US Air Force, like many Government agencies, are fighting the challenge of being innovative to stay ahead of the international competition. Given that, it makes sense they hear from someone who’s been able to successfully innovate across a number of industries.
“We are honored to welcome Mr. Musk, a brilliant entrepreneur and engineer to speak at one of the premier Air Force leadership events for defense and aerospace professionals around the world”AFA President Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright, USAF (Ret).
One of the key questions Musk was asked, related to how he motivates employees. The answer was fairly obvious, but I thought he detailed it particularly well.
Not all roles require innovation, but those that do can be addressed with the right incentive structure. Those that do not try and innovate should see big negative consequences. Those that are innovative, should see rewards, like getting a promotion sooner. For those who try and fail, there should be minor consequences, but those who take the necessary risks and succeed should be heavily rewarded.
This an issue many businesses struggle with as well, particularly in ultra-competitive industries. How far, how fast do you push and more importantly, do you have the right talent to win?
Drones instead of pilots
During the interview, Musk was asked a question about what the Air Force should invest more in. In front of a room of Air Force pilots, he detailed that the time where we send pilots into the warzone is coming to an end.
Locally autonomous drone warfare is where the future will be. It’s not, I want the future to be this, it’s just, this is what the future will be…
The fighter jet era has passed.Elon Musk.
While the militaries of each country continue to invest billions on the latest jet fighter technology, these all require pilots. Given the progress in the world of military drones, it is obvious that we would naturally progress to the technology that doesn’t endanger humans to deploy and attack the enemy.
In the Australian context, this is a fairly interesting observation, particularly given The Australian Federal Government has committed to spending $17 billion on 72 jets due to be built in the US and delivered by 2035. If Musk is correct and in the year 2020 they’re already out of date, this seems like one of the biggest misuses of tax-payer funds we’ve ever seen.
Here’s a video of what we’re buying..
And here’s a video that shows some of the top military drones in the world. Ultimately better programming, better AI will beat a human in battle, just as they have done in Chess, Go and many other tests of human abilities.
Then you layer in the fact that with drones, you don’t have to be concerned with the safety and protecting a human, you can design the craft in a very different way. You’re also likely to be able to deploy drone strikes more precisely and end a conflict faster than previously possible with piloted aircraft.
You can watch the full interview is below and well worth 50 minutes of your time.