As I write this Elon Musk has joined Clubhouse for his first-ever in-person session and the boundaries of the app have already been tested. Only 5,000 people are in the room, BUT… the session is being live-streamed from here or here.
I am dusting off my creaky live-blogging skillz to cover the session… and will update this post as we go (apologies for appalling typos in the interim).
Musk initially talked about going gong to Mars and said it was likely to be a “hard” for the early pioneers, but that it would be a matter of keeping the “candle of civilization alive in the dark”.
Asked if he believed in aliens, he said there wasn’t a single piece of conclusive evidence for the existence of aliens, although it’s “quite possible” there is such a thing as Alien tech, at least at a “7/11” level, and a joked that they evidence so far suggests they might be at the “500 Megapixel camera” or “at least iPhone 6 level”.
He said his kids were not quite into the idea of going to Mars.
Asked about memes online he quipped: “He who controls the memes controls the universe” and it’s about what influences the zeitgeist. Memes are a complex form of communication – unlike pictures, memes are “10,000 words not 1,000 words”. They are aspirationally funny. “I love memes, they can be very insightful”
Does he try to sound crazy on Twitter? “I started crazy on Twitter,” he joked.
I don’t follow them, but some “are sent by “meme dealers” who are friends.
He posted about Neurolink but said Tesla had one of the strongest AI teams in the world.
With AI, it’s about “how to we stay relevant” and at least “stay along for the ride” in the good scenario” and couple to AI.
“People are already a cyborg.” We already have a tertiary layer in the form of smartphones. The bit-rate of us typing into a phone is 100 bits. So it’s like trying to talk to a tree, for our smartphones. So with a direct neural interface, we increase it with a huge magnitude. And also spend longer with a higher magnitude.
You can decide if you want to be a robot of a person. But when you wake in the morning you wouldn’t have to be the same as you were yesterday. It’s analogous to a video game, not unlike the “Altered Carbon” Netflix series.
There are primitive versions s the Neurolink idea, with tiny wires into your brain.
He said they will be releasing new videos in a month or so, such as of a monkey playing videos with their mind.
The value of the early implant will be enormous and outright the risks.
Question: What should we educate a 5-year-old about in this world?
Musk talked about how video games engage children, but explaining “the why” was important. “We are programmed to forget the low “probability of things” if they aren’t relevant.
Such as, taking apart an engine and putting them together. We will need tools, so we understand the relevance. It’s better than having a “course of wrenches”
He was asked “why are there not more Elon Musks”? “If you need encouraging words, don’t do a startup”.
A friend sent him a slice of cake in 2013. So “I should have bought it 8 years ago” “At this point Bitcoin is a good thing. I am a supporter. I am late to the party, but I am a supporter.”
He said it was clear Bitcoin was getting broader acceptance by the finance world. “I don’t have a strong opinion on other currencies.”
Dogecoin is a made aa joke to make fun of cryptocurrencies, but “fate lives irony”.
“The most entertaining outcome is the most likely.” The most ironic outcome would be dogecoin becoming the currency of the future.
He made a joke about bitcoin and his account got locked.
TESLA: They want to make 20 million cars and trucks per year as a target.
Autonomous driving could reach a significant amount of time you would rely on it in a week, so autonomous cars would do a third of the hours in a weeks, so 60 hours instead of 12.
Making sense of objects with technologies like Lidar would effectively make cars “superhuman”.
Working remotely on zoom has been tricky for him, but remote working has not been perfect. “Fear is not the mind-killer, context switching the mind-killer” he said.
Would he start another company? It joked that he pretty much has his hands with Tesla, Space X, The Boring Company and others to date.
He talked about the huge advances in vaccine technology, such as the MRNA tech which made the Covid-19 vaccine possible. He seems very bullish about the vaccine.
“There is going to be an avalanche of vaccine” coming, “I guarantee you ‘it’ will be thrown away this year.” He said ‘CureVac’ vaccine will be approved soon.
He mentioned, “The Tesla machine can make a bazillion doses super fast.”
He made his poison clear on vaccines: “I am not an anti-vaxxer I am a pro-vaxxer.”
Joining Silicon Valley in the early days he had to ask himself ‘I watch the internet being built in front of me or do I get involved.’
Too shy to speak to anyone in the lobby of Netscape.
Then he tried to code. He wrote the first maps and directions on the internet. The Web site only worked during the night as he was using the server during the day.
Marc Andressen quipped that we would get a job the next time he hangs out in the lobby.
He’s been watching The Last King for is historical accuracy and Cobra Kai. The Expanse’s plot lines sometimes seem too fantastical to him.
He was recommended Devs and Mythic Quest and Ravens Baquet.
Tenet was “pretty good”. Did he understand it “If you think too hard about it, it’s not going to make complete sense, but it’s a good movie”
His knowledge of the Hitch Hikers guide to the Galaxy, remains intact
“Vlad The Stock Impaler” was brought into the Clubhouse room to talk about the Game Stop phenomenon. It turned out this was the actual CEO fo CEO of Robinhood.
“Vlad” (or rather Vlad Tenev, CEO of Robinhood) made a rambling attempt to explain what happened last week but was interrogated by Musk (things getting slightly surreal at this point).
Musk then turned interviewer:
“All right, tell is what really happened. Give us the inside scoop,” he said
“This has been a very surreal weekend and week for me,” said Vlad.
Vlad said “one of the really great things is all the people “coming out of the woodwork” to offer support for the company to offer advice.
He said this was his first time using Clubhouse. He then made a jokey remark about an adherent to the “simulation hypothosis”.
Musk brought him back: “The people demand an answer and they want to know the truth.”
Vlad said: “So there’s an introducing broker dealer called Robin Hood Financial, and that basically is the app that you know and love, it processes trades. You’re a customer of Robin Hood Financial. Then there’s a clearing broker dealer, Robin Hood Securities, that clears and settles the trades. And then we have Robin Hood Crypto, which is our Crypto business… All of these are different entities that are differently operated. So, basically Wednesday of last week. We just had, you know, unprecedented volume, unprecedented load on the system. A lot of these, you know, so-called meme stocks were, you know, going viral on social media, and people were people are joining Robin Hood and there was a lot of net buy activity on them.”
He said Robin Hood became number one on the iOS App Store and pretty close if not number one on Google Play store.
“Thursday morning I’m sleeping. At 3:30am Pacific, our operations team receives a file from the NSCC, which is the National Securities Clearing Corporation. So, basically as a broker as a clearing broker. And this is where Robin Hood securities comes in. We have to put up money to the NSCC based on some factors including things like the volatility of the trading activity into certain securities. And this is is the equities business so it’s based on, stock trading and not options trading or anything else.
So, they give us a file with the deposit and the request was around $3 billion, which is, you know, about an order of magnitude more than what it typically is.”
MUSK: This is not an unprecedented increase in demand for capital. What formula that they use to calculate that”
Vlad: Just to give context, Robin Hood up until that point has raised around $2 billion in total venture capital. Up until now, so it’s a big number, like $3 billion is is a large number, right. So, basically, the details are, we don’t have the full details, it’s a little bit of an opaque formula, but there’s a component called the VAR of it, which is value at risk. And that’s based on kind of some fairly quantitative things although it’s not it’s not fully transparent. So, there are ways to reverse engineer it, but it’s not kind of publicly shared.
And then there’s a special component, which is discretionary. So that kind of acts as a multiplier, and basically
MUSK: Discretionary meaning like it’s just their opinion”
VLAD: There’s definitely more, more than just their opinion.
MUSK: Everyone wants to know did something shady go down here? It seems weird that you get a sudden $3 billion demand, you know, at 3.30am in the morning. Just suddenly out of nowhere.
VLAD: I wouldn’t impute shadiness to it or anything like that and actually you know the NSPCC was reasonable.
They worked with us to, to actually lower it. So, it wasn’t unprecedented activity. I don’t have the full context about, you know, what was what was going on inthe NSCCC make these calculations.
MUSK: Is anyone holding your hostage right now?
Vlad: Thanks for asking. But anyways, so this was obviously nerve racking, and I actually was asleep at this point, you know, the operations team was fielding this at three o’clock. And then, you know, we got back, we put our heads together. Our Chief Operating Officer basically said, look, let’s call up the higher ups at the NSCC and kind of figure out what’s going on. Maybe there’s some way we can work with them. And basically there was another call. And they lowered it to something like $1.4 billion from three…. But still a high number.
Vlad said the team then proposed how to manage the risk through the day “marking these volatiles stocks that were driving the activity, positioning closing only. And then, at about an hour before the market closed market opened. So, at 5.30, or five in the morning, they [the NSCC] came back and they said okay, the deposit [should be] 700 million, which we then deposited and paid promptly. And then, everything was fine.
So, that that essentially explains why we had to mark the symbols ‘position closing only’, and also why, you know, we knew this was a bad outcome for customers… Part of what’s been really difficult is Robinhood stands for, you know, democratizing access to stocks and, yes, we want, we want to give people access so we had no choice in this case, we had to conform to our regulatory capital requirements. And so the team did what they could to make sure we were available for customers.
MUSK: Who controls the clearinghouse?
Vlad: It’s a it’s a consortium. It’s not quite a government agency. You know, I, I don’t really know the details all that. But, you know, and to be fair… there was legitimate turmoil in the markets. These are unprecedented events with these meme stocks, there was a lot of activity. So, there probably is some amount of extra risk in the system that warrants, higher requirements, so it’s not entirely unreasonable.
But we did operational processes to make sure that customers that had positions could sell their open positions because obviously restricting someone…We got a lot of questions about ‘you had to restrict buying, why didn’t you also restrict selling?’ And the fact of the matter is, people get really pissed-off if they’re holding stock and they want to sell it and they can’t. So that’s categorically worse. Lots of other brokers, I think, we’re in the same situation. Robinhood who was in the news, but you just sort of heard this industry-wide, other brokers, were basically restricted in the same exact activity.