Engineering Victory with Elon Musk | Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: Addendum

Check out the Hardcore History: Addendum episode page

Key Takeaways

  • “Engineering is underrated in its impact on the outcome of wars” – Elon Musk
    • In the modern era of war, technological advantages outweigh all strategies and tactics
    • The invention of the nuclear weapon is the greatest example of a technological ultimatum
      • Drone vs drone combat is an advance in technology that could theoretically do the opposite of this. This combat style drastically reduces the penalty of war and opens the door for more conflict
  • “There’s no question; if you want a more effective fighter – bomber – tank, the best thing to do is take the pilot out of it at this point” – Elon Musk
    • Elon doesn’t necessarily want drones/pilotless vehicles to take over military operations but humans simply can’t compete even with basic/primitive AI
  • The better the rate of innovation you have, the better ability you have to adapt and succeed in wartime
    • Rock Paper Scissors example: If there’s a more advanced scissors out there, you better invent a more advanced rock
  • When developing technologies of war, Elon values the kill ratio of a weapon. Maximize output on your investment.
  • Reverse engineering can give some incredible insights in regards to discovering the vast variability of design as a result of slight altercations to basic materials
    • Example: A specific engine design is required to access the benefits of high octane fuel

Intro

  • Elon Musk (@elonmusk) and Bill Riley of SpaceX discuss the role of engineers in warfare and weapon manufacturing, reflecting both on the past and looking towards the future.
  • Host: Dan Carlin (@HardcoreHistory)

Technology in War

  • In the modern era of war, technological advantages outweigh all strategies and tactics
    • “When there’s a technological discontinuity, it fundamentally flips the whole situation. In the modern era, we are very much in a technology race war.” – Elon Musk
      • Nuclear weapons are an example. The physics community decided they couldn’t let Hitler be the first to create a nuclear bomb so they had to first, there is great power in the first-mover advantage
  • “Engineering is underrated in its impact on the outcome of wars” – Elon Musk
    • Elon questions why there isn’t a chapter on technology in The Art of War by Sun Tzu
    • “There should be a chapter that states: If you have a decisive technology advantage, you can win with minimal casualties. To your side, at least.” – Elon Musk

Strategy & Engineering Design in War Technology

  • When developing technologies of war, Elon values the kill ratio of a weapon. Maximize output on your investment.
    • The F6F Hellcat was the most effective fighter plane in WW2 according to the kill ratio in Elon’s opinion
    • Had a 13:1 kill ratio, intentionally designed to be operable by pilots with minimal experience
      • Maneuverability was lost for the sake of better armor, which is a great trade-off for an inexperienced pilot
      • There are countless examples of balancing military investment in technology and training
  • The better rate of innovation you have, the better ability you have to adapt
    • Rock Paper Scissors example: If there’s a more advanced scissors out there, you better invent a more advanced rock
      • “It’s hard to be a master of all trades, you really want the right aircraft for the right use” – Elon Musk
      • The P-51 Mustang was a great high altitude fighter but not great in ground attack due to limited armor on the bottom of the fuselage
      • The Spitfire and Hurricane are two examples of British aircraft that innovated extremely rapidly
        • They innovated to increase the amount of air range – having 3 times the amount of combat time is comparable to having 3 times as many planes
  • Reverse engineering can give some incredible insights in regards to discovering the vast variability of design as a result of slight altercations to basic materials
    • Example: If your design is 10% heavier due to the material used, this creates a requirement for a more powerful engine, more fuel, heavier landing gear to access/balance the benefits of the material change in the first place
  • There is a delicate balance between operations and performance in designing war technology
    • Simple and in-field reparable technology is optimum for operations but sometimes excellence in performance is contingent on having unique parts with challenging maintenance, there is a difficult balance
      • Example: German tanks have been known to be extremely high quality but maintenance can be extremely difficult. This trend bleeds into their car manufacturing as well.

Pilotless Warfare

  • “There’s no question; if you want a more effective fighter – bomber – tank, the best thing to do is take the pilot out of it at this point” – Elon Musk
    • Elon doesn’t necessarily want drones/pilotless vehicles to take over military operations but humans simply can’t compete even with basic/primitive AI
      • Can handle incredibly high g-forces and other natural boundaries
      • Simultaneous awareness and instant processing
      • Lighter, cheaper, and faster without a pilot
      • The list goes on… If you want to win, pilotless seems to have the highest success rate
    • We don’t want terminator, fire control, and kill decisions should still be human operated in Elon’s opinion
  • What does war look like when both opposing sides have drones, AI systems, and Gulf War technology?
    • With nukes and other modern technology, the stakes of war are extremely high
      • “With the invention of nukes, wars between superpowers became a decision to destroy humanity or not” -Elon Musk
    • Drone wars change the playing field in the opposite direction, this advance in technology theoretically could allow for battles to be won or lost without human violence
      • Drone vs drone combat drastically reduces the penalty of war and opens the door to participate in more war
      • “It ends up being BattleBots” – Elon Musk

The (potential) War on Space

  • Russia recently tested its ability to destroy an orbiting satellite from earth (story)
    • “That was not great for Russia to do that” – Elon Musk
    • Russia, China, and the U.S have now demonstrated anti-satellite weapons
  • IF there were a non-nuclear 3rd world war, Elon says attacking space assets would certainly be a focal point

Hardcore History : , , , , , ,
Notes By Drew Waterstreet

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 35,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks