A few weeks ago, Jonathan Stern got in touch, wondering if I would like to participate in a new website he and his best friend, Carter Duncan were creating. “In the spirit of the Federalist Papers, my best friend from Duke and I have built a website called Pairagraph for written dialogue between distinguished individuals,” he wrote. The thinking behind the project was to “bring world leaders across government, industry, academia, religion, and the arts into a conversation about great events and great ideas, and perhaps, to revive the Republic of Letters.” 

University of Berkeley economist Brad DeLong is interested in discussing whether the U.S. is in decline. Is it true, as pessimists proclaim, that America has plateaued? Or that we are mired and trapped in civilizational languor? Is our culture exhausted? As someone who loves Prof. DeLong and his writing, it was such a privilege to have a dialogue with him. 

While the good professor is feeling discouraged about the American prospects, I am a long-term believer. I posted my first response today on Pairagraph! My original draft was over a thousand words, but I can’t go beyond 600 words. For now, here is my abbreviated take on why I don’t think America is in decline despite the recent events. Not yet!   

Tesla’s SolarCity gamble has gone wrong

“If he hadn’t bailed out SolarCity, his whole debt-laden empire might have cracked. Yet without the bailout, Tesla would be far more healthy….In the second quarter of this year, SolarCity installed only 29 megawatts of solar panels—far below the 10,000 megawatts in annual installations that Musk had promised.”

Vanity Fair

Bethany Mclean who made her name writing about Enron long before others is explaining the challenge faced by Tesla and Elon Musk due to the 2016 SolarCity acquisition. The much ballyhooed Solar Roof is a flop, and the whole thing seems to be coming apart at seams. Worth a read from a reporter, who has a habit of finding big stories before others.

Read article on Bethany Mclean

Details on Tesla’s new big beefy chips

Each Tesla computer has two AI chips, a redundant design for better safety, Venkataramanan said. There’s redundancy in the chips’ power supplies and data input feeds, too. Even the car’s cameras are on two separate power supplies to guard against failures. ….Each Tesla AI chip runs at 2GHz and performs 36 trillion operations per second. That performance is possible because Tesla optimized the chips for self-driving cars and dropped anything more general purpose…..For example, the chip handles data recorded as 8-bit integers instead of the 16-bit floating-point numbers more common in AI tasks but that require more power to process. For another, it’s got an extremely limited set of instructions it can process. And it’s got a gargantuan 32 megabytes of high-speed SRAM memory on the chip, which means it doesn’t have to wait around while fetching data from much slower conventional DRAM memory.

Apple has taught Silicon Valley the importance of owning its own chip destiny and now pretty much everyone willing to push the technical edge is building their own chips, for more vertical integration in their designs. Tesla gave a glimpse into how it can keep ahead of its deep pocketed rivals. At the Hot Chips conference, Tesla showed details on its newest innovation. The chip took 14 months to design and Samsung is going to make the processor. It is in newer Tesla cars. It is 21-times faster than the Nvidia chip they were using and about 80 percent of the cost.

Also: live blog from HotChips conference that has more details.

Read article on C/Net