The SpaceX mastermind had the most evolved response to someone who asked if they had time to get a quick Ph.D. before applying for a job with Tesla, Inc.'s AI team.
As students rack up piles and piles of college loan debt in the United States, many are wondering if there is an alternative. We often forget that a college degree wasn't the norm not too many years ago. Today, however, it's become a necessary requirement even for the most basic entry-level jobs. But someone's ready to change the status quo. And who better than Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, Inc., to do so? In a recent Twitter thread, the techie announced Tesla, Inc. would soon be hiring - and added that you don't need a high school degree to qualify.
Musk initially tweeted, "'At Tesla, using [Artificial Intelligence] to solve self-driving isn’t just icing on the cake, it is the cake.' - Lex Fridman. Join AI at Tesla! It reports directly to me and we meet/email/text almost every day. My actions, not just words, show how critically I view (benign) AI." He added in follow-up tweets, "We are (obviously) also looking for world-class chip designers to join our team, based in both Palo Alto and Austin... Tesla will hold a super fun AI party/hackathon at my house with the Tesla AI/autopilot team in about four weeks. Invitations going out soon." Of course, this got a lot of people excited. While some were looking forward to the prospect of working directly under the SpaceX mastermind, others, expectedly, were apprehensive about their qualifications.
One Twitter user thus, in response to Musk's upcoming hackathon, asked, "Have I got time to get a quick Ph.D. in AI in to secure an invite?" The question was a cheeky one, but the Tesla, Inc. CEO responded on a rather serious note. He replied, "A Ph.D. is definitely not required. All that matters is a deep understanding of AI [and the] ability to implement NNs in a way that is actually useful (latter point is what’s truly hard). Don’t care if you even graduated high school." Okay, so someone will have to explain what an NN is to me, but can we all just take a moment to appreciate Musk's evolved response?
In a day and age when you're judged by a couple of superficial qualities on a piece of paper, he has shown us that what actually matters are your skills and passion for learning. This is not the first time Musk has shared his opinion on the unimportance of college and high school degrees. In an interview from 2014 with Auto Bild, he was asked what he looks for when recruiting members for his team. The interviewer asked which college or university he's most likely to hire candidates from. He said in response, "There's no need even to have a college degree at all, or even high school. If somebody graduates from a great university, that may be an indication that they will be capable of great things but it is not necessarily the case." So maybe we're not all Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but when education becomes democratized like it has today, it's heartening to know that there are people who care more about what you can do rather than a framed piece of paper you hang up in your office for decoration.