Electric shock

Electric cars are great. They don't pollute, drive without making noise, have incredible responsiveness and torque all over the RPM range. There are limited number of moving parts, they don't need lubrication hence don't consume oil.

These are all true. There is no point in arguing with these facts, anyone who ever driven an electric car will concur. But there is always the other side, the one enthusiasts will not want to discuss. Let me go into a few issues I have with this technology.


All those amazing cars (such as Tesla) are based on Lithium Ion battery. Much like any other battery, this one uses electrodes, one made of lithium compound and the other out of a form of carbon such as graphite. The electrolyte in between these electrodes typically contains cobalt (typically in the form of an oxide). The exact chemistry varies between different types of cells but overall positively charged lithium ions get carried from the anode to cathode during discharge and the reverse is happening during charging. Cobalt oxide mediates the ions. So in some sense the electric car actually has zillions of moving parts if we count all these ions traveling from anode to … Read more...

Optimality, technology and fragility.

This post is a bit of a mixed bag about technology and fragility, a bit about AI and tiny bit on politics. You've been warned.


Back in the communist and then early capitalist Poland, where I grew up, one could often get used soviet equipment such as optics, power tools etc. Back in the day these things were relatively cheap and had the reputation of being very sturdy and essentially unbreakable (often described as pseudo Russian "gniotsa nie Ĺ‚amiotsa" which essentially meant you could "bend it and it would not break"). There are multiple possible reasons why that equipment was so sturdy, one hypothesis is that soviet factories could not control very well the quality of their steel and so the designers had to put in additional margin into their designs. When the materials actually turned out to be of high quality, such over engineered parts would then be extra strong. Other explanation is that some of that equipment was ex-military and therefore designed with an extra margin. Nevertheless, these often heavy and over-engineered products were contrasted in the early 90's with modern, optimized, western made things. Western stuff was obviously better designed and optimized, lighter, but as soon … Read more...


Hello Internet,

Let me start this blog with a short introduction. My name is Filip Piekniewski and I'm a researcher working on topics of artificial intelligence, machine learning, perception etc (check my website for more info). For the past six+ years I've been working at Brain Corporation in San Diego. The company has ambitious goal of building brains for robots and the work we've been doing is quite unique. I'd like to use this blog to share some of my thoughts on Machine Learning, from a slightly different perspective than a lot of the mainstream, namely from the perspective of actually applying these techniques to a physical device existing in physical reality. As we've learned, this is a whole different ballpark than running your algorithm on a dataset in a sterile, digital world. I hope you will find this read entertaining.

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