To say Elon Musk is an interesting guy would be an understatement. He goes from brilliant to bozo and back again in a blink. It’s like watching a fast ping-pong match.
Musk’s latest effort is an AI based on X (formerly known as Twitter) content called Grok that I believe will disrupt conversational AI.
Shaking up a new market is a good thing in many cases because, too often, everyone starts copying each other, and you end up with a lot of similar and increasingly boring offerings. While Musk does a lot of things, he doesn’t do boring, except, of course, the company by that same name.
Let’s chat about Grok this week. Then, we’ll close with my Product of the Week, the Surface Laptop Studio 2. Microsoft sent me one, so now I have experience using it.
We don’t seem to like to make fun of things, which I think is a shame. While I don’t like many things about Tesla, I do like that it has a touch of whimsy in its execution that must bring a smile to the faces of Tesla drivers. For instance:
- The Tesla can make Jetson car sounds.
- You can change the car on the navigation screen to a variety of crazy vehicles.
- It can make a fart sound when someone sits in one of the seats.
- You can do karaoke in the car — Tesla calls it Caraoke.
- Tesla has a “bioweapon defense mode,” which is really just a good in-car air filter, but I love the name — and a ton of Easter eggs, like James Bond’s submersible Lotus.
- Tesla was the first to allow you to use your phone or a card as the car key so the doors open when you approach.
- It has Dog Mode to keep your pets cool in the car on a hot day.
- You can block explicit song lyrics if kids are in the car — or leave them unblocked to teach your neighbor’s kids new words!
So, there is a really good chance Musk’s Grok AI will be fun to use. Assuming it eventually works as advertised, since most products like this have early teething problems and crashes, I expect this could be a great way to lighten your mood while traveling or killing time.
We need more whimsy in our lives since so much of the news is negative. Two major wars are going on, both of which could escalate and spread to nuclear weapons, and politics have gotten so ugly it is almost painful to read or watch the news now. So, most people should appreciate a little humor in this Debbie Downer world (SNL reference).
However, Grok also has some problems.
The Bad (There Is No Ugly)
First, you must be an X Premium member to use Grok. That’ll cost you $16 a month. ChatGPT costs $20 a month, but it appears to have far more substance behind it, and it’s flowing into Microsoft Office via another monthly extra charge.
Grok’s announcement indicated the AI will include real-time knowledge from X/Twitter. However, that information rarely contains the answers to questions (with respect to the overall traffic). Since Musk largely cut out moderators on the platform, its accuracy and quality have degraded while the individual protections from being improperly attacked have evaporated. That means the X training data is likely horribly compromised.
Grok may be funny, but if you want it to do actual work, it may not be very helpful and could get you in a lot of trouble if it pulls from inappropriate Tweets from a hostile foreign national or someone who doesn’t filter what they post.
Interestingly, Musk was one of the people who thought we should do an AI pause because he thought the technology was very dangerous. While this is a concern I share, an AI trained from Tweets could be the very danger he is afraid of. It’s as if he wants to create a self-fulfilling prophecy by creating an AI that could do much harm if trained on a massive amount of hostile, questionable human and bot actions and behaviors.
You want an AI to be accurate and honest, and I don’t think that’ll be possible with one trained on Tweets because Tweets are often inaccurate or dishonest. If people make decisions based on this or this data migrates to other training sets, we could have a lot of whacked-out AIs. I doubt that’ll be good for any of us.
Wrapping Up: Grok, for Better and for Worse
Part of me really wants to play with Elon Musk’s Grok, but I worry about what it will do and how what it does will reflect on me. For instance, were I to ask it a legitimate question, how do I know it won’t pull content from those who believe in Q and that anyone seeing my screen will not think I’m some kind of whack job?
Still, I really like the idea of making one of these things fun to use, but much like the folks who allegedly played with real guns on that film site, this could become far more dangerous over time and put us at higher risk.
People say some pretty nasty things about politicians and the inappropriate use of weapons and explosives, and there is a wide variety of hate speech on the platform, any of which showing up on your business laptop could get you fired in a hot moment and, depending on where you work, even land you in jail.
I’m hoping Grok will be both funny and good. But I fear it may be funny and bad, and that’s the ugly (ok, I had to) truth about Elon Musk’s Grok.
Surface Laptop Studio 2
After initially featuring the Surface Laptop Studio 2 several weeks ago, I’ve now had the opportunity to experience it first-hand, thanks to Microsoft providing a unit. This hands-on experience has prompted a follow-up.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio 2 not only has one of the nicest product pages I’ve seen outside of Apple, but the product itself is also a work of art. It looks like it was carved out of a single block of aluminum.
My favorite thing when using this laptop is the cantilevered screen, which is like my long-time favorite laptop, the HP Spectre Folio. The advantage to a cantilevered screen is that it flips and then covers up the keyboard so you can use the device as a tablet and fool the flight attendants, who will let you use it during takeoff and landing as a tablet.
If you have a tethered head-mounted display, like the Goovis G3 Max or Roid Max, you can have the device open and dark on your lap and enjoy your movies in total privacy. You won’t be scolded because it looks like the laptop is turned off.
Performance and Features
Surface Laptop Studio 2 uses Intel’s 13th generation processor, which doesn’t have an NPU, but Microsoft put one of its own in the product, which should provide a decent benefit once you get access to Microsoft Copilot.
Battery life when watching movies should be close to 20 hours, particularly if you have the PixelSense display off. Doing regular mixed work, you should get close to 10 hours. By the way, the PixelSense display is unique to Microsoft. It has what the company believes to be the optimal size, resolution, and refresh rate for Windows, making me wonder why every Windows PC vendor doesn’t use it.
The keyboard and touchpad are industry-standard, which means they are excellent; it is hard to find a bad keyboard or touchpad anywhere in this price class.
Surface Laptop Studio 2 (Images Credit: Microsoft)
The Surface Studio 2 I’m test driving has Intel Iris Xe graphics, which is not great for gaming but is fine for watching videos, doing productivity work, and even light photo or video editing tasks — just not as well as if it had one of the higher end graphics options, but that reduces battery life. Xe graphics were fine for me, though, and it didn’t have the lag of my Qualcomm-based HP Folio (in HP’s defense, the Folio has fantastic battery life).
You can configure the Surface Laptop Studio 2 in line with a portable workstation, which is likely where it will strongly outperform Apple’s offerings. It will trail Apple’s performance and sound in its basic configuration, but unless you have both laptops next to each other, I doubt you would notice the difference.
It has several features that make it suitable for videoconferencing, like auto-framing, background blur (for those of us who don’t clean our offices often), and eye contact creation.
One interesting thing is that, like most Surface products, it uses a magnetic power supply so that if you trip over the power cord, the cord, not the laptop, comes flying off the table. That’s how I broke my first Apple laptop before Apple had this feature.
At nearly 5 lbs., this laptop isn’t light and isn’t as easy to carry as the HP Folio I love so much, but it will outperform HP significantly.
Price starts just below $2,000.00 and can approach $4,000.00 depending on configuration.
Finally, if you like drawing, this is one area in which the product really shines. It has storage for the pen (I’m constantly losing mine) and wonderful pen performance. Even though my mother was an artist, sadly, I didn’t get the gene, so besides doodling, I don’t use the pen much. However, with some of the existing AI programs that can create art from simple drawings, like SketchAI, this might pique my interest in trying to draw again.
In any case, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 is once again my Product of the Week!