Anatomy of Next: Palmer Luckey // A New Defense

What does Anduril do? We focus on building artificial intelligence and autonomous systems for the US military. 


I think the United States has been falling behind China for a very long time:Some people dismiss China by saying things like they only have one aircraft carrier. These people fail to realize that China is preparing for the next war. They are not buying the hardware that won the last war. 


China and Russia has their best people working on national security: Putin was trying to get high school students interested in AI. He said whoever wins in this sphere [AI] will become the ruler of the world. He is saying that because he thinks he will win. Putin realizes the best bet to upset the current balance is to invest in autonomous systems.


I started this company because I was concerned the US was not investing in autonomous systems: The traditional defense companies are good at building faster jets, bigger submarines etc. They are not good at building autonomous systems.


The US companies that are good at building autonomous systems are refusing to work with the military: They are optimizing for better public relations over better national security. 


The massive opportunity for Anduril: The companies that have the best tech talent are choosing to not work on the problems that the national security community needs to be solved. That’s not the case in Russia and China. That is one of the most worrying voids that I see in the technology industry today.


Companies in other countries don’t have a choice: Putin can say we are going to work on AI. It is critical for our military. I will imprison the leaders of any company that refuses to work with the military. No one can stop him from doing that.


The current government is very good at approving projects that are iterative improvements on something that already exists: It is easy for a congressman to understand a faster jet. It is not easy for them to understand mesh networking or autonomous drone swarms [what his company wants to build].


Autonomous systems are a lot cheaper: When you don’t need to ensure the safety of a human pilot [jet vs drone] the costs drop by 99%. The F-35 is a trillion-dollar project. Imagine the autonomous technology you could build with that money.


We need to build autonomous systems that work together with people: We need to make a system that allows machines to do the things machines are good at. And not force people to do things they are bad at. Right now we have people watching security cameras. People fall asleep, they get distracted, they can get bribed. Robots do not have any of those problems.


The goal of Anduril: To reduce defense spending by hundreds of billions a year and still provide us with a much stronger military. That’s absolutely within reach if you focus and embrace autonomous systems.


What is your process from idea to working towards it? The most important thing about the process of invention is to know a lot about a lot of different things. Even if you only have a surface-level understanding of 100 topics. You can often draw on that during the problem-solving process. Many things we worked on were just combining things from different industries into something new. In ways that other people had not thought about before. I encourage people to just learn as much as they can.


A lot of entrepreneurs come up with really cool solutions that don’t actually solve problems in the real world: They bend over backward to try to find the problem in need of their solution [Palmer does the reverse].


How Palmer thinks about time management: Don’t spend all your time working on an interesting problem that takes up 80% of your time but only makes your product 20% better. You want to find the thing that makes your product 80% better. Then put all of your time into that.


If your goal is to start a successful company you should identify a problem that your product will solve: You need to save someone money, save them time, make them more secure etc. Solving these types of problems gives you a good chance of success.


Full podcast here.