The 16 BestThings Elon Musk Believes

Elon Musk is a fascinating individual who attracts fanatical devotion due to his genuinely groundbreaking work in electric cars and space travel. The founder of SpaceX and co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors is blessed with both an entrepreneurial spirit and the urge to change the world, but what drives his ideology? Here are 16 things that the enigmatic Elon Musk believes.

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1. “[…] problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?”

Making money is no longer Elon Musk’s primary goal. Forbes says he’s worth $12.1bn, but his interests lie in transformative business and fundamentally changing humanity’s future. “Going from PayPal, I thought: ‘Well, what are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity?’ Not from the perspective, ‘what’s the best way to make money?’”

2. “[…] you should try, even if the probable outcome is a failure.”

Elon Musk is extremely aware that failure is a serious possibility. “If something’s important enough, you should try, even if the probable outcome is a failure,” is one of his most enduring quotations. To that end, he even sees failure as inevitable: “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

3. “[…] you’ll achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.”

Elon Musk believes that hard work is essential to combat the high chance of failure. On several occasions, he’s claimed to have worked 80 to 100-hour weeks. “If other people are putting in 40-hour workweeks, and you’re putting in 100-hour workweeks, even if you’re doing the same thing… you’ll achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve,” he explains in the video below.

(Scientifically, that’s a little dubious, but hey, he’s made a lot of more money than many.)

4. “The tough thing is figuring out what questions to ask.”

Elon Musk references much of his ambition to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Speaking to Businessweek, he explained the novel’s famous “ultimate question” confusion: “It taught me that the tough thing is figuring out what questions to ask, but that once you do that, the rest is really easy.”

“I came to the conclusion that we should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask. Really, the only thing that makes sense is to strive for greater collective enlightenment.”

5. “I didn’t even pray when I almost died of malaria.”

Elon Musk isn’t religious and doesn’t believe there are many places for spirituality in science. Asked by Rainn Wilson (yes, Dwight from the US version of The Office), whether the two can co-exist, he answered “probably not.” (6:19 in the video below).

“I didn’t even pray when I almost died of malaria,” he added.

6. “[…] these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations […]”

Elon Musk’s views on patents have changed over the years. In June 2014, Tesla Motors gave up all its patents. Explaining this on the Tesla blog, Musk wrote: “When I started out with my first company, zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.”

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“Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

7. “[…] it doesn’t make sense to put trillions of tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere […]”

Elon Musk backs the scientific consensus on climate change and favors moving away from fossil fuels. “Given that we will run out of oil anyway, it doesn’t make sense to put trillions of tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere and see what happens, which could be catastrophic, when we have to find a nonhydrocarbon way of generating and consuming energy anyway. It’s just a dumb experiment,” he explained.

8. “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.”

 Elon Musk sees the dangers of AI as a more pressing threat. “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out,” he said.

9. “[…] end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation.”

Elon Musk thinks that automation could lead to universal basic income. As a big believer in the power of AI, it’s no surprise that Musk believes robots will take more and more of our jobs. As such, he’s become a proponent of a universal basic income—the idea that money will be distributed to all, without employment. Musk said, “There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. I’m not sure what else one would do. That’s what I think would happen.”

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10. “[…] making life multi-planetary, in order to safeguard the existence of humanity […]”

Elon Musk believes that the colonization of other planets could be essential for humanity’s survival. “I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary,” he told Aeon, “in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen, in which case being poor or having a disease would be irrelevant because humanity would be extinct. It would be like, ‘good news, the problems of poverty and disease have been solved, but the bad news is there aren’t any humans left.’”

11. “Not everyone loves humanity.”

Elon Musk believes that the Earth wouldn’t be better off without humans, despite our faults. “Not everyone loves humanity. Either explicitly or implicitly, some people seem to think that humans are a blight on the Earth’s surface. They say things like, ‘nature is so wonderful; things are always better in the countryside where there are no people around.’ They imply that humanity and civilization are less good than their absence. But I’m not in that school. I think we have a duty to maintain the light of consciousness, to make sure it continues into the future.”

12. “The fast way is drop the nuclear weapons over the poles.”

Elon Musk believes nuking Mars may be a quick way of making it habitable. On the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Elon Musk was asked how we would transform Mars into an inhabitable planet. He said, “You’d warm it up.” Stephen goes on to ask how you would do that. Musk said, “There’s a fast way and a slow way.” Colbert responds by asking what the fast way is. Musk said, “The fast way is drop the nuclear weapons over the poles.”

Not all scientists agree that nuking Mars promotes a habitable environment.

13. “It’s probably more likely than not, but that’s a complete guess,”

Elon Musk is open-minded to intelligent life on other planets. “It’s probably more likely than not, but that’s a complete guess,” he finally answers when pressed in the video below (skip to 22:10 for the relevant question.)

14. “The absence of any noticeable life […] in favor of us being in a simulation.”

Elon Musk thinks there could be a sinister answer to the Fermi Paradox. “The absence of any noticeable life may be an argument in favor of us being in a simulation. Like when you’re playing an adventure game, and you can see the stars in the background, but you can’t ever get there. If it’s not a simulation, then maybe we’re in a lab, and there’s some advanced alien civilization that’s just watching how we develop, out of curiosity, like mold in a Petri dish.”

15. “[…] maximizes the probability that SpaceX continues its mission without me.”

Elon Musk is aware that his space ambitions won’t likely get achieved in his lifetime. “I’ve thought about that quite a lot,” he told Aeon. “I’m trying to construct a world that maximizes the probability that SpaceX continues its mission without me.”

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“I just don’t want it to be controlled by some private equity firm that would milk it for near-term revenue. That would be terrible.” But if a firm DOES focus on revenue, he’d like to end his life on the red planet. “I would like to die on Mars,” he said. “Just not on impact.”

16. “In order to change that […] reprogram the genetics or replace every cell in the body.”

Elon Musk doesn’t see much scope in extending human lifespans, including his own. With a little prodding from the Wait But Why website, Musk explained why he thinks humans have “expiration dates.” “The whole system is collapsing. You don’t see someone who’s 90-years-old, and it’s like, they can run super-fast, but their eyesight is bad. The whole system is shutting down. In order to change that in a serious way, you need to reprogram the genetics or replace every cell in the body.”

17. “If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”

Elon Musk doesn’t really fancy Apple’s chances of transforming the Tesla car. In 2014, Apple began hiring fired Tesla employees to begin their car-making adventure, known as “Project Titan.” When asked about Apple’s hiring initiatives, Musk stated, “Important engineers? They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”

Musk seemingly touted the phrase “Tesla Graveyard” for Apple’s desire to hire those former Tesla workers. As time progressed, leadership conflicts, employee strife, and other problems made the project difficult to manage.

Musk feels that building a car is totally different than building an iPhone or watch, which is actually true. However, the right prep and actions can make the biggest difference, and many companies have evolved to some degree of success. In any case, Apple supposedly laid off thousands of employees working on the project.

In 2018, rumors surfaced that Apple halted their efforts on self-driving cars. Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that Apple was working on autonomous driving technology, meaning the car building project was scrapped. Self-driving technology for car manufacturers was in the works. Currently, there is the potential that Apple is back in action with its car creation project.

Images: Heisenberg Media, OnInnovation, OnInnovation, Steve Jurvetson, Steve Jurvetson, and Maurizio Pesce used under Creative Commons.

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