The Elon Musk Blog Series
I’ve heard people compare knowledge of a topic to a tree. If you don’t fully get it, it’s like a tree in your head with no trunk—and without a trunk, when you learn something new about the topic—a new branch or leaf of the tree—there’s nothing for it to hang onto, so it just falls away.
As you might have noticed, there are a lot of people who have a lot of opinions for a lot of reasons saying a lot of things about this situation.
So a log burning is the process of the carbon in the log combining with oxygen in the air and floating off as CO2.
To put it another way, photosynthesis just kidnaps carbon and sun energy out of the atmosphere, and after years of holding them hostage, combustion sets them both free—the carbon as a billowing eruption of newly reunited CO2 and the sun energy as fire—meaning that fire is essentially just tightly packed sunshine.
In the world of species, the definition of optimization is simple because the end goals are simple: the core needs of biological creatures are always the same—to self-preserve and reproduce.
Something really, terribly bad might be happening that could make our actual lives legitimately worse in the future, but we have a prisoner’s dilemma on our hands—it’s much, much better for all of us collectively to make a change, but for each individual CEO, lobbyist, or politician, there’s more to personally gain from maintaining the status quo.
I asked Musk about his opinion on Henry Ford. He said, “Ford was the kind of guy that when something was in the way, he found a way around it, he just got it done. He was really focused on what the customer needed, even when the customer didn’t know what they needed.”
1) Almost everything we use will run on electricity. 2) Almost all of our electricity will be produced from sustainable sources.
This concept—making human life multi-planetary in a self-sustaining way—is often called “planetary redundancy.” Musk calls it life insurance for the species. I call it backing up the hard drive.
With enough time, we’ll move out to many other bodies in the Solar System, and we’ll terraform each of them into a place humans can call home.
When you or I look at kids, we see small, dumb, cute people. When Musk looks at his five kids, he sees five of his favorite computers. When he looks at you, he sees a computer. And when he looks in the mirror, he sees a computer—his computer. It’s not that Musk suggests that people are just computers—it’s that he sees people as computers on top of whatever else they are.
The hardware is a ball of clay that’s handed to us when we’re born. And of course, not all clay is equal—each brain begins as a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses across a wide range of processes and capabilities. But it’s the software that determines what kind of tool the clay gets shaped into.
The limiting factor, if you will, is the engineering. And if you want to advance civilization, you must address the limiting factor. Therefore, you must address the engineering.
There are all kinds of tech companies that build software. They think hard, for years, about the best, most efficient way to make their product. Musk sees people as computers, and he sees his brain software as the most important product he owns—and since there aren’t companies out there designing brain software, he designed his own, beta tests it every day, and makes constant updates.
People believe thinking outside the box takes intelligence and creativity, but it’s mostly about independence. When you simply ignore the box and build your reasoning from scratch, whether you’re brilliant or not, you end up with a unique conclusion—one that may or may not fall within the box.
When you’re in a foreign country and you decide to ditch the guidebook and start wandering aimlessly and talking to people, unique things always end up happening. When people hear about those things, they think of you as a pro traveler and a bold adventurer—when all you really did is ditch the guidebook.
Different version of the same story with the invention of the United States. When the American forefathers found themselves with a new country on their hands, they didn’t ask, “What should the rules be for selecting our king, and what should the limitations of his power be?” A king to them was what a physical keyboard was to Apple. Instead, they asked, “What should a country be and what’s the best way to govern a group of people?” and by the time they had finished their puzzling, a king wasn’t part of the picture—their first principles reasoning led them to believe that John Locke had a better plan and they worked their way up from there.
To a chef, the world is one giant laboratory, and their life is one long lab session full of a million experiments. They spend their days puzzling, and society is their game board.
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. —Henry Ford
Referring to the aerospace industry, Musk said, “There’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.”
The challenge with this last epiphany is to somehow figure out a way to lose respect for your own fear. That respect is in our wiring, and the only way to weaken it is by defying it and seeing, when nothing bad ends up happening, that most of the fear you’ve been feeling has just been a smoke and mirrors act. Doing something out of your comfort zone and having it turn out okay is an incredibly powerful experience, one that changes you—and each time you have that kind of experience, it chips away at your respect for your brain’s ingrained, irrational fears.