On Elon Musk, SpaceX, and Tesla

A couple of weeks ago, I linked to an article about the future of artificial intelligence on waitbutwhy.com. After I finished the AI series, I dug around the site and before I knew it, I had added about ten more articles to my Safari Reading List.

As much as the AI stuff fascinated me, it did not capture my imagination like his series on Elon Musk did.

The Elon Musk series was broke into four parts.

  1. About Elon Musk
  2. Tesla
  3. SpaceX
  4. What Makes Elon Special

In addition to the main series, he had some bonus articles about some of Elon’s other ideas.

These articles give an interesting perspective on what Elon thinks are humanity’s biggest problems and what his ideas are to solve them. More than that, they paint an exciting (and realistic?) picture of what our future could look like.

So to sum up the high level themes:

Problem → Any species limited to a single planet will eventually go extinct2.

Therefore → For humanity to survive, we need to become multi-planetary3.

Solution → SpaceX.


Problem → Humans are destroying Earth’s environment and using up a finite supply of resources to power our civilization4.

Therefore → We need to use renewable and clean energy in as many industries as we can as soon as possible.

Solution → Tesla, Solar City, & Hyperloop.

I’m not sure that all of the things that Elon is trying to do will actually happen5; but even if he is only halfway successful, the future will be pretty exciting.

I wanted to add a quick note about the What Makes Elon Special article. I was reading these articles because I was interested in the work that Elon is doing, not because I was interested much in Elon himself. Since this article was clearly more about him than his work, I almost skipped it. I was glad that I didn’t.

The article was more about how people who change the world (like Elon) are different that people who don’t. There is a lot more to it that this, but the biggest takeaway that I got from it is that just because other people who are “smarter” than me have yet to something does not mean that I cannot do it. But like I said, there is a lot more to it, so you should just read it yourself.

Fair warning: if you start reading this series and have any inclination toward science at all, you won’t be able to quit until you finish it. Since finishing it myself, I have been finding as much more material on Mars (and space in general) as I can get. I started watching the National Geographic Mars Series, started reading How We’ll Live on Mars, and started listening to Liftoff on Relay FM6.

I recommending starting with the first article and just keep hitting the next button until it is not there anymore. Since the series is book length, he also sells a Kindle and PDF version of the whole series (a good option if you want to read it in something other than a web browser).

  1. This is not a part of the main SpaceX series because it came out much later. 
  2. There are tons of ways this can happen. Meteors, solar flares, viruses, nuclear war, Trump, ect. 
  3. Multi-planetary is not really the end goal here. For humans to survive on an infinite timescale, we need to spread out past our solar system.

    The steps here are:

    Colonize Mars.

    Colonize the rest of the solar system.

    Colonize outside of the solar system.

    Step 1 protects us against something happening to Earth (which could happen at literally any time). Step 2 just gives us some redundancy. Step 3 only becomes necessary when something happens to our sun. We have a few billion years to figure that one out.

    So for now we fill focus on Step 1, which is obviously enough of a problem on its own. 

  4. Quick note on why is it is important to tackle this problem along with the Mars problem:

    If we solve the problem of creating a civilization of Mars without solving the issue of not breaking Earth, we will not be in a better situation than we are in now: we would be a single-planetary species on Mars instead of Earth. 

  5. Although his track record so far is pretty good. 
  6. When I get interesting in a subject, I tend to obsess a bit.