This guy has a lot on his mind across a lot of topics. In this one lunch alone, we covered electric cars, climate change, artificial intelligence, the Fermi Paradox, consciousness, reusable rockets, colonizing Mars, creating an atmosphere on Mars, voting on Mars, genetic programming, his kids, population decline, physics vs. engineering, Edison vs. Tesla, solar power, a carbon tax, the definition of a company, warping spacetime and how this isn’t actually something you can do, nanobots in your bloodstream and how this isn’t actually something you can do, Galileo, Shakespeare, the American forefathers, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, satellites, and ice ages.
The way I approach a post like that is I’ll start with the surface of the topic and ask myself what I don’t fully get—I look for those foggy spots in the story where when someone mentions it or it comes up in an article I’m reading, my mind kind of glazes over with a combination of “ugh it’s that icky term again nah go away” and “ew the adults are saying that adult thing again and I’m seven so I don’t actually understand what they’re talking about.” Then I’ll get reading about those foggy spots—but as I clear away fog from the surface, I often find more fog underneath. So then I research that new fog, and again, often come across other fog even further down. My perfectionism kicks in and I end up refusing to stop going down the rabbit hole until I hit the floor.
We use “the food chain” as a cute euphemism for this murder/theft cycle, and we use the word “eating” to refer to “stealing someone else’s joules and also murdering them too.” A “predator” is a dick who always seems to want your joules over everyone else’s, and “prey” is just some sniveling nerd you particularly like to bully and steal lunch money from. Plants are the only innocent ones who actually follow the Golden Rule, but that’s just because they have the privilege of having the sun as their sugar daddy—and humans are the biosphere’s upsetting mafia boss who just takes what he wants from anyone he wants, whenever he wants. It’s not a great system, but it works.
The way technology works is that by default, it stands still, and it moves forward only when something pushes it forward.
“What will most affect the future of humanity?” The answer he came up with was a list of five things: “the internet; sustainable energy; space exploration, in particular the permanent extension of life beyond Earth; artificial intelligence; and reprogramming the human genetic code.”
“I don’t know what a business is. All a company is is a bunch of people together to create a product or service. There’s no such thing as a business, just pursuit of a goal—a group of people pursuing a goal.”
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. By clearing out fog all the way to the bottom, I build a tree trunk in my head, and from then on, all new information can hold on, which makes that topic forever more interesting and productive to learn about.
When Apple decided to make a phone, they didn’t try to make a better Blackberry—they asked, “What should a mobile phone be?”
Science doesn’t have axioms or proofs, for good reason. We could have called Newton’s law of universal gravitation a proof—and for a long time, it certainly seemed like one—but then what happens when Einstein comes around and shows that Newton was actually “zoomed in,” like someone calling the Earth flat, and when you zoom way out, you discover that the real law is general relativity and Newton’s law actually stops working under extreme conditions, while general relativity works no matter what. So then, you’d call general relativity a proof instead. Except then what happens when quantum mechanics comes around and shows that general relativity fails to apply on a tiny scale and that a new set of laws is needed to account for those cases. There are no axioms or proofs in science because nothing is for sure and everything we feel sure about might be disproven. Richard Feynman has said, “Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty—some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain.”
In our lives, the only true axiom is “I exist.” Beyond that, nothing is for sure.
“I certainly admire the discoveries of the great scientists. They’re discovering what already exists—it’s a deeper understanding of how the universe already works. That’s cool—but the universe already sort of knows that. What matters is knowledge in a human context. What I’m trying to ensure is that knowledge in a human context is still possible in the future. So it’s sort of like—I’m more like the gardener, and then there are the flowers. If there’s no garden, there’s no flowers. I could try to be a flower in the garden, or I could try to make sure there is a garden. So I’m trying to make sure there is a garden, such that in the future, many Feynmans may bloom.”
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.
Your entire life runs on the software in your head—why wouldn’t you obsess over optimizing it?
We’re more afraid of public speaking than texting on the highway, more afraid of approaching an attractive stranger in a bar than marrying the wrong person, more afraid of not being able to afford the same lifestyle as our friends than spending 50 years in a meaningless career—all because embarrassment, rejection, and not fitting in really sucked for hunters and gatherers.