Elon Musk Biography
From his beginnings in Pretoria, South Africa, through to helping run companies such as SpaceX, Tesla and Neuralnk, Elon Musk is a force to be reckoned with. By age 12, he had sold his code for a video game he had created to PC and Office Technology magazine for around $500. By age 17 he had moved to Canada and had enrolled in Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. By age 24 he had co-founded his first company, Zip2, which would later be sold to Compaq Computer Corp. for $307 million. Becoming a millionaire would see Musk invest in a whole array of forward-thinking companies with a real focus on technology and bringing science fiction to life, and that has impacted the way in which we live. From Tesla cars and SolarCity panels through to brain-computer interface chips that just may help to slow down the effects of degenerative diseases, he’s also a space craft magnet, and has been awarded special contracts from NASA. With so much interest around Elon Musk, as well as the fact there is so much to learn about him, we wanted to create a thank you to an extremely talented individual, who will likely go down in history as one of the best. Musk may know what the future holds for his businesses, but we find his past just as fascinating, and therefore, have created this in depth dive into it.
Within this 20,000+ word website page, you can learn all about Musk’s education, personal life and charity work, and the way his donations have transformed the communities in which he has given to. We’ll also look at his time at X.com, SpaceX, Hyperloop and OpenAi, as well as The Boring Company, Neuralink and Tesla, and what new ventures are on the horizon. You’ll see quotes and tweets from the man himself, as well as those who have lauded his work. Getting to know him at every level, you’ll discover just what makes Musk the man he is, and how he’s changed the world, and continues to do so, with every venture and invention.
There’s a lot to learn, so let’s get started! We’ve created a clickable contents section that aids navigation and allows you to select a certain period of Musk’s life:
- Early Life
- X.com and PayPal
- The Boring Company
- Personal Life
- Views and Opinions
- Non-Profit and Charity Work
“There have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? If the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, I find that incredibly depressing.” – Elon Musk
Early Life, Family & Beginnings
In Pretoria, South Africa on June 28th, 1971, Elon Reeve Musk was born to parents Maye Musk (née Haldeman), and Errol Musk. Maya was a model and dietitian born in Saskatchewan, Canada, and raised in South Africa, while Errol was (or has been) a South African electromechanical engineer, pilot, sailor, consultant, and property developer. Elon has two younger siblings – a brother, named Kimbal (born 1972), and a sister, Tosca (born 1974). Getting on well with his siblings, they have both gone on to do great things: Tosca is a producer and director. Kimbal owns and runs a range of restaurant chains and manages a non-profit education-based program, The Kitchen Community, which grows vegetables in the United States.
Following Maye and Errol’s divorce in 1980, Elon mainly lived with his father, who claims he owned thoroughbred horses, a yacht, a couple of houses and a Cessna. One of these houses was located in Waterkloof, a beautiful suburb of Pretoria that was popular with foreign diplomats and the elite. Errol took the children on many adventures, taking them to Europe, Hong Kong and across the United States. Elon would later get his own pilot’s license, but his flying ambition’s these days focus on space exploration.
Speaking of this time, Errol has been quoted as saying (in Forbes):
‘’We traveled a lot in those days, their mother and I split up when they were quite young and the kids stayed with me. I took them all over the world. Elon was generally in the back seat. Kimbal, my other son who is just as energetic as Elon, would do all the guiding and navigating.’’
Elon took an early interest in computers, having a Commodore Vic 20, then a Spectravideo and next an IBM. He was also a fan of chess, and even played on his high school’s team, but stopped when he realised that humans were no match for the computers that were being programmed to beat them. He was also obsessed with reading – something many who know him have recounted:
“I would see him frequently in or around the library,” states Ewyn van den Aardweg, a former geography teacher at Elon’s high school. “Elon had an above-average interest in matters outside the normal curriculum, and the library — these were pre-Internet years — was the place to gain further knowledge.”
This didn’t change much as Elon grew older, with his father echoing similar points:
‘’Elon has always been an introvert thinker. So where a lot of people would go to a great party and have a great time and drink and talk about all sorts of things like rugby or sport, you would find Elon had found the person’s library and was going through their books…He’d find fun in that, not to say he wasn’t a person who would party every now and then.”
Elon’s early life may have been one of privilege, but his parents instilled honest values and the desire to work hard for everything you want. Elon and his siblings were made to do chores, cook their own meals and help look after each other, which helped prepare them for school and further education.
Education – Early Education, Canada & Beyond
Musk started school a year early, attending the private Waterkloof House Preparatory School and later graduating from Pretoria Boys High School. An avid book reader, he was always learning, which though he enjoyed, other children didn’t share his enthusiasm. He was bullied in school and withdrew into his books, instead of exploring an active social life with peers and family.
Musk’s intellectual aptitude did him few favours as a child, unfortunately. He found few friends in the tough-minded Afrikaner culture he encountered in education. Though it was tough, he would later claim in an interview with Business Insider that it made him the person he is today, and that, ‘’One thing I worry about with my kids is they don’t face enough adversity.’’
Musk studied at Waterkloof House Preparatory School, and then graduated from Pretoria Boys High School. These years, weren’t easy on him either, as detailed in his book:
‘’They got my best friend to lure me out of hiding so they could beat me up. And that hurt…For some reason they decided that I was it, and they were going to go after me nonstop. That’s what made growing up difficult. For a number of years there was no respite. You get chased around by gangs at school who tried to beat the (expletive) out of me, and then I’d come home, and it would just be awful there as well.”
A ray of light in Musk’s life was his love of technology. At age 10, he taught himself programming using the Commodore VIC-20 – an early home computer. Due to his aptitude for programming, it didn’t take long for him to create Blastar — a video game not too dissimilar to Space-Invaders. He sold the BASIC code for the game to a magazine called PC and Office Technology for $500 – who were clearly impressed with its functionality and ease of use. In fact, such was his love for games at this time, Musk and his brother had planned to open a video game arcade closeby to their school. Though their parents were against this idea, the only thing that stopped them was the need for a city permit which had to be applied for by an adult.
Elon Musk Moves To Canada
Aged 17, he moved to Canada to avoid serving in the South African army, which, at that time’s (the late 1980s) main priority was to enforce apartheid. He enrolled in Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Musk had originally thought a career in business may be the right path for him, even spending a summer working in a Canadian bank as an intern during his undergraduate. Halfway through his undergraduate education, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, as well as another one in physics a year later. From there, he gained admission to a prestigious doctoral program at Stanford University in California, where he wanted to work on a Ph.D. in energy physics. He moved to California just as the internet boom was starting in 1995, and he decided he wanted to be in on it, too. He dropped out of Stanford after just two days in order to start his first company, Zip2 Corporation. This was an online city guide aimed at the newspaper publishing business, and Musk was able to land contracts with both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune to provide content for their new online sites.
Speaking on his views of education, Musk has been quoted as saying (at the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington DC):
- College is unnecessary because “you can learn anything you want for free”.
- The main value of college seems to be shown in proving discipline and candor by completing “annoying homework assignments” and by hanging out with individuals of the same age before entering the workforce.
- “I think college is basically for fun and to prove that you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning,”
He has also stated that he wants to make Tesla a place where university degrees aren’t the only consideration for hiring a new staff member, “because that’s absurd”. The main requirement for employment at his companies, he has said, should be “exceptional ability”.
When asked what he considered the best way to teach a 5-year-old in today’s world, he stated to Business Insider:
“Well, my observation is that my kids were mostly educated by YouTube and Reddit...I guess there were lessons as well, but judging by the amount of time they spent online, it seemed like most of their education is actually coming from online.”
Musk also believes that education should be “as interesting and exciting as possible” and that considering it in terms of video games could aid engagement and make it useful for all.
Business Career – Starting with Zip2, Tech & Becoming A Millionaire
In 1995, with $28,000 and his younger brother Kimbal at his side, Musk started Zip2, a web software company that would help newspapers develop online city guides. At a time when computers were not yet commonplace, Musk conceived the idea of allowing computer users to locate local businesses. After obtaining a disc containing a business directory, Musk persuaded Navteq – a provider of electronic navigable maps – to give him free access to mapping software. He then wrote and created the code necessary to put the two databases: business listing and map, together, for effective usage. Musk summed up the company’s objective by suggesting that everybody should be able to locate the nearest pizza parlour and find out how to get there. A novel idea at the time, he was at first unable to convince potential investors to give him financing, and therefore, he and Kimbal actually lived at their office to keep expenses low.
Even after foregoing their own living quarters, they still had to keep operations low. Elon and Kimbal shared one computer between them; Musk programmed at night and turned the server on throughout the day. In the beginning, the best internet connection they could afford was through a cheap dial-up modem, but eventually they were able to convince an ISP startup in the office below theirs to let them plug in. Musk drilled a hole in the wall and ran a cable down the stairwell.
Once the website was online and running efficiently, Musk hired three salespeople on commission. They went door to door in shopping centres and districts to sell sponsored listings. It was a slow process, but the money started to come in. One of the advantages of keeping expenses low was that even with a small amount of revenue, the brothers were able to achieve positive cash flow early on, which looked very good to investors.
The company grew its listing by convincing businesses to pay for inclusion, and, after a year, in early 1996, Mohr Davidow Ventures agreed to invest some $3 million in Zip2 in exchange for majority ownership. Musk was also replaced as CEO by a more experienced businessman, Richard Sorkin, but remained Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of the company.
With this new money, Zip2 were able to hire software engineers and even poach some of the best technical talent in Silicon Valley. Although Musk had done most of the initial coding himself, and was clearly a gifted programmer, the new team members found that they needed to rewrite most of the software, to make it more efficient. Musk didn’t always agree with their changes, and he had a bad habit of rewriting programmers’ code after they left work at the end of the day, without telling them of the changes he had made. It’s also been reported that he liked to micro-manage, and sometimes even criticise the team if they didn’t conform with his way of thinking.
His lack of social delicacy impacted his working relationships at Zip2, specifically with Sorkin, whom Musk accused of mismanaging the company. Although the money coming from media partners had been good for Zip2, and made them very profitable, Musk felt that Sorkin’s strategy had compromised the company’s potential to reach consumers directly, and give them the best possible service.
In any case, with Sorkin at the helm, Zip2 began offering its platform to newspapers, allowing them to create local directories for their online subscribers, if they wished. The New York Times was one of their first clients, followed by a whole host of major newspapers and newspaper chains. By this time, Zip2 also included an arts and entertainment guide and specific directories for different categories of businesses – helping them to diversify their service offering. Unfortunately, Musk disagreed with Sorkin’s business policies, and when – for example – Sorkin arranged in 1998 for Zip2 to merge with CitySearch, which provided a similar service, Musk organized a revolt and prevailed upon the board of directors to remove Sorkin as CEO. Sorkin was replaced by Derek Proudian.
In 1999, Compaq Computer Corp. bought Zip2 for $307 million, and Zip2 became a unit of the search engine AltaVista, which Compaq had also recently bought. Zip2’s online city guides added a new depth to AltaVista’s features, with local functionality.
X.com and PayPal – Launching An Icon
Out of the $307 million, Musk was paid $22 million for his 7% share, making him a millionaire at age 28. He used $10 million to establish X.com – an online bank, with the goal of becoming a full-range provider of financial services to clients. A big development was determining how to securely transfer money using email addresses, which hadn’t really been thought of before.
Musk’s success with Zip2 helped X.com gain serious attention and interested investors straight away. Two key executives signed onto the project: investment banker, John Story, and Bill Harris – the former chief executive officer of Intuit Corporation and the creator of Quicken accounting software. X.com also received $25 million in start-up capital from Sequoia Capital, an industry-leading venture-capital company based in California.
X.com went online in December 1999, with a good promotion for customers: those who open an online checking account with X.com receive a $20 cash card that they could use at an ATM. If they referred a friend, they would receive a $10 card for every new person who joined. Within the space of two months, X.com had 100,000 customers. An impressive feat, but at the same time, growing concerns about the safety of sending money online were circulating. This was made worse when Musk and other executives had to admit to the fact that hackers had carried out illegal transfers from more traditional bank accounts into X.com accounts. In response, they started a new policy that required customers to submit a cancelled check in order to withdraw money, which did seem to help.
In March 2000, X.com bought another company, Confinity, which was known for creating the internet money-transfer model – PayPal. Originally, PayPal was set up to let handheld personal digital assistants transfer money. PayPal had only been in business for a couple of months when X.com acquired it, with Musk strongly believing in its online-transfer technology, also known as “P2P” (person-to-person). Later that year, Musk announced that X.com would abandon its first online bank and focus on turning itself into the world-leading global payment transfer provider. The X.com company name was dropped in favour of PayPal.
PayPal grew massively in 2001, thanks in part to its presence on eBay, the online auction website where person-to-person sales were happening daily, in their thousands, and then hundreds of thousands.
PayPal had a fantastic first day of Wall Street trading when it became a publicly traded business with an initial public offering (IPO) of stock in February 2002. That same year, eBay bought the company for $1.5 billion. From that deal, Musk was still PayPal’s largest shareholder, holding an 11.5% share, and he received $165 million in valuable eBay stock.
A brief history of eBay after this point:
2008 – eBay revenues rise to $7.7 billion and the business sells Skype for $2.7 billion.
2010 – eBay is given a $3.8 billion lawsuit by XPRT Ventures, accusing them of stealing information confidentially-shared by inventors on XPRT’s own patents.
2011 – PayPal surpasses 100 million users.
2012 – eBay’s annual charity auction for a power lunch with Warren Buffett sells for a record $3.46 million.
2014 – A very rare Superman comic is purchased for a record $3.2 million on eBay.
2015 – Paypal decides to buy Xoom, a digital money transfer firm, for $890 million, which accelerates the handling of international payments.
2016 – Venmo, which has become a PayPal subsidiary, surpasses $1 billion in payments processed for a single month.
2017 – eBay introduces “guaranteed delivery” to buyers.
2019 – eBay features on the list of “Top U.S. Workplaces” by Indeed.com.
2019 – They begin looking at the cryptocurrencies market, focusing on the underlying Blockchain platform.
2019 – PayPal invests $500 million in Uber.
2020 – The year ends with net revenues of $21.45bn and operating income of $3.29bn, up more than 20pc year on year.
‘’PayPal delivered record performance in 2020 as businesses of all sizes have digitised in the wake of the pandemic. In this historic year, we released more products than ever before and have dramatically scaled our acceptance worldwide, giving our 377m consumer and merchant accounts even more reasons to use our platform.’’
As of 2021:
- The PayPal app has over 2 million monthly active users within the UK.
- People are 54% more willing to purchase when a business or company accepts PayPal.
- Over 80 million people use PayPal One Touch.
- Its users have surpassed 377 million.
SpaceX – Rocket Launches, Successes & Failures
By June 2002, Musk had moved onto his next project – SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies. He had long been intrigued by the prospect of life on Mars and was a member of the Mars Society, a non-profit group dedicated to the planet’s exploration.
The Mars Society is the world’s largest and most powerful space advocacy group, committed to the exploration and settlement of Mars. Established by Dr. Robert Zubrin – among others – in 1998, the group works to educate the public, the media and the government on the advantages of this and creating a permanent human presence on the planet.
As stated on their website, they seek to:
‘’1. Organize public outreach with the aim of fostering a deep interest in Mars,
- Promote broad international support for government-funded Mars research and exploration, and
- Advocate the establishment of commercial space ventures that will help achieve Mars exploration and settlement.’’
A Brief History Of SpaceX
“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”
- Elon Musk
SpaceX was formed in the hopes of transforming the aerospace market and making affordable spaceflight more than just sci-fiction. It began with the Falcon 1 rocket, a two-stage liquid-fueled craft created to send smaller sized satellites into orbit. The Falcon 1 was far more cost-effective to build and operate than its competitors – which included the likes of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. One of the reasons for this was due to the SpaceX-developed Merlin engine – a cheaper alternative to those used by other companies. SpaceX also focused on creating reusable rockets, whereas, typically, launch vehicles are designed for one-time use.
In March 2006, SpaceX made its first Falcon 1 launch, which, although began successfully, unfortunately ended abruptly due to a fuel leak and fire. At this point, the company had earned millions of dollars in launching orders – largely due to orders from the US government. In August 2006, SpaceX was a winner of a NASA competition for investment to build spacecraft that could service the International Space Station (ISS) after the decommissioning of the space shuttle.
Falcon 1 launches that failed to reach Earth orbit came in March 2007 and August 2008. However, in September 2008, SpaceX became the first privately owned company to send a liquid-fueled rocket into orbit. Shortly after, the business won a NASA contract for servicing the ISS that was worth over $1 billion.
In 2010, SpaceX launched its new Falcon 9, a larger craft which featured 9 engines, and in 2011, it created the Falcon Heavy – a spacecraft the company hoped would be the first to break the $1,000-per-pound-to-orbit cost limit and that one day could be used to carry astronauts into deep space. By December 2010, SpaceX had become the first commercial business to debut a spacecraft – the Dragon capsule – into orbit and return it to Earth without any issue. The Dragon capsule made history in May 2021, when it became the first commercial spacecraft to dock the ISS, delivering cargo. In August that year, SpaceX announced that it had won a contract from NASA to develop a successor to the space shuttle that would transport astronauts into space.
The Falcon 9 was devised so that its first stage could be easily reused. In 2015, a Falcon 9 first stage successfully returned to Earth closeby to its launch site. In 2016, SpaceX started using drone ships for rocket stage landings. A rocket stage that had come back to Earth was reused in a 2017 launch – highlighting its usability once more. The same year, on a flight to the International Space Station, a Dragon capsule was reused. The Falcon Heavy rocket took to the skies for the first time in 2018. Two of the three first stages successfully landed, while the third crashed into the water near the drone ship. Instead of a satellite, the Falcon Heavy launched a Tesla Roadster with a mannequin in a space suit strapped into the driver’s seat into orbit around the Sun.
On May 30, 2020, astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken became the first crewed flight of a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. SpaceX also announced the successor to the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy: the Super Heavy–Starship system, which was firstly named the BFR – Big Falcon Rocket.
The Super Heavy first stage was said to be capable of lifting 100,000 kg (220,000 pounds) to low Earth orbit. In terms of commercial success and profitability, the Starship helped SpaceX immensely, and was created for several reasons. This included offering quick transportation between cities on Earth and building bases on the Moon and Mars. In 2023, SpaceX plans to use the Starship to transport Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa and other artists around the Moon, as well as to launch settlers to Mars in the mid-2020s.
- California – Build Facility – SpaceX designs and builds its reusable rockets and spacecraft at its headquarters, located in Hawthorne, California. As a company, SpaceX is vertically integrated, creating the vast majority of the vehicles on the Hawthorne campus. SpaceX’s headquarters remains one of the few places in the world where you can witness an entire launch vehicle or spacecraft created together under one roof.
- Texas – Testing Facility – SpaceX tests its engines, vehicle structures, and systems at a 4,000-acre advanced rocket development centre in McGregor, Texas. Featuring 16 test stands, it safety checks for flight each Merlin engine that drives the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, as well as every Draco thruster that controls the Dragon spacecraft.
- Florida – Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Space Launch Complex 40 – The site’s position on the US’s southeast coast gives it access to a variety of low and medium inclination orbits, which are often used by communications and Earth-observing satellites, as well as supply missions to the International Space Station. Providing access to geostationary orbits, it also offers access to Moon departures and interplanetary destinations.
- Florida – Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39a – Home to Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, the historic LC-39A supports crew launches of the Dragon spacecraft.
- California – Vandenberg Air Force Base, Space Launch Complex 4 East – Customers can navigate high inclination and polar orbits, which are commonly used by satellite communication constellations, defence intelligence and Earth-observing satellites, and some lunar missions, thanks to the site’s position on the California coast. Launches from Vandenberg head south, crossing open ocean all the way to Antarctica, where the vehicles have already entered orbit.
- Texas – South Texas Launch Site – In the Cameron County area of South Texas, SpaceX is constructing the world’s first commercial launch site built for orbital missions. SpaceX’s build and launch site for its Starship test articles and spacecraft can also be found here.
SpaceX In The News – 2021:
In March 2021, the latest rocket, Starship 11, exploded just before its first launch sequence, bringing with it debris over the launch pad surrounding it. Taking off in dense fog, the rocket tried to flip itself into its landing position – where the rocket is supposed to drop straight down using its boosters to slow down its descent into the near atmosphere. However, this didn’t occur, instead resulting in an explosion.
Commenting on the incident, Musk stated that, “something significant” had happened not long after the landing burn sequence started, and that the business would be looking into what had happened. The SN11 test was the most recent in a sequence of tests of SpaceX’s Starship, which has the end goal of going to Mars.
“Please consider moving to Starbase or greater Brownsville/South Padre area in Texas & encourage friends to do so! SpaceX’s hiring needs for engineers, technicians, builders & essential support personnel of all kinds are growing rapidly,” He also added that Starbase, “will grow by several thousand people over the next year or two”. Musk had previously stated that he wants to create and build a city around that SpaceX facility, where the company is currently testing its prototype rockets. At the time of writing, there are 1000+ job vacancies available at SpaceX, most of which can be found in Brownsville. Elon has also tweeted that over 10,000 individuals will be required for Giga Texas between now and 2022, and to attract the right people – he will be making a very generous donation of $20 million to Cameron County schools, and an extra $10 million to Brownsville for “downtown revitalisation”.
Currently, the employment offer is only available for US citizens, due to the fact that the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) only allows military technology to be operated on by US citizens and US-based companies. Funnily enough, these regulations have been heavily criticised as hindering the country’s potential advantages from foreign experts, though at the same time, have been praised for national security reasons.
In April, 2021, the US Dragon crew ship launched to the International Space Station, from Florida, making it the first space crew launch from US soil in 2021. Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Frenchman Thomas Pesquet and Japanese flier Akihiko Hoshide were launched into orbit in a Dragon capsule located on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. The team performed a direct handover to the previous crew – Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Soichi Noguchi and Shannon Walker – who came home the following week.
The Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule (also known as Endeavour) used on this mission had actually flown before. Endeavour was incorporated into the historic Demo-2 mission in May of 2020. This was the mission that launched US astronauts from US soil for the first time in 9 years since the retirement of space shuttles in 2011.
In other news, Nasa chose SpaceX to create and build a lander that will transport people to the moon by the end of the decade. This space vehicle will take the next man, and first ever woman down to the lunar surface under Nasa’s Artemis programme. This lander is said to be based on the Starship spacecraft, and is being tested at one of the sites in southern Texas. For this contract, SpaceX were pitted against a joint bid from the usual aerospace industry rulers and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, along with Alabama-based Dynetics. The actual value of the contract given to Musk is $2.89bn.
“With this award, Nasa and our partners will complete the first crewed demonstration mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st century as the agency takes a step forward for women’s equality and long-term deep space exploration…This critical step puts humanity on a path to sustainable lunar exploration and keeps our eyes on missions farther into the Solar System, including Mars.”
What makes Musk’s creation different? With a spacious cabin and two airlocks – meaning astronauts can exit far more easily for moonwalks – space exploration has come a long way from the cramped, spindly lunar module (LM) that carried 12 men to the surface throughout the US Apollo programme between 1969 and 1972. The new vehicle will also be known as the Human Landing System (HLS).
At the time of writing, the Starship vehicle is being tested at a facility in Boca Chica, South Texas. A small number of uncrewed prototypes had been launched to altitudes of 10km or higher, before being brought back down in misguided attempts to land them softly on the ground.
Tesla – Breaking Records and New Cars
Tesla, Inc., formerly (2003–17) Tesla Motors, is an electric-automobile manufacturer. Founded in 2003 by American entrepreneurs Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, it was named after Serbian American inventor Nikola Tesla. Best known for discovering the properties of rotating electromagnetic fields, Tesla’s work led to what we call, “alternating current,” – the unit of electrical transmission still used to this day. Eberhard was the CEO of Tesla when it was founded, and Tarpenning was the CFO. They created the company to build and manufacture an entirely electric vehicle, partly in response to the positive response test markets had to General Motors’ (GM) previous electric vehicle experiment, the EV1. While GM only ran this programme from 1996 to 1999, producing a small number of cars that were never sold to the general public, it was widely regarded as a success in terms of engineering. The company received investment from a number of sources, including Elon Musk, who invested more than $30 million in the new venture and served as chairman of the board of directors starting in 2004.
Tesla released its first car, the completely electric Roadster in 2008. It has a range of 245 miles (394 km) on a single charge, which is unparalleled for a production electric vehicle. Further tests have shown that its performance is comparable to that of many gasoline-powered sports cars: the Roadster could accelerate from 0 to 60 miles (96 km) per hour in less than 4 seconds and could reach a top speed of 125 miles (200 km) per hour. The car body was lightweight and made of carbon fibre, bolstering its strength and durability. What’s more, the Roadster produced no tailpipe emissions, as it didn’t feature an internal-combustion engine. In fact, Tesla Motors found that their car garnered efficiency ratings that were equivalent to a gasoline mileage of 135 miles per gallon (57 km per litre). Lithium-ion cells, which are widely used in laptop batteries, were used to power the vehicle’s electric motor, which could be recharged using a normal electrical outlet. Despite a $7,500 federal tax credit for buying an electric car, the Roadster’s $109,000 price tag made it a luxury product.
With the Roadster, Tesla achieved something that no business had ever achieved before. They created an entirely electric car with beneficial specifications that could meet consumer requirements. Previous experiments within this field had failed because, among other problems, companies struggled to produce a battery powerful enough to keep cars on the road, and a cost-efficient motor that could be placed inside the vehicle and get it to a highway speed.
The Roadster, however, met those needs. The first model produced in 2008 could travel close to 250 miles on a single battery, with acceleration and top speed comparable to most sports cars. The Roadster used a typical lithium-ion battery, similar to that found in many electronic devices, and customers could recharge the car at a standard wall outlet.
The Roadster Key Information:
- Acceleration 0-60 mph – 1.9 seconds
- Acceleration 0-100 mph – 4.2 seconds
- Acceleration 1/4 mile – 8.8 seconds
- Top Speed – Over 250 mph
- Wheel Torque- 10,000 Nm.
- Mile Range – 620 miles
- Seating – 4
- Drive – All-Wheel Drive
- Range – 390 mi (est.)
- 1/4 Mile – 9.23@155 mph trap speed
- Peak Power – 1,020 hp
- Wheels – 19″ or 21″
- Cargo – 793 litres
- Weight – 2,162 kg
- Acceleration – 1.99 s 0-60 mph (with rollout subtracted)
- Top Speed – 200 mph (when equipped with the proper wheels and tyres (available in Autumn 2021)
- Drag Coefficient – 0.208 Cd
- Powertrain – Tri Motor
- Supercharging Max – 250 kW
The Long Range:
- Range – 412 mi (est.)
- Peak Power – 670 hp
- Wheels – 19″ or 21″
- Cargo – 793 litres
- Acceleration – 3.1 s 0-60 mph
- Top Speed – 155 mph
- Drag Coefficient – 0.208 Cd
- Weight – 2,069 kg
- Powertrain – Dual Motor
- Supercharging Max – 250 kW
- Battery – Long Range
- Acceleration – 3.1s 0-60 mph
- Range (WLTP) – 352 mi
- Drive – Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive
- Seating – 5 Adults
- Wheels – 20″
- Weight – 1,844 kg
- Cargo – 542 litres
- Displays – 15″ Centre Touchscreen
- Supercharging – Pay Per Use
Long Range AWD
Battery – Long Range
Acceleration – 4.2s 0-60 mph
Range (WLTP) – 360 mi
Drive – Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive
Seating – 5 Adults
Wheels – 18″ or 19″
Weight – 1,844 kg
Cargo – 542 litres
Displays – 15″ Centre Touchscreen
Supercharging – Pay Per Use
- Battery – Standard Range
- Acceleration – 5.3s 0-60 mph
- Range (WLTP) – 278 mi
- Drive – Rear-Wheel Drive
- Seating – 5 Adults
- Wheels – 18″ or 19″
- Weight – 1,625 kg
- Cargo – 542 litres
- Displays – 15″ Centre Touchscreen
- Supercharging – Pay Per Use
Partial Premium Interior
- 12-way power adjustable heated front seats
- Premium seat material and trim
- Upgraded audio – immersive sound
- Premium Connectivity (30 days included)
- Tinted glass roof with ultraviolet and infrared protection
- Power folding, heated side mirrors
- Music and media over Bluetooth®
- Custom driver profiles
- Centre console with storage, 4 USB ports and docking for 2 smartphones
- 12-way power adjustable front seats
- Heated front and rear seats
- Premium audio – 14 speakers, 1 subwoofer, 2 amps and immersive sound
- Premium Connectivity (1 year included)
- LED fog lamps
- Interior floor mats
- Tinted glass roof with ultraviolet and infrared protection
- Power folding, heated side mirrors
- Music and media over Bluetooth®
- Custom driver profiles
- Centre console with storage, 4 USB ports and docking for 2 smartphones
- Range – 340 mi (est.)
- 1/4 Mile – 9.9 s
- Peak Power – 1,020 hp
- Wheels – 20″ or 22″
- Towing – 2,268 kg
- Seating – Up to 7
- Acceleration – 2.5 s 0-60 mph (with rollout subtracted)
- Top Speed – 163 mph
- Drag Coefficient – 0.25 Cd
- Weight – 2,455 kg
- Powertrain – Tri Motor
- Supercharging Max – 250 kW
- Range – 360 mi (est.)
- Peak Power – 670 hp
- Wheels – 20″ or 22″
- Towing – 2,268 kg
- Seating – Up to 7
- Acceleration – 3.8 s 0-60 mph
- Top Speed – 155 mph
- Drag Coefficient – 0.25 Cd
- Weight – 2,352 kg
- Powertrain – Dual Motor
- Supercharging Max – 250 kW
- Battery – Long Range
- Acceleration – 3.5s 0-60 mph
- Range – 298 miles (WLTP est.)
- Drive – Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive
- Seating – Up to 7
- Wheels – 21”
- Weight – 2,003 kg
- Max Cargo Volume – 66 cu ft
- Top Speed – 150 mph
- Displays – 15″ Centre Touchscreen
- Supercharging – Pay Per Use
Long Range AWD:
- Battery – Long Range
- Acceleration – 4.8s 0-60 mph
- Range – 314 miles (WLTP est.)
- Drive – Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive
- Seating – Up to 7
- Wheels – 19″ or 20″
- Weight – 2,003 kg
- Max Cargo Volume – 66 cu ft
- Top Speed – 135 mph
- Displays – 15″ Centre Touchscreen
- Supercharging – Pay Per Use
- 12-way power adjustable front and rear heated seats
- 2nd row seats that fold flat
- Premium audio – 14 speakers, 1 subwoofer, 2 amps, and immersive sound
- LED fog lamps
- Tinted glass roof with ultraviolet and infrared protection
- Power folding, heated side mirrors
- Music and media over Bluetooth®
- Custom driver profiles
- Center console with storage, 4 USB ports and docking for 2 smartphones
Beyond cars, Tesla also sells:
The Powerwall is a battery that stores energy, identifies outages and automatically becomes your home’s energy source when the energy grid goes down. Unlike generators, Powerwall keeps your lights on and phones charged without maintenance, upkeep, fuel or noise.
Through the Tesla app, you can even monitor your home’s energy production and usage. The app allows you to set preferences for energy optimisation, outage protection or savings from anywhere.
- Energy Capacity – 13.5 kWh / 100% depth of discharge / 90% round trip efficiency.
- Power – 7kW peak / 5kW continuous / Seamless backup transition / Pure sine wave output.
- Size and Weight – L x W x D (45.3″ x 29.6″ x 5.75″) / 1150 mm x 753 mm x 147 mm / 251.3 lbs / 114 kg.
- Installation – Floor or wall mounted / Indoor or outdoor / Up to 10 Powerwalls / -4°F to 122°F / -20°C to 50°C / Water and dust resistance to IP67.
- Certifications – Meets US and international safety standards /Meets US and international EMI standards.
Eberhard retired as CEO and president of technology in late 2007 and joined the company’s advisory board. In 2008, he announced his departure from the business, though he still remained a key shareholder. Tarpenning – who at the time was vice president of electrical engineering, supervising the development of electronic and software systems for the Roadster, decided to leave in 2008 too. Musk was appointed CEO. Tesla’s initial public offering (IPO) in 2010 raised $226 million. Tesla halted development of the Roadster in 2012 to focus on its new Model S sedan, which received critical acclaim for its performance and design. This car offered three varying battery options, which gave estimated ranges of 235 or 300 miles (379 or 483 km). The battery option with the highest performance provided an acceleration of 0 to 60 miles (96 km) per hour in just over 4 seconds and a top speed of 130 miles (209 km) per hour. Unlike the Roadster, which had its batteries in the front, the Model S had them under the floor, which allowed for more storage in the front and better handling due to its low centre of gravity. The Tesla Autopilot – a type of semi-autonomous driving, was available in 2014 on the Model S, as well as in future models.
Tesla began building Supercharger stations in the United States and Europe in 2012, with the goal of charging batteries quickly and at no additional cost to Tesla owners. Later models of those stations were dubbed Tesla Stations, and could allow users to replace their Model S battery pack themselves. In 2015, Tesla launched the Model X, a “crossover” vehicle (i.e., a vehicle with features of an SUV but based on a car chassis). The Model X had a range of up to 295 miles (475 km) on a single charge and seating for up to seven people. With demand increasing for a cheaper option, the Model 3, a four-door sedan with a range of 220 miles (354 km) and a price tag of $35,000, started production in 2017. Solar energy products were also added to the company’s portfolio. In 2015, a line of batteries for storing solar energy for use in homes and businesses were launched. Tesla then bought the solar panel company SolarCity in 2016. In 2017 the company changed its name to Tesla, Inc., to reflect that it no longer sold just cars.
Unfortunately, a bit of trouble hit in 2018, when Musk tweeted that he wanted to take the company private, as he’d managed to secure good funding. However, in September 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Elon with securities fraud, stating that his tweets were “false and misleading.” Tesla’s board refused a suggested settlement from the SEC, reportedly after Musk threatened to resign. Still, news of the rejected deal saw the company’s stock plummet, and the board were steadfast to accept a much less generous settlement. This included Musk stepping down as chairman for three years at the very least. He was however allowed to stay CEO. Tesla and Musk were also fined $20 million.
Key Tesla Stats:
- In 2020, for the full year, Tesla delivered 499,550 cars to customers around the world, just shy of its target of half a million, and produced 509,737.
- Tesla’s Model 3 and its crossover Model Y were responsible for close to 86% of deliveries, with the balance split between the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV.
- According to the Economic Times: ‘’Though its car production is modest compared with rivals, Tesla’s growth prospects have spurred investors to push up its value so that it is now worth more than General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Fiat Chrysler and Volkswagen combined.’’
SolarCity – Panels, Costs & New Versions
Employing approximately 13,000 people and operating in 20 locations, SolarCity is one of the largest solar energy businesses in the United States. The company designs and installs solar panels on the roofs of homes and buildings, serving over 250,000 customers. SolarCity isn’t the company that invented the solar panel, but it is credited with making solar panels more widely adopted. Not long before its establishment in 2006, solar panels were very costly (approximately $30,000 to $50,000 upfront), making many hesitant to switch to them. In response, SolarCity created a lease model that allowed customers to install solar panels with no money down and save money at the same time. However, this financing model eventually caused SolarCity trouble, due to having to invest much money to buy and maintain the equipment for panel installations.
A brief history of SolarCity:
- 2006: SolarCity is founded by Peter and Lyndon Rive, who are actually cousins of Elon Musk.
- 2013: SolarCity becomes the most reputable residential solar installer in the United States.
- August 2016: SolarCity becomes part of Tesla.
- October 2016: Tesla launches a new solar roof product.
- April 2017: Tesla unveils “sleek and low profile” Panasonic solar panels.
- May 2017: Tesla starts taking orders for their new solar roof.
- August 2017: Gigafactory 2 opens in Buffalo, New York, creating Panasonic modules and solar roof shingles.
- August 2017: First solar roof systems installed for customers.
- February 2018: Tesla announces solar partnership with Home Depot to sell Powerwall and Panasonic solar panels in store.
- June 2018: Tesla decides to end partnerships with Home Depot.
What could the future of SolarCity look like?
All indications point to Tesla’s solar business expanding further. The first mass installations of the solar roof are expected to begin this year, and version 3 of the product is said to be nearly finished. However, since their Home Depot relationship is no longer active, they will not proceed with the rollout of their exclusive Panasonic-manufactured panels and Tesla Powerwall batteries via that channel. What’s more, Tesla appears to be moving away from the conventional SolarCity lease-based installation model in favour of cash or loan financing choices. This seems a move to make the installations more profitable, while still meeting the demands of homeowners who would like their own solar panels.
As we saw in 2016-2018, SolarCity has slowly been broken up. Many employees have been laid off, and both of Musk’s cousins have left the company. Tesla is currently concentrating heavily on their automotive company as they continue to scale up Model 3 production, so it may not be too much of a surprise if the new solar arm of Musk’s empire is temporarily placed on hold sometime soon.
Things are still unclear about the SolarCity name. On the internet, “SolarCity” is still used in branding, but Tesla is the company name that covers Elon Musk’s electric car, electric battery, and solar energy projects. Tesla Energy is a subset of Tesla that deals with solar panels and batteries.
Both the SolarCity and Tesla websites currently allow you to request a custom quote for Panasonic solar panels and the Tesla solar roof. It’s possible that Tesla is keeping the SolarCity name around for brand awareness and association value – after all, SolarCity was once the nation’s leading solar installer.
Current SolarCity Products Include:
- Residential Solar Panel Rentals: In the second quarter of 2019, Tesla’s installations fell to a new low of 29 megawatts, in comparison to SolarCity’s installation of 253 megawatts in the fourth quarter of 2015 (before Tesla decided to acquire the company. In August of 2019, Tesla announced they would start renting out solar systems to customers in six states starting at $50 a month, in a bid to increase residential solar sales. This certainly helped, and in the first quarter of 2020, Tesla was third in residential solar installations with a 6.3% share.
- Solar roof: Beforehand, solar energy systems had been typically installed by attaching solar panels on an existing roof. In August of 2016, Elon announced that Tesla would be creating a new product: Tesla Solar Roof. Within this product, the photovoltaic energy-generating devices and system combine to make up an entire roof surface. In August of 2017, limited production of tiles for the Tesla Solar Roof started at the Buffalo, New York Gigafactory 2. After testing occurred on staff members’ roofs, Tesla announced in January 2018 that it would start product installation on commercial customers’ homes “within the next few months.” As of October 2019, however, Tesla was “still tinkering with the product three years after announcing the concept, having done trial installations with two different iterations so far.” The second version had been too expensive for Tesla to manufacture in volume, and production was limited on the supply side because of selling them below cost, and a greater focus on Model 3 issues. Fortunately, in October of 2019, Tesla announced Version 3 (“V3”) of the solar roof design, and in March of 2020, Tesla reported that it had reached its goal by producing 4 MW of solar roofs in a week, which they stated is enough for 1,000 homes.
- Commercial Solar Panels: In July of 2008, SolarCity completed what was, at the time, the biggest commercial solar installation in San Francisco, for British Motor Car Distributors. This comprised 1,606 solar photovoltaic panels. Shortly after, SolarCity introduced extra financing options for companies, and created projects for companies and organisations such as Walmart, Intel, and the U.S. military.
Neuralink – Brain Chips, Pigs & Monkeys
In 2017, Musk backed the brain-computer interface venture – Neuralink, even though the company was relatively new, and had absolutely no public presence. Neuralink was created with the desire to create devices that could be implanted into the human brain, with the purpose of helping people integrate with software and keep up with developments in artificial intelligence. It was believed that these advancements could help boost memory, and ensure greater interfacing with computing devices – for human benefit.
Elon had previously hinted at the possibility of working with Neuralink, first telling a crowd at the World Government Summit in Dubai, that, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” and that, “It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.’’ He’d also replied positively to fans on Twitter who’d been asking about his progress with neural lace – a brain-computer interface humans can use to help advance themselves along technological lines. Up until that point, these types of interfaces only existed in science fiction. In the medical industry, electrode arrays and similar implants had been used to help reduce the impact of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases, however, only a small number of people had had complex implants placed within their skulls. In terms of basic devices number, which had been tried and tested successfully, this number was in the tens of thousands – largely due to the invasive and life-threatening nature of the procedure, and only being used if all other options had proven ineffective.
What’s more, other tech industry giants were fascinated by the possibilities of this. For example, Kernel (a startup business created by Braintree co-founder, Bryan Johnson), has been quickly growing its team of neuroscientists and software engineers, and have been researching into reversing the damaging effects of neurodegenerative diseases and, they hope to make brains more connected too.
Speaking to The Verge in 2017, Johnson has said: “We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson’s…This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code.” He’d also stated that Kernel’s goal is to “work with the brain the same way we work with other complex biological systems like biology and genetics.”
In terms of Neuralink, the company first showcased some of its technology publicly in 2019. One development was flexible threads, which have a lower likelihood of damaging the brain than materials that had previously been used in brain-machine interfaces. These threads also allow the transmission of a greater volume of data, as stated in the whitepaper: “Elon Musk & Neuralink.” Within the abstract of the whitepaper, it stated that the advanced system could incorporate, “as many as 3,072 electrodes per array distributed across 96 threads.” The threads are 4 to 6 μm in width, making them even thinner than one human hair. What’s more, another development was the machine that embeds them.
As also stated at the launch event, in the future, Neuralink hopes to use a laser beam to get through the skull, instead of drilling holes. Early experiments will be conducted with neuroscientists at Stanford University, to see its efficacy.
Beyond this, Neuralink has developed and created an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) to build a 1,536-channel recording system. The system comprises 256 amplifiers that are capable of being individually programmed (“analog pixels”), analog-to-digital converters within the chip (“ADCs”) and a peripheral circuit control to serialise the digitised information found. This system hopes to convert information taken from neurons into an easy-to-understand binary code, to provide greater knowledge of brain functionality, and how brains stimulate these neurons back. At the moment, electrodes are far too big to record neuron firing at the individual level. Neuralink has high hopes that this issue could be resolved algorithmically – taking both expense and result accuracy into account.
In 2020, the company revealed a pig called Gertrude, that had had a coin-sized computer chip inserted into its brain. Musk showcased what he named the “three little pigs demo.” Gertrude, with a Neuralink implant in the part of her brain that controls her snout, started eating food off of a stool and sniffing straw that had been laid out for her, triggering spikes on a graph which was tracking the pig’s neural activity, suggesting a connection, and early success. Musk also revealed that Neuralink had 3 pigs, each with 2 implants, and that they were, “healthy, happy and indistinguishable from a normal pig.”
Commenting on Gertrude, Graeme Moffat, a University of Toronto neuroscience research fellow, claimed these developments were, “order of magnitude leaps beyond current science thanks to the novel chip’s size, portability and wireless capabilities.’’
Echoing similar thoughts, Stanford University neuroscientist, Sergey Stavisky, stated that the company had made exciting progress since 2019, and that,
“Going from that to the fully implanted system in several pigs they showed is impressive and, I think, really highlights the strengths of having a large multidisciplinary team focused on this problem.” However, other researchers have said that longer studies and more in depth research are needed to identify the longevity of the device within the brain.
In early 2021, Neuralink released footage showing a monkey called Pager playing a video game after having two chips implanted. The game, ‘Mind Pong’ required Pager to control a paddle just by thinking about moving his hand up or down. This has disease links, as Musk tweeted: ‘’First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs.’’ In a further tweet, he stated: ‘’Later versions will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in brain to Neuralinks in body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again.’’ and, ‘’The device is implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look & feel totally normal.”
Personal Life – Relationships, Views & Opinions
Elon’s first wife, Justine Wilson, met him at Queen’s University in Ontario. As stated in Marie Claire, Justine discusses what would have been their first date, in which he invited her out for ice cream. She actually decided to stay in and study instead, but he showed up with “two chocolate-chip ice cream cones dripping down his hands.” Even after Musk transferred to Wharton, he still sent Justine roses, and they reconnected just as Musk began working on his first startup and Justine started working on her first book, following graduation. She claims that Musk wooed her by giving her his credit card to buy as many books as she wanted. They got married in 2000, moved to Los Angeles and had a son – Nevada – who unfortunately died of SIDS. They also had 5 sons – twins and triplets. He has called his children, “the love of my life.”
They decided to split in 2008, with Justine keeping the Musk surname for the sake of their children. Not long after the divorce, Musk began dating actress Talulah Riley. Although he became estranged from Justine, the latter has stated that she and Riley get on and are good friends. She’s even been quoted as saying, ‘’I would rather live out the French-movie version of things, in which the two women become friends and various philosophies are pondered.”
Riley and Musk got married in 2010, but it wasn’t without its ups and downs. Two years later, their divorce became public knowledge when Musk tweeted: “It was an amazing four years. I will love you forever. You will make someone very happy one day” at Riley on Twitter. In 2013 however, they remarried, with Musk filing for a divorce in 2014, which he then withdrew. It was Talulah who finished things off, filing for divorce in 2016. They both remain close however, and she’s been quoted as stating: “We still see each other all the time and take care of each other.”
Next, he dated actress Amber Heard in 2016, but they broke up a year later due to their very busy work schedules. Commenting on one of Heard’s Instagram posts, Elon said he and Amber were, “still friends, remain close and love one another” and added “who knows what the future holds.”
Musk and Grimes, a Canadian artist, attended the annual Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May 2018. Page Six announced at the time that the couple had been “quietly dating” for a few weeks. They both originally met through Twitter – Elon was planning on making a joke about artificial intelligence, in terms of the Rococo Basilisk character in her “Flesh Without Blood” video, but he discovered that she had made the same joke first. Musk later told the Wall Street Journal that Grimes has “crazy fae creative talent and hyper intense work ethic,” which he admires. Grimes posted a photo of herself pregnant with a foetus Photoshopped on her abdomen to her Instagram and Twitter accounts in January 2020. She later announced that she and Musk were expecting a child. Musk and Grimes called their son “X A-Xii Musk,” which appears to be pronounced “X Ash A-12,” when he and Grimes announced the birth of their son on May 4, 2020. Musk posted on Twitter, “Mom & baby all good.”
More recently, Musk has found himself embroiled in a bitter legal fight between Heard and her ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp. Musk has denied any connection with Heard when she was still married, as well as other shady claims that have emerged during the case.
Musk’s political views have been the cause of much debate in recent years, For example, after being accused of being a socialist by one of his 24.6 million Twitter followers, he stated his stance as being more moderate. This insight came after a guy named Sandro Sanfelice asked if the city Musk was planning to build on Mars would be ‘libertarian’ – the name for a political belief that promotes personal liberty and limited government. One of Musk’s critics decided to get involved and wrote: ‘’Unfortunately, Elon is openly socialist’’. The billionaire has spoken openly about his plans for a settlement on Mars, describing it in terms that say it will be run on libertarian and democratic principles.
In general terms, although people on the right have stated hope that Musk is on their side, both liberals and leftists have attacked his beliefs, and have argued he is a crypto-conservative. Even after it was discovered he’s made donations to certain Republicans, Elon denied any allegations that he was a supporter of that party, and even tweeted: ‘’To be clear, I am not a conservative. ‘Am registered independent & politically moderate. Doesn’t mean I’m moderate about all issues. Humanitarian issues are extremely important to me & I don’t understand why they are not important to everyone.’’
He has however expressed disdain of socialism, tweeting in 2018: ‘’‘Those who proclaim themselves “socialists” are usually depressing, have no sense of humour & attended an expensive college. ‘Fate loves irony.’’’
Elon Musk’s views and beliefs
One of the most intriguing points regarding Elon is the beliefs and views that he holds – these are often the foundation behind many of his actions, significantly impacting how he thinks, acts, and operates on both a personal and professional level. From his views on science, which have led to pioneering ventures and developments in space, travel, and technology, to political beliefs that have helped to shape the entire nature of the USA, it’s important to understand that there are many deep-rooted beliefs that fuel Elon Musk’s fire! Over time, Musk has come under fire for many of his comments regarding politics and the development of technology, but it’s important that despite all of the money, fame, and notoriety, he is still just a human with thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Below, we’ll take a closer look at some of the views and beliefs Elon holds, and how we can see those being applied in his wider work.
To make things a little easier, we’ll break things down into three sections, political views, scientific views, and then other views/beliefs that are entirely separate from those – by looking at it this way, it becomes a little easier to look at personal matters and professional matters as different things, which is important when focusing on a man who has such a deep history of innovation and intelligence in his many fields of interest. Read on to learn more about Elon Musk’s views and opinions on all things politics, science, religion, and beyond!
Political Views and Opinions
First up, let’s take a look at the political views that Elon Musk holds, which have been a huge source of media attention in recent years, as Musk has become more forward with these views and beliefs through his use of Twitter and his wider platforms for communicating with the public. Politically, Musk states that he does not have a specific political alignment, instead choosing to focus on the matters that he holds closest to himself and offering support and candidates who share those views. In doing this, Elon has stated that he is a significant donor to both the Democrat and Republican parties, offering considerable financial support to campaigns on both sides of the US election. Whilst this may seem like a rather confusing approach to politics for many outsiders, it becomes far easier to understand when you take a moment to see things from Musk’s perspective – by donating to both parties, he’s able to help influence both sides of the election on the matters he holds dear, which is the most effective way to push for change within the establishment.
Musk has often said that he is “socially liberal and fiscally conservative”, which is probably the best way to describe his own views on politics; he recognises the strengths and weaknesses in the manifestos of each party, without taking a tribal approach which would likely be detrimental to his campaign for widespread education and understanding of major issues within the US political landscape. Above all, Musk believes in democracy and sees it as one of the fundamental factors that are necessary in the world; he’s gone as far as to say that the government on Mars (which we’ll touch on later in his scientific beliefs) will be a direct democracy rather than an authoritarian state. In interviews with The Washington Post, where Elon disclosed that he is a donor to both major parties in the US election, he also claimed that being a political donor is the only way to have a voice in the United States government – whilst this may not be a pleasant fact to hear, it’s positive to see that people with the right ideology are trying to become more involved with politics in the USA in an attempt to affect real change on issues that matter.
In the Trump era, Musk’s political alignment did become a little clearer as he took a seat on former-president Trump’s council in a role as a business advisor. In this role, Musk gave advice on the areas where he holds expertise, but he quickly stepped down from these positions in 2017 in protest against the former president’s stance on climate change, where he removed the USA from the Paris Agreement, which aims to fight against the worrying impacts of the rising climate.
During his time as an advisor, Musk had stated, “the more voices of reason that the President hears, the better”, which is perhaps a damning indictment of the President’s own judgement. In response to Trump’s ill-informed decision to remove the US from the Paris Agreement, Musk said, “Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world”.
The Trump reign isn’t the only occasion where Musk has had an input into politics, however; he has been a long-time contributor to election campaigns, notably in 2012 where it is estimated that he donated around $250,000 to various candidates and election campaigns. In 2020, Musk declared his support for Kanye West’s independent run for president, which was a short-lived dream that was quickly shut down.
Scientific Beliefs and Opinions
Perhaps the most prominent part of Elon Musk’s life is his experience within scientific discovery and innovation, where his various companies have excelled over the past 20 years, becoming a major forced to be reckoned with in every industry where they hold a presence. Whilst Musk is most notable for his part to play in major companies such as PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla, there are many more businesses where he is an active figure, which shows his deep passion and dedication for scientific and technological advancements. Whilst Musk evidently believes heavily in technology, there are a few areas where he believes there are huge dangers that we must all be aware of – notably AI, or Artificial Intelligence.
When it comes to AI, an industry seeing heavy investment from across the globe, Musk believes that we must proceed with caution or else face “the most serious threat to the survival of the human race”. Musk is incredibly confident in this belief, stating it on many occasions, including in an interview at MIT. His belief is that, whilst AI is becoming an increasingly important tool, there will come a time where it progresses beyond this if there is no strict regulation and oversight put into place in the near future. Without this oversight in place, Elon predicts that we could be on the cusp of “doing something very foolish” in terms of artificial intelligence. To really drill home his thoughts on AI, Musk has likened our work around AI to be similar to “summoning the devil”, but only time will tell if this prediction has any merit. Despite his apprehensions when it comes to AI, Musk has dabbled in the field himself as the co-chairman of OpenAI. To help overcome the proposed challenges and dangers that he has outlined regarding AI, he donated $10,000,000 to Future of Life Institue, a nonprofit organisation focused on overcoming the challenges of advanced technology such as artificial intelligence and products like it.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic shook the world to its core, with many still feeling the effects a year on. Businesses were decimated, people forced into poverty, and our entire approach to the world was changed entirely. During this time, there were many expert opinions being put forward in an attempt to find the best way to overcome the virus, but certain notable figures held opposing beliefs to these. One such opposition was Elon Musk, who received a great deal of criticism for his statements regarding the pandemic. Experts have accused Musk of acting dangerously and irresponsibly during the pandemic by spreading false information using his global platform as a source of information and scientific innovation. To see such views coming from a trusted scientific source has been seen as a very dangerous move given the seriousness of the pandemic and the devastating impact that it has had on families across the world. In his misguided outburst, Elon Musk likened the pandemic to the common cold and that “the coronavirus panic is dumb”. Of course, this viewpoint is not shared by experts in virology or the Center of Infection and Immunity.
Aside from his beliefs founded within politics and scientific innovation, there are many more intriguing things that Elon Musk has gone on record to talk about in the past, some of which are way more outlandish than others – here are a few of the things that Musk has spoken about in the past:
We’re just a video game
Elon is a huge fan of thinking beyond our own reality, which is evidenced by his endeavours in space and technology; essentially, Musk is on a mission to learn more about our universe (and any universe that’s beyond that) and is spending incredible amounts of time and resources in pushing towards groundbreaking discoveries. One of the major concepts that Musk has spoken about is the validity of our own universe – there are many theories that look into the possibility of a multiverse, or our own reality not being as it seems, and Musk is very vocal about his beliefs on this matter. Put rather bluntly, Musk stated that there’s a “one in a billion chance that we’re in base reality”, which basically means that the chances of the reality that we all think we’re living within being the true base reality is very slim, or near impossible. As an extension of this, the Tesla billionaire has detailed his reasoning for this, with many conversations regarding our own technological advancements proving that there could potentially be far more intelligent beings in the universe, whose simulations we are all found within. This would have to be an incredibly advanced and intelligent simulation, but there is real potential for this to be the truth. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the level of technology needed to prove or disprove this as of yet, so we’ll all have to just wonder “what if?” until then…
The idea of this kind of pseudo-existence isn’t a new theory – you’ll recognise the main premise in many stories from years gone by, even The Matrix! On The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Musk went on to chat about his views on other intelligent civilisations that may exist within the universe over the course of its 13.8 billion year history. To explain the video game theory Musk said, “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then games will be indistinguishable from reality, or civilization will end. One of those two things will occur,” Musk said. “Therefore, we are most likely in a simulation, because we exist.” – this translated the complex theory down into simple terms that are slightly easier for us all to understand.
Flying cars: easy to make, but difficult to perfect
As a man who finds himself dragged into any conversation that is anything to do with technological advancement, Musk has been asked about the possibility of flying vehicles on many different occasions. Musk is the head of Tesla, who is regarded as one of, if not THE MOST, technologically advanced vehicle manufacturers on the planet, making him the perfect person to quiz when it comes to the next breed of vehicles for the future. Interestingly, Musk says that building a flying personal vehicle can be done and wouldn’t really be an issue to make – the problems arise when trying to produce them in a way that’s acceptable in society. Namely, Musk states that the two main issues would be the sound and the safety of the flying cars, which would be difficult to manage when given to the driver. Without roads or regulations, flying cars could be a serious hazard, while the noise generated to keep the car airborne would likely mean that they cannot be used in most residential areas.
Although Musk does say that he doubt’s we’ll be seeing fully functional flying cars any time soon, it’s interesting to see that the technology isn’t the boundary that’s stopping us from making them a reality.
Human life should be spread out across multiple planets
Yes, you heard us right – Elon Musk believes that the long term goal for the human race shouldn’t end at inhabiting Mars, but rather the entire solar system when it’s possible to do so! Through his innovative space programmes at SpaceX, Musk has edged us closer to Mars than we’ve ever been before; he even announced that he was planning on sending humans to Mars before 2024, which is way ahead of NASA’s plans to achieve the same feat. Whilst Mars is currently his primary goal, he’s got no plans to stop there – he’s targeting turning the human race into a multi-planet species that space across the entire solar system and, eventually, other star systems in the Galaxy!
For many, the idea of space and solar exploration is something that’s truly terrifying, but for Musk and his team, it’s seen as a necessary next step in our quest to evolve, adapt, and survive and with their mind-bending understanding of the universe, it really does make you wonder what the future may hold for us all.
What charity work does Elon Musk do?
In the modern age, there’s a huge emphasis placed on the need for those with wealth to give back to the societies that surround them, helping to create a better world for those less fortunate to live in. Whilst many shy away from this social responsibility, the same cannot be said for Musk – his involvement in multiple different groups and foundations designed to give back to both people and the planet secures his status as one of the most forward-thinking billionaires in the world. As a leader in technology, automotive, and even space, it’s great to see that Musk still has more to give in other sections of society in an attempt to continually improve the world for each and every person. If you’re interested in learning a little more about the charity work that Elon does, the funds that he’s a part of, and the foundations that he’s connected with, be sure to keep reading! Before we dive into the main charities and foundations that Musk supports, it’s important to remember that not all of his donations are made public, so it’s very possible that there are many more significant donations being made by Elon throughout the year that go completely unnoticed by most of the public, yet still does just as much good!
The Musk Foundation
The first charity that we need to speak about when it comes to Elon Musk is obviously The Musk Foundation, which is a non-profit organization set up by Musk as a way to disperse his own wealth into the sectors he feels most strongly about. In the simple, yet incredibly effective website home page, which can be found at www.muskfoundation.org, the website states:
Grants are made in support of:
- Renewable energy research and advocacy
- Human space exploration research and advocacy
- Pediatric research
- Science and engineering education
- Development of safe artificial intelligence to benefit humanity
After this, the entire page is blank. The website has become something of an iconic statement in the online community, with many seeing the website as a bold move that lays Musk’s intentions and beliefs on the table for all to see, whilst others see it as an obnoxious flex of power from the SpaceX founder. The website in its entirety is under 50 words long which is, somewhat ironically, much shorter than some of Musk’s controversial tweets and posts that can be found across his various social media outlets. The Musk Foundation operates by distributing cash to other organisations that operate within the industries that are stated in the above list to enable them to conduct their research with extra funding and resources. Generally, this enables Musk to further expand his knowledge of his areas of interest without having to set up his own corporation in that industry to do so.
Unfortunately, The Musk Foundation has come under some scrutiny in recent times with regards to the validity of the donations that it offers – in many cases, there is evidence that The Musk Foundation has given money to sources that are way outside of their scope, such as those owned by friends of Musk, or even relatives in the case of his brother. To members of the public, this could be seen as Musk using the veil of charity to further his own initiatives and tackle his own pet peeves, rather than innocently giving to those less fortunate.
In total, it’s estimated that the foundation has dispersed over $54m since it was formed in 2001, with over a third of this amount being described as a “direct gift” to around 160 different charities. Most of the individual amounts usually amount to a few thousand dollars, with certain exceptions being granted higher amounts. Some of the most sceptical donations have gone towards issues that are much more personal to Musk, such as the school that his children attend, the charity that his brother manages, and Musk’s favourite music festival, Burning Man.
The Giving Pledge
With the giving pledge, however, there is a little more transparency in the end destination of the donations that are being offered, which is why many see this as a much more legitimate way to give money to those who need the help most. The Giving Pledge is a high-profile pledge that is signed by multiple different notable billionaires such as Michael Bloomberg and even Warren Buffett! In signing this pledge, some of the world’s richest people have committed to getting rid of the majority of their wealth and giving it to causes that look to protect the planet and improve the lives of those across the globe. Within the pledge, there are stipulations upon the funds being released, with come pledging to give away this wealth over the course of their life whilst others have committed to this happening after their death. The pledge has supported many worthwhile causes over the years of its existence, notably many not-for-profit organisations that look to support and promote people from minority groups.
On their website, the foundation describes itself as the following:
“The Giving Pledge is a movement of philanthropists who commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes, either during their lifetimes or in their wills.”
The foundation was formed in 2010 by 40 founding members, most notable Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, as well as Buffett, who was mentioned earlier. A full list of those who are signed up to the giving pledge can be found here.
Other foundations that Elon Musk contributes to
In addition to the two major foundations mentioned above, there are many other organisations that Elon contributes to in some form or another, but the most prominent example of external donations that he has made besides his own foundation and the pledge is his charitable work with OpenAI. OpenAI is a company that is well-aligned with Musk’s beliefs regarding AI – as you’ll have already read, Musk has huge reservations with regards to the development and implementation of AI systems, seeing it as the biggest threat to human existence to ever have been created. OpenAI’s mission is to focus on AI safety research, which will enable those developing using AI to do so in a way that’s smarter and less dangerous. IF used correctly and within reason, Musk believes that AI will be a very useful tool for the human race, but if taken too far without the correct regulation, there could be major hazards on the horizon.
Importantly, investigations have found that whilst not always ideal, Musk’s donations have always been within the law and above board, which is something that seems to be far too hard to come by in modern people of power, fame, and wealth.
The Boring Company
The Boring Company is one of Elon Musk’s biggest ventures to date and one of the most innovative too! With The Boring Company, Musk aims to provide more efficient transportation tunnels to be used for utility and freight, with the view to slash the time spent transporting between major cities considerably thanks to a more direct route and far less congestion. The startup company was formed in 2019 after raising $120m in the summer of that same year, giving Musk the funding and support needed to push ahead with the major projects that the organisation was looking to undertake. As we push on into the future, we’re likely to see the work of The Boring Company become far more important, with many other similar companies, or worldwide divisions of the same company likely to be founded to help spread the implementation of these tunnels across the world. If you’re interested in learning more about Musk’s work with The Boring Company, what they actually do, and why their work will be so important in the future, be sure to keep reading on below, where we’ve put together a quick rundown of all you need to know about The Boring Company!
What is it?
With congestion at an all-time high level and the need for more efficient transport routes becoming more evident with each passing year, an intelligent, groundbreaking solution is needed. There have been many attempts to make these troubles less impactful, but so far with very little success, which is why Musk decided to take action into his own hands by setting up The Boring Company in 2019. In setting up the company, the US now has a dedicated force looking to create these more effective methods of transportation, which speeds up the creation and implementation of these plans significantly. The Boring Company aims to use tunnels to create the most effective pathways between points, using intelligent electric vehicles to transport goods and passengers between these points – this ensures that the journey is safe, economical, and eco-friendly, which is another huge passion that Musk focuses on in his work. There are 5 main products being developed by TBC, all of which are based around the function of tunnels. These are:
Loop – Loop is The Boring Company’s underground public transport system, which is designed to reduce traffic levels and ensure that everyone is able to get to where they need to go as quickly as possible. These tunnels are very intelligently designed and feature all of the following:
- 12-foot diameter tunnel
- A driving surface
- LED lighting
- Back up lighting for emergencies
- A top-level CCTV video system
- Secure wireless communication channels
- Phone service for passengers
- Robust fire safety measures
- Effective ventilation
- 0.25 mile minimum length, with an infinite maximum length
Utility – The Utility tunnel is the smart way to transport your utilities and resources between multiple locations without causing unnecessary congestion at the ground level. By transporting these utilities below ground, you’re given direct, closed-access routes that cut transportation times and decrease the time for projects to be completed.
Freight – Moving containers between multiple locations currently require the use of multiple trucks or lorries which can each carry a maximum of two containers each – this is far less efficient than the capacity that the Freight tunnel could achieve, making the tunnel a very intriguing possibility when designing new freight routes between multiple points. The tunnel would be large enough for most standard shipping containers, but with very little extra space to ensure that the tunnel is as compact and easy to implement as possible. As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to build these tunnels, so keeping them as small as possible whilst keeping them effective is a very important step.
Pedestrian – Perhaps the most intriguing use of these tunnels is when applied to pedestrian travel, as there are obviously far more things to consider in terms of the safety of the passengers. As with the Loop, there is proper ventilation, great lighting, a 12-foot diameter, and phone service, but with added features such as flat walking surfaces and a riding surface for cyclists. There is, however, a maximum length with these tunnels, which currently stands at 2500 feet, with a minimum length of 100 feet. These tunnels are designed to be much shorter than those made for vehicles and utilities, as pedestrians on foot are not likely to need to travel such distances.
Bare – The last tunnel product that The Boring Company offers is named ‘Bare’, which is a very apt name considering that this is exactly how the tunnel appears! This product will essentially be a tunnel that’s a completely blank canvas; the customer will be able to put whatever they want within the 12-foot structure – this could be footpaths, cycle routes, utility transport, or potentially a mixture of the above for a hybrid transportation route! The Boring Company will build the tunnel, then the utilisation will be handed over to the client, which will have free reign to do as they please with their handy new tunnel!
By creating just 5 products, The Boring company is able to tackle the majority of sectors that face transportation issues, whilst also giving the customers the ability to structure their tunnel in the way that best suits their requirements; the combination of simple design and incredibly sophisticated technology is what makes these tunnels such an intriguing possibility.
Where is it based?
As a US-based company, it’s natural for The Boring Company to have flashy headquarters and with Elon Musk at the helm, we’d expect nothing less! The Boring Company’s headquarters are based in Los Angeles, California, but operates across the entirety of the USA with projects ongoing in multiple locations. The flagship project undertaken by The Boring Company was a tunnel in Las Vegas, where The Loop has been used to slash journey times from 45 minutes down to just two minutes in certain instances, which is a huge boost for efficiency.
The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop is a 1.7-mile tunnel that cost $47m to build at a fixed cost. For this, two tunnels and three stations were included, both above and below ground, for passengers to move around during big conventions that regularly see over 100,000 visitors each year. By creating the tunnel, these events will now have far less impact on congestion in the city, with zero road closures and zero attendee disturbances. The LVCC Loop spans from the New Exhibit Hall to the existing campus at LVCC South Hall and reduces the existing 45-minute walk across the campus down to just 2 minutes. This rapid decrease is a monumental step towards more efficient transport being implemented in all corners of the globe. The tunnel uses Musk-owned Tesla vehicles to transport the passengers between locations and took just over one year to build – a rapid turnaround for such a comprehensive and difficult project. It’s estimated the tunnel will be able to transport more than 4000 guests at the convention per hour, which is a huge feat considering that this is The Boring Company’s first commercial project.
Since the inception of this project, many more have been touted for The Boring Company, including further work in Las Vegas, which will extend the LVCC Loop to span as far as the strip, McCarran International Airport, Allegiant Stadium and even Downtown Las Vegas! This project is currently in construction. In addition to this, there are existing projects in Hawthorne, CA which were used as initial testing sites for The Boring Company’s tunnels, which were a huge success.
The Boring Company was initially introduced as a subsidiary of SpaceX, which is one of Musk’s flagship companies that focuses on innovation on Earth and beyond! Founded in 2016, The Boring Company became independent from SpaceX in 2018. At that point, 90% of the equity was held by Elon Musk, whilst 6% was retained by SpaceX as payment for the use of resources during the startup period. In 2019, further investments into the company have caused a change in the equity split of The Boring Company, but Musk remains the majority shareholder and retains control of the company in its operations, with assistance from the president Steve Davis.
The major component that sets TBC apart from any other company in the tunnel innovation sector is its machines – these high-powered tunnel boring machines have been developed in 3 stages, with each more sophisticated and effective than the last. The three machines that currently exist are:
- Godot – this is a standard boring machine that was mostly used for research purposes. This machine was developed by the Canadian manufacturer Lovat.
- Line-Storm – this was the first modified version of The Boring Company’s boring machines and was completed in the early months of 2019.
- Prufrock – this machine is described as a “fully-Boring-Company-designed machine”, which is a huge step for the company as a whole. By developing their own machine, they have full reign over the function and will be able to ensure that the next generation of boring machines is as effective and efficient as possible. It’s estimated that Prufrock (named after The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock bt T. S. Eliot), is a 15x improvement on the most effective machine at the time of development. Prufrock was assembled in February 2020.
What is the mission?
The Boring Company is very open about its overall mission and plans for the future, so much so that the very first sentence on the website homepage is their mission statement! The statement on the website states that the mission is to “solve traffic, enable rapid point-to-point transportation and transform cities”, which is clearly something that their products have already started to do, despite the company still being in its very early stages of operation. In addition to this, Musk also commented that his aim is “to enhance tunnelling speed enough such that establishing a tunnel network is financially feasible”, which puts further emphasis on the idea that the project is something that’s looking to improve infrastructure for entire societies rather than just a wealthy few.
This passion for individual automated travel is likely to stem from Musk’s strong dislike for the public transport systems that currently exist, which he believes to be completely ineffective for their purpose and need drastic improvements to make them a useful resource for entire countries. Should The Boring Company’s plans take shape, we could see these tunnels be used to completely reshape public transportation as we know it, opening the door to fast, effective, and individualised transport for every citizen.
Moving forward, Musk envisions the work of TBC to pave a path for cheaper tunnelling methods to be developed for electric vehicles, with the tunnels gradually requiring less size and complexity to remain effective for their purpose. In making these advancements, the overall cost of these developments will likely drop, making it a more accessible prospect for many countries with lower levels of wealth to be spent on infrastructure such as underground vehicle tunnels.
Yet another innovation that Musk finds himself a part of is the Hyperloop project, which again looks to add more speed, efficiency, and economy to travel. As a joint venture between Tesla and SpaceX, the Hyperloop is something that Musk is heavily invested in and with his expertise and innovative mind, the project looks incredibly promising. Initially designed as an open-source vactrain, the Hyperloop takes the basic form of a train and completely revolutionises the way that it works. The vessel or “pod” will be placed within a sealed tube system that creates an atmosphere of low pressure to travel within. By moving the pod within this environment, we can assume that resistance will be lowered significantly, essentially allowing the vessel to move free from the restraints of friction and air resistance. By doing this, Hyperloop could be used to transport people or resources at hypersonic speeds whilst still remaining incredibly energy efficient. If implemented, Hyperloop has the ability to completely revamp the way that we look at transport, both on the ground and in the air.
There’s a lot to be said about Hyperloop and the possibilities that it could potentially create, but first, it’s important that we understand who’s behind it and what they’re looking to achieve from the project. Luckily, we’ve detailed all of this and more below, so read on to learn everything you need to know about the Hyperloop!
Why is The Hyperloop being developed?
As with a lot of Musk-driven development projects, the initial idea for the Hyperloop is one that is a concoction of technological advancement and eliminating one of Musk’s biggest pet peeves, which is ineffective transport. As a man that’s been at the forefront of advancement in many industries including tech and transport, it’s no surprise to see Elon leading the way on this one too. The initial project plan for Hyperloop was to create a high-speed transport route between Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay, which would roughly follow the Interstate 5 corridor, but at a much faster rate. To put forth this plan Musk and his team created a paper on the topic titled The Hyperloop Genesis paper, which went into great detail regarding the technical aspects of the project and the immense benefits that it could lead to in the target areas and beyond. The system would be used to take passengers along the 350-mile route in a much shorter time than is currently possible, making travel times much less of a worry in the future, even over longer distances. At the time of writing, a train would take around 12 hours, whereas a flight would take around 1 hour 20 minutes – the proposed Hyperloop travels at an estimated speed of 760 mph, which would see this journey completed in just 35 minutes. With the ability to slash journey times so considerably, we would see many uses for the transport system, as it would give far more freedom to move around for work or pleasure without having to account for long travel periods.
Who is developing it?
Hyperloop is the joint venture of two of the biggest innovators in the world, Tesla and SpaceX, who are both owned and founded by Elon Musk. The initial idea that Musk had was for a “fifth mode of transport” that would “be immune to weather, be collision-free, twice the speed of a plane, low power consumption, and energy storage for 24-hour operations” – this sounds like a fantasy, but with Musk’s resources and the genius of his teams, there’s always a possibility. The idea for the Hyperloop, named as such due to the idea that it will operate as a 24-hour loop, was initially spoken of as far back as 1904 when Robert H. Goddard first introduced the idea of a vactrain. Since then, we’ve seen many innovations regarding inter-city transport routes, but none seem to have the right level of effectiveness that we need for them to be truly practical.
With the resources and research facilities available to Musk in the form of Tesla and SpaceX, it seems obvious that he would be the one to continue the development of this high-speed transport network, which he started to do in 2013. With his team of engineers from both companies, a conceptual model for the Hyperloop was developed and published by both Tesla and SpaceX, detailing the design, function, and cost of the system. This publication was also accompanied by an open invitation for suggestions to improve the system, looking to ensure that this Hyperloop project is one that works for the masses. To create the Pod, a competition was announced, where student and non-student teams of engineers participated in an event to produce the best hardware to be used on the Hyperloop test track. SpaceX announced that they would be sponsoring the competition and would build the test track for it to be used on.
How does this change things?
If successful, the Hyperloop could, on its own, completely revolutionise travel to an extent that we have never seen before. Where we currently see air travel as the fastest and most efficient way to get from one place to another, the Hyperloop would entirely change this notion. Hyperloop would provide customers with a way to travel that’s much faster than any other mode of transportation, whilst also presenting a model that’s more environmentally conscious and energy-efficient than the current competition. By coupling these two factors, we are able to see the basic foundations for the future of mass transit.
If Musk is to be believed, there is much progress to come in the future in terms of us expanding our knowledge and experiences, potentially even a move to Mars on the cards, so being able to create more effective transport is sure to be a key factor in the improvements to come. Whether it’s electric cars, tunnels under cities, or hyperspeed pod transport, it seems that no matter where our transport innovations lead, Musk will be at the forefront of it all!
As you may have learned already, Musk has mixed feelings when it comes to artificial intelligence and the way that it’s used. In multiple interviews, Musk has gone on record saying that he feels unsure about the advancements of AI and the uses that we’re starting to see, with more intelligence and automation being built into these systems each day. OpenAI is Musk’s way to ensure that the AI innovation that we’re working on is safe and regulated – the organisation has two divisions, a non-profit and for-profit, which enable the company to fund their research whilst also looking for safer ways to utilise AI. In their mission, they are looking to collaborate with as many institutions and researchers as possible to form the biggest AI knowledge base in the world so that they are able to assess the entire situation rather than just their own internal AI implementation. Since 2015 when the foundation was formed, Musk, Sam Altman, and many other investors have pledged over $1B into the venture, which shows the true dangers that many see within the AI industry and the dedication that many have to ensure that we aren’t creating our own demise in our work with AI.
The dangers of AI
AI is perhaps the biggest marvel in modern technology – giving computers the ability to recreate the process of “thinking” is nothing short of genius, but there will likely come a point where a line must be drawn as a matter of safety and survival for the human race, according to Musk and his associates. There are many notable supporters of these claims too, including renowned scientists and researchers such as Stephen Hawking and Stuart Russell, which goes to show the validity that these claims may hold.
The general theory behind the dangers is that if we were to create advanced Ai that has the ability to re-design itself, we may be edge too close to an irreversible explosion where the AI can no longer be overridden, removing all power that we have over the computers as they’ll be entirely self-sufficient. To combat this OpenAI has a focus on using AI in a way that has a positive long-term impact on the human race, which is thoroughly monitored and regulated to ensure that we never cross the boundaries where the danger may be too much to handle. The biggest worry with AI is that the dangers are completely unknown; as we have never reached the stage of danger, it’s almost impossible to imagine how and when these issues may present themselves. This in itself, is one of the major reasons that more oversight is needed for all artificial intelligence developments according to OpenAI.
Musk has been very up-front about his desire for AI to be regulated by an independent body, even stating that the developments at Tesla, his own company, need to be reviewed to ensure that danger isn’t around the corner. With a regulatory agency in place, Musk believes that AI would become a much safer tool for businesses looking to innovate and expand their developments, but at this stage, the risks are simply too high to push any further without potentially creating something too powerful to handle. In an interview with MIT, Musk was asked whether he would prefer this regulation to be carried out by individual governments or on a global scale, to which he replied: “Both.” Musk’s strong feelings on this topic have also lead to him stepping down from OpenAI, as he feels the company has drifted too far from its purpose of pushing for regulation and researching safer AI in an attempt to chase money and capital.
As things stand, 42 countries have signed a pledge to take steps to regulate the production, development, and implementation of AI, but the US and China have both rejected this pledge and have instead prioritised innovation and establishing superiority in the AI market rather than taking the necessary steps to keep everyone safe when it comes to AI. Whilst this is a very disappointing stance, we hope to see both of these major nations change their stance in the coming years.
Ranking Musk’s wealth globally
Now that we know more about where Musk’s wealth comes from, we’re able to take a closer look at how he ranks in terms of global wealth and value, which does fluctuate on a daily basis but is, overall, very high regardless. At current, Forbes ranks Elon Musk as the 2nd richest person in the world with a real-time net worth of $166.9B – a truly staggering amount. Of course, this ranking is only one panel’s scoring and there are other establishments that state Musk is the wealthiest in the world, overtaking Jeff Bezos and his Amazon fortune.
To truly understand Elon’s wealth, whether that’s as number one or number two in the world, you have to really consider the value of his companies, which have rocketed (excuse the pun) over the course of the past 12 months in the pandemic. At the start of the Covid-19 scenario, Musk was valued at around $25B – fast forward 12 months and that value now stands closer to $200B, which is one of the fastest growths in wealth that the world has ever seen.
To put this value into perspective, Musk is worth around 400x that of Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s monarch for the best part of a century. With more wealth than bonafide royalty, you would imagine that Musk is very flashy and outlandish in his purchases, however, this rarely appears to be the case – Elon has stated that “ The reason (for accruing such wealth) is not what you think. Very little time for recreation. Don’t have vacation homes or yachts or anything like that, About half my money is intended to help problems on Earth and the other half is to help establish a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure the continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth gets hit by a meteor or WW3 happens and we destroy ourselves.” To many, this is a surprisingly grounded view for someone with such a monumental monetary value, something I’m sure we’d all like to see more of from a number of notable holders of wealth across the globe. At least in this scenario, we know that there’s some kind of plan in place for our inevitable demise or the AI robot uprising that Musk foresees if things are to carry on this way!
What could Elon Musk do with his billions?
The easy answer to this question is “pretty much everything”, but for the purposes of context, we thought we’d break down the wealth held by Elon Musk into the items we can relate to most, such as boxes of Kellogg’s Cornflakes or pints of lager. Here are a few of the crazy things that Elon Musk’s wealth could do with his money:
- If he wanted to, Musk could purchase the most expensive painting in the world, Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, 420 times. That’s right – if he wished, he could own the most expensive painting ever, priced at $450 million, over 400 times without even spending his entire fortune.
- He could buy the White House, 470 times. Yes, if Musk wanted to he could own the President’s home without even breaking a sweat!
- If the White House isn’t to Musk’s liking, he could always just purchase Buckingham Palace and all of its valuables 38 times – a home with much more grandeur and class for a man of his wealth!
- When a building simply doesn’t fill your impulse purchase cravings, why not buy yourself an island in the Bahamas? Oh, that’s right – you can’t afford to do that, but Elon Musk can. In fact, he would be able to buy 2500 private islands in the Bahamas and still have enough change left over to build himself a house on each.
- Moving away from this planet entirely, if Musk wanted to bring a couple of friends with him on his expedition to Mars, he’d definitely be able to fund the trip. If the costs are correct at $500,000 per ticket, he’d be able to take 377,000 passengers with him when he does choose to move to the red planet.
- Last, but certainly not least, Elon Musk could buy ONE Freddo. Inflation, right?! Only kidding, he’d be able to purchase 472,648,951,923 Freddo’s at their current price of 26p per bar, if Cadbury would be kind enough to make that many for him. Failing that, he could always just buy Cadbury!
The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast
One of Musk’s most infamous moments came in September 2018, when he appeared on the popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Joe Rogan’s podcast regularly features incredibly notable guests, covering every topic imaginable, from sports, movies, technology, and even space travel – there really are no rules on the JRE podcast, which Elon Musk proved during his first appearance back in 2018. This episode has gone down in history as the most remembered episode of all time, with many moments find a lasting place within meme folklore. Famously, Musk was seen smoking marijuana during his 2.5-hour podcast, which lead to a whole host of meme content, viral jokes, and, more seriously, a very costly investigation into SpaceX which was conducted by NASA.
On the podcast, Musk spoke about pretty much everything you could wish for him to comment on; from artificial intelligence and computer simulations to samurai swords and, of course, smoking weed, there were so many twists in this highly anticipated podcast appearance that are sure to have left viewers absolutely gobsmacked. Of course, the most serious backlash that Musk faced was the NASA investigation into SpaceX, which lead to Elon having to make a personal apology to his staff where he stated that his actions were “not wise” and that he was also sorry for smoking with “no skill, obviously”. As a high-profile figure at SpaceX, Musk’s actions lead to a very costly investigation into the entire SpaceX workforce and their policies, proving that the business is in fact a drug-free space. The investigation found that SpaceX is a drug-free zone, but Musk’s actions cost the organisation a considerable sum and wasted a lot of time in the process too.
Despite the car crash that was his first appearance, Elon Musk did appear on the JRE podcast again in 2020, where his appearance was much tamer, but not entirely controversy-free. Whilst Musk did refrain from indulging in a few puffs in this episode, he did dive into a few other controversial topics that left him on the receiving end of yet more criticism. In this episode, he aired his alternative views on the pandemic, the birth of his daughter (whose name was deemed illegal in certain states), and the booming success of Tesla!
SpaceX Starship SN10 shuttle
One of SpaceX’s biggest projects to date is their work with Starship, which is their groundbreaking spacecraft development programme that is making huge steps with each trial launch. In March 2021, SpaceX launched its third prototype spacecraft, SpaceX Starship SN10, for a high-altitude flight, testing how well the spacecraft fares at atmospheric altitudes, which is a vital part of their mission to eventually transport people to Mars in the future. The first two prototypes fall to the same fate – they failed to land and turned into a ball of flames, not the ideal scenario for a multi-million dollar piece of technology. However, the fate of the third prototype does offer Musk and his engineers a lot of hope, despite it still suffering quite a dismal end. SpaceX Starship SN10 left the ground and landed without fault, something that no SpaceX craft had managed before, but upon landing, the spacecraft again burst into flames after a couple of minutes.
Initially, this may sound like a disaster – nobody wants to board a spacecraft that has a history of bursting into flames on landing – but the fact that the spacecraft has managed to successfully land in a safe, stable manner is a monumental step forwards. For SpaceX, the next steps are looking into keeping the vessel safe for the time that follows the landing process in their next prototype, which would prove to be a groundbreaking event for the private-space industry. For SN10, the main focus was on gathering data regarding the control of the vehicle as it re-enters our atmosphere – the lead on the project, SpaceX Engineer John Insprucker, claimed that in this regard, the mission was a successful one. For Musk and his teams, it seems that the goal of bringing human life to Mars in the near future is becoming more and more of a reality with each successful prototype, and we’re incredibly excited to see the next steps!
Overtook Jeff Bezos to become the world’s wealthiest man
After a rapid rise in wealth over the course of 2020, Musk became the richest man in the world for the first time, overtaking Jeff Bezos, the owner of the worldwide giant Amazon, with an overall net worth of $185 billion. Musk’s rise to the top of the rich list will be remembered for years to come due to the sheer speed at which he leapfrogged the list – for many, the climb is gradual and can be seen in stages, but with Elon, the jump was almost instantaneous. Within the space of a year, Musk has gone from a value of around $27 billion, which just about places him in the top 50 worldwide, to the number one spot with $185 billion, which places him $1 billion above Mr Bezos, who stands at a figure somewhere around the $184 billion mark.
To achieve such a dramatic rise in wealth is truly staggering, but when you consider the process that enabled this swell in wealth during a global pandemic, it’s even more astounding. Just a couple of years ago, most of the stories written about Musk and his businesses, particularly Tesla, were in reference to the massive amounts of cash that they were burning with nothing to show for it – at this point, Tesla was nowhere near even turning a profit, never mind earning fortunes! Over the past year, Tesla’s value has grown by around 9x, which is truly magnificent growth for any business at any time, but to do this during a time of hardship and global financial crisis seemed to be something that was physically impossible. That wasn’t the case, of course, and Tesla (and Musk) have proven that intelligent ideas that solve problems and drive innovation will be successful regardless of any external factors.
The real-life Iron Man
If you’re a fan of comic books or just a film fan in general, you’re sure to have seen the hit Marvel movie series, which is commonly known as the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). The MCU is the greatest collection of superhero movies ever created, but did you know that one of the most popular characters in the movies was actually loosely based on Elon Musk?
For those who have seen the movies (or read the comics), it’s pretty easy to guess which character he is likened to – it’s the super-rich, eccentric egomaniac who uses his immense wealth and technological prowess to design out-of-this-world armour and weaponry, who’s more than happy to let everybody know who he is. This is, obviously, Iron man, the very first superhero to appear in the revamped Marvel franchise which kickstarted the entire superhero and comic book revolution that we’re still seeing in cinemas today. Over the past few years, Marvel has released some truly genre-defining films, including the most successful box office hit of all time: Avengers Endgame.
Whilst the original Ironman character well outdates Musk himself, the rendition seen in the modern films, portrayed by the excellent Robert Downey Jr. is very much inspired by Elon’s real-life persona. During the making of the movies, Downey Jr. turned to Musk for help getting into the character of Iron man, which is probably why we see so many similarities between the character and Musk himself. To add to this, Elon even had a cameo appearance in Iron Man 2, where he played, a billionaire that’s attending a party hosted by Tony Stark to celebrate Pepper Potts’ promotion. With his own history, this is probably the easier role that any actor has ever played on the big screen!
Musk has founded 8 companies
Whilst we all know Elon Musk as the guy who founded Tesla and SpaceX, or even as an outspoken social media personality, there are many more reasons to be aware of Musk. Whilst Tesla and SpaceX are easily his most notable companies at the moment, they aren’t the only companies that he’s founded over the years. To date, there are 8 companies that can claim to have been founded by Elon Musk – these are:
- Zip2: In many ways, Zip2 was a company that was well ahead of its time; the online business directory is essentially the prototype of every modern online yellow pages or phone directory that we use each and every day. The service even featured maps to show where the company could be found – this simple, yet incredibly useful tool is one that paved the way for today’s intelligent search engines, which combine contact details, locations, and business information all in one convenient place.
- PayPal: Everyone on the planet is familiar with PayPal – the online payments system is found on most websites that features a purchase function and has become the preferred payment system for many online traders thanks to it’s simple, secure, and encrypted design that keeps the users at all ends safe when making purchases. Whilst Musk didn’t originally found PayPal, he did found X.com, which was an online bank that formed the basis of PayPal, back in 1999. In 2000, X.com merged with Confinity to form PayPal, which has since gone on to become the global giant that it is today. In 2002, PayPal was purchased by eBay for a whopping $1.5 billion!
- SpaceX: One of Musk’s most coveted companies is SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company that’s based in Hawthorne, California, where many SpaceX and Tesla tests and trials take place. Founded in 2002, SpaceX is one of the most exciting companies on the planet and has a genuinely groundbreaking mission: to put humans on Mars. For Musk, the idea of moving to the red planet is so much more than just a fairytale; its something he’s devoting much of his own resources to as he sees Mars as the next place that can be colonised and habitable, once problems here on Earth move past the point of repair. In his work with SpaceX, Musk has come under much criticism, but he has been of great aid to many space programmes across the globe, even assisting NASA in the transport of astronauts to the ISS. In their pioneering work, SpaceX can hold claim to the very first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach outer space, the first private company to launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft, and the first reuse of an orbital rocket. With such achievements already under their belt, it’s hard to see anything stopping SpaceX from achieving their goals of creating a sustainable living environment on Mars.
- Tesla: Tesla is Elon Musk’s pride and joy – it’s the company that’s seen him propelled to the top of the rich list and is most likely going to be the reason that he is able to maintain that position for many years to come. Tesla is a pioneer when it comes to sustainable electric vehicles, which are seen as the perfect solution for reducing our carbon footprint whilst still maintaining freedom of travel. Tesla produces cars with electric batteries that perform just as well as any petrol or diesel engine car can, with a host of intelligent features added that make them fantastic cars to drive when compared with any other vehicle on the market. In the years to come, we expect to see Tesla become one of the most commonly used vehicle manufacturers in the world, with prices becoming more reasonable and the benefits and accessibility of electric vehicles improving year on year.
- Hyperloop: Another of Musk’s ventures is Hyperloop, which is essentially a modern take on the vactrain concept that has been mentioned many times over the past 100 years. In creating a functioning vactrain, Musk believes that travel could be revolutionised beyond what we can currently imagine, with journey times becoming just a fraction of what they currently are whilst the energy efficiency of the transport system dramatically improves too. This is a win for both the passenger and the planet, making this an important project for the future of efficient eco-friendly travel.
- OpenAI: Musk’s feelings on the topic of Ai, or artificial intelligence, is well documented – he sees it as a useful tool in modern technological innovation, but is aware that we are approaching a point of no return that could present the biggest threat to human life that we’ve ever seen. To help control this threat, Musk set up OpenAi, an initial non-profit organisation that would look to research safe, regulated uses for AI that keep us from danger whilst still being able to utilise the intelligent software.
- Neuralink: One of the most interesting companies that Musk has founded is Neuralink, which is an organisation that is devoted to developing implantable brain-machine interfaces. The company was founded in 2016 and has since hired multiple high-profile neuroscientists in that time to help accelerate their research and development. As of mid-2019, the company had received $158 million in funding (mostly from Musk’s own personal funds), with around 90 staff. It is estimated that Neuralink are looking to move onto human experiments in the near future.
- The Boring Company: With The Boring Company, Musk has set forth on a mission to eradicate congestion and traffic in major cities by using underground infrastructure. With incredibly sophisticated boring machines at their disposal, TBC have already undertaken projects to implement highly effective transport routes underground, notably in Las Vegas as part of the LVCC project. In the future, The Boring Company will be operating in Los Angeles County and is looking to reduce the costs of their service to make it more accessible to countries across the world.
Musk earns $1 a year!
Despite being the world’s richest man, Elon Musk’s salary is actually just $1. No, that isn’t a typo – Musk’s earnings at Tesla are entirely dependent on Tesla’s success, so if the company isn’t earning then neither is he. Luckily, Tesla is now raking in the cash more than ever, so Musk’s wallet will be bursting at the seams! In general, CEOs who take a $1 salary are looking to make a statement to their employees, which in Musk’s case has well and truly paid off with his business booming and his workforce entirely devoted to helping him to achieve his goals!
Well, there we have it everyone. The biography of Elon Musk, correct as of April 2021.