I’ve recently enjoyed this series of articles on Elon Musk and his projects.
- Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man
- How Tesla Will Change your Life
- The Deal with the Hyperloop
- How and Why SpaceX Will Colonize Mars (part 1)
- How and Why SpaceX Will Colonize Mars (part 2)
- How and Why SpaceX Will Colonize Mars (part 3)
- How and Why SpaceX Will Colonize Mars (part 4)
- How and Why SpaceX Will Colonize Mars (part 5)
Reading all this left me awestruck. The thing that I like most about Elon Musk is his ability to identify a goal and work backwards strategically from it through all the constraints of the modern world to craft a workable path to achieving the goal.
Most Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are satisfied with the goal of just trying to get rich. Musk is literally inventing profitable businesses as a way to generate enough cash to fund R&D facilities to solve humanity’s problems (for the boringly pragmatic reason that they are too expensive to solve any other way). Even Jobs can’t claim the same prerogative, his desire to “make a dent in the universe”, notwithstanding.
I suppose you could simply call Musk a social entrepreneur of the likes of Muhammed Yunus. If so, he is doing it on an unprecedented scale (philanthropy on behalf of the entire human race), employing an order of magnitude of strategic sophistication above any of his peers. Sure, he’s solving humanity’s energy and transportation problems (you know, just working through the list of existential threats), but he’s also breaking open the monopolistic cash-hog industries of big oil, big auto, and the military-industrial complex, as a nice little side-effect.
If capitalisim is a game, the Musk has played it, won it, and is now leveraging it for his own purposes. Manipulating the variables of supply and demand, like a computer programmer might manipulate the inputs and outputs of software program. Hacking a system optimized to produce money and power, and making it instead produce efficient energy and low-cost space travel. It represents an understanding (perhaps even mastery) of economics, human behavior, and politics.
If it’s hard for you to understand the all the Musk hype, consider the image used for the SpaceX twitter profile header:
Behind everything SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity is doing, is a why. And those whys are ambitious.
Americans have often looked up to capitalists as role models, but I doubt that history has ever produced one more worthy of that admiration than Elon Musk.