Elon Musk with a Model of Starship

Elon Musk Interview: 8 Main Points from Tools for Productivity to Daily Habits

Elon Musk spoke with education minister Nadiem Makarim and youth at the B20 / G20 Summit on November 14, 2022.  His talk was important because it provides us with tools to improve our own educational goals.  This article contains the entire conversation and Elon’s response to questions.  This interview is one of my favorites and I hope you’ll agree! It is a roadmap for personal growth and education.  There are 8 main points that range from tools for productivity to daily habits. 

  • Tools for Productivity: A Physics framework
  • Physics is the law, and everything else is a recommendation
  • Early life:  Movies & Books that had an impact
  • Roadmap for Education: Early education in critical thinking and identifying fallacies.  Learning what is relevant and eliminating mental obstacle courses
  • Careers that will be in demand: Sustainable Energy, Artificial Intelligence, Synthetic Biology
  • Proceeding with caution: Artificial intelligence and synthetic biology
  • Avoiding Big Mistakes: Place weight on both the heart and mind and welcome critical feedback from friends
  • Daily Habits: Be curious about everything, have a fearless sense of adventure

Tools for Productivity: A Physics Framework

Elon was asked to share what his tools for productivity and principles are, and how he does the amount of work that he does,

“Well, I do put in a lot of hours and I’m not sure I would actually recommend what I do to others, in the sense that I pretty much work all the time so you know it’s quite rare for me to take even a Sunday off so I’m not sure that’s that’s really, you know, I’m not recommending that to people.  With regard to tools for understanding the world I think a physics framework is extremely helpful. In physics, they call it thinking from a first principles standpoint, where you try to understand the most fundamental truths in a particular situation, and then you reason up from there, and then you test your conclusions against what you believe to be the fundamental truths. So in physics, it would be like testing to see if you’re violating conservation of energy or conservation of momentum or something like that, and then constantly trying to be less wrong. So you should always assume that you are to some degree wrong, and you want to be less wrong. This is, I think, very important. It’s a little tougher on the ego, but it’s great for getting to the truth of things. Aspire to be less wrong.” 

Physics is the Law, and everything else is a recommendation

Elon explained how he manages to continue successfully despite the many people who insist he will fail. He replied, “Well, I would go back to physics, in that the only things that are truly impossible are breaking the laws of physics. So, as long as you’re not breaking the laws of physics, it’s possible. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s opinion is. Physics is the law, and everything else is a recommendation. I’ve seen quite a few people break the law, but I’ve never seen anyone break physics.” Elon went on to explain that laws of physics are strong, saying, “Yes, you can certainly challenge the laws of physics but, they’ve been challenged quite well, and they’ve been found to be resilient.”

Early Life: Movies and books that had an impact

Elon (left) age 6, with Tosca and Kimball Musk. Courtesy Maye Musk, A Woman Makes a Plan.
Elon (left) in 1976, with Tosca and Kimball Musk. Courtesy Maye Musk, A Woman Makes a Plan.

Elon shared some impactful moments from his early life,

“Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater. So you can imagine, if you see an incredible movie like that, and it’s the first time you’ve ever been in a movie theater, I think I was six years old, it’s going to have a really big effect on you.” – Elon Musk


“Well, I read a lot of sci-fi, and fantasy books, it’s not going to surprise anyone that I sort of like Star Trek, Star Wars, and that kind of thing. In fact, Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater. So you can imagine, if you see an incredible movie like that, and it’s the first time you’ve ever been in a movie theater, I think I was six years old. it’s going to have a really big effect on you. So, reading and watching a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, Lord of the Rings is probably my favorite book. Isaac Asimov had a huge effect on me, the Foundation Series. Robert Heinlein, ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.’ And then, in trying to find the truth of things I explored many avenues, and ultimately found that physics was the best way to explore the truth of things. At the risk of being a broken record on the physics front, I strongly recommend studying it, haha!”

Roadmap for Education: Early education in critical thinking and identifying fallacies.  Learning what is relevant and eliminating mental obstacle courses

The interviewer asked Elon Musk to describe what education ideally should look like for today’s world. “Sure, well, when you’re trying to learn something, it’s extremely important to establish relevance, to say, why are you trying to learn this? Because our minds are constantly trying to forget things. So our minds are at a subconscious level trying to decide what is relevant and what is not relevant.  So most of the things that you see and hear, your mind does not want to remember because there’s no point in remembering it, so you have to establish relevance.  Once you establish relevance, your mind will naturally want to remember.”

“Explain the tools in the process of solving a problem, and then the tools will make sense”
Elon Musk

“There’s, I think, two fundamentally different ways to promote education. One is by teaching to the tools, and the other is by teaching, where if you want to solve a problem, and trying to understand what tools you need to solve that problem. For example, it would be quite boring to have a series of lectures about wrenches and screwdrivers and winches and whatnot, without establishing relevance, but if you say ‘Well, let’s take apart an engine!’ Now how do we take this engine apart and put it back together? Well, we’re going to need screwdrivers, we’re going to need wrenches, we’re going to need a winch, we’ll need, maybe some Allen keys. You’ll have to take it apart, and then put it back together. and then you’ll understand in the process of doing that, why those tools are relevant. and you will remember them. This is a very simple but important principle, which is, ‘Explain the tools in the process of solving a problem, and then the tools will make sense,’  otherwise, they will seem irrelevant, and people will not remember them, and motivation will be difficult.”

The interviewer asked what needs to change from either a teacher or a curriculum perspective, and Elon replied,“Yeah, I think often, things are backwards. They’ll teach the tools, instead of teaching how to solve a problem, and then establish the relevance of the tools. So, you might take a course on calculus, for example, but you don’t know why you’re taking a course in calculus, it just seems like a mental obstacle course that doesn’t have any point. And actually for a lot of people I would say it probably is a mental obstacle course that has no point because unless you expect to use it in the future, there’s no point in learning calculus, at least at a detailed level. The principles of calculus are interesting to learn, but not the nuanced solving of equations. So, I generally say, What is it that somebody wants to do?, and then try to solve that problem and as you solve that problem, say, Well you need this tool, and you need that tool.”

“I think quite frankly, a lot of education is kind of pointless, and that people are taught a bunch of things, but they don’t actually ever use those things in the future”
Elon Musk

“So, why go to the trouble of teaching people things that they will not use in the future? Quite frankly, I think a lot of education is pointless. Unless one simply wants to go through a mental obstacle course, to test people’s ability to go through a mental obstacle course. I think it’s debatable as to whether we should force people to go through these mental obstacle courses.”

“I Would Strongly Recommend The Principles Of Critical Thinking Be Taught At A Young Age”
Elon Musk

Elon Musk with son X Æ A-Xii. Elon recommends Critical Thinking be taught in early childhood education.
Elon Musk with son X Æ A-Xii. Elon recommends Critical Thinking be taught in early childhood education.

“If I can make a strong recommendation for what should be taught in early education, it’s critical thinking.  Critical thinking is incredibly important, because it creates a mental firewall to allow children to reject concepts that are not cogent. It’s sort of like having an anti-mind virus defense system. Critical thinking, if taught at a young age, creates a mental firewall that prevents false concepts from establishing themselves in people’s minds. So I would strongly recommend the principles of critical thinking be taught at a young age.”

Elon continued, recommending learning how to defend against fallacies.  “And how do you defend yourself against mental trickery? People will often try various fallacies, and sort of trap you with fallacies. And so, having defense against fallacies would be a great course.” 

Careers in High Demand: Sustainable Energy, Artificial intelligence, Synthetic Biology

The interviewer asked which careers might become the most desirable in the future, Elon replied, “Well sure, I think some of it’s going to be pretty obvious, you know, anything to do with sustainable energy is going to be pretty significant in the future. So if it’s to do with lithium ion batteries for stationary storage or for cars, aircraft, boats, that’s going to be very significant. Artificial intelligence will obviously be very significant in all fields for self driving cars, self flying airplanes, self piloting boats.  I’d fully recommend learning those. These are very technical subjects, of course. There are many other worthy pursuits, but as a technologist, that’s what I would recommend. AI and sustainable technology.”

Elon continued, 

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in synthetic biology with the synthetic messenger RNA. That’s going to be a revolution in medicine, I think comparable to going from analog to digital. Synthetic RNA is like medicine going digital. It’s a much more profound revolution, than I think most people realize. But I am a technologist, so there’s plenty of good things to do that don’t involve technology. But from a technology standpoint, I would say, sustainable energy, AI, synthetic biology are the three big areas.”

Proceeding with Caution: AI and Synthetic Biology

What technology scares you the most in terms of its risk? Are there any technologies that scare you? Elon replied, “Well I think we should be a little bit concerned about AI because we don’t want digital super intelligence that goes wrong and causes damage to humanity. So I think we do need to be cautious with artificial intelligence.” 

“You know, on the synthetic biology front,  that also has the potential to be dangerous, because it is possible to create a far more damaging virus than would occur in nature. These technology tools are definitely double edged swords. The more powerful the technology, the more careful we need to be in how we use it.”

Nadiem Makarim asked what Elon thinks Indonesia needs to do to become a global economic power by 2045. “Well, I think widespread education obviously makes sense. I think having high speed Internet conductivity throughout Indonesia is going to be extremely important. I mean, think about the Internet, if you’ve got a low cost device and access to the Internet, you can learn anything. MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has lectures, which I believe are available for free on YouTube, so that you could learn practically anything you want from the Internet for free, providing you have Internet access, and at least some level of education to allow you to learn more from the Internet. So I think widespread Internet access is essential for that because it just allows people to learn whatever they want to learn at whatever pace they are comfortable learning.”

You want to take the ‘Aspire to be less wrong’  approach versus, ‘You’re right, and let’s prove that you’re right.’ 
Elon Musk

Elon Musk at G20 Summit, November 14, 2022. Elon speaks with education minister Nadiem Makarim and takes questions from audience
Elon Musk at B20 / G20 Summit, November 14, 2022. Elon speaks with education minister Nadiem Makarim and takes questions from audience

Elon took three questions from the audience.  The first asked what mistakes he made in the past and how he coped with them.  Elon responded, “To be frank I’ve made so many mistakes, that it would take far too long for me to list them all. So I would not want to bore people with the extremely long list of mistakes that I have made in the past. But I think the higher principle here is to always aspire to be less wrong over time. So, to acknowledge that you’ll always be to some degree wrong, but that you wish to be less degree wrong over time.  If you can be a little less wrong every day, I think you’re doing great. It’s hard to be less wrong every day, but frankly, if you can be less wrong most days, that’s a pretty big victory.”

“Take the position that you’re wrong, and you wish to be, aspirationally, slightly less wrong” Elon Musk

Avoiding Big Mistakes: Place weight on both heart and mind, and welcome critical feedback from friends

“I think it’s important to place weight on both the heart and mind, not simply the mind. Some of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made in terms of hiring people was that they were strong of mind, but not of heart. Both matter a great deal. The higher principle is to just assume you’re wrong and you want to be less wrong and just try to be less wrong every day. Seek critical feedback, especially from friends. Often your friends will know what you’re saying is wrong, but they don’t want to hurt your feelings so they won’t tell you. But if you ask them to tell you, and say that it won’t hurt your feelings, then they will tell you.  I think getting critical feedback from friends is very helpful. Yeah, what I’m saying is that we’re always wrong, you should just assume that you’re wrong. Because we are. You want to take the ‘Aspire to be less wrong’  approach versus, ‘You’re right, and let’s prove that you’re right.’ Take the position that you’re wrong, and you wish to be, aspirationally, slightly less wrong.”

In answer to a question about how a small but successful online business could expand to a global level, Elon advised, “Widespread Internet is going to make a big difference, minimizing the cost per useful byte of information is very important. Over time there will be so many devices being made, PCs, iphones, android devices, there will soon be more devices made than there are humans that exist in the world. So, at least if the device is going to be secondhand, it’s going to be extremely cheap. And I think we are seeing something of a plateau in device capability. Like it’s increasingly difficult to add incremental functionality to a phone or a laptop at this point, which means that they will just become lower and lower cost and more and more affordable. But really, the key is being online and having an affordable device. I think the trends are very much in that direction, so that is a reason to be optimistic about the future.”

Daily Habits: Be Curious about everything, have a fearless sense of adventure

“Well, in terms of day to day habits, I think, being curious about the world, how the world works, curious about technology, curious about everything, really.  I think curiosity is a very important thing to have. And then, to be somewhat obsessive about the curiosity. Obsessive curiosity is probably the number one thing.  And I think having a sort of, sense of adventure is also good. I think sometimes people are afraid of things when they shouldn’t be afraid of things. Like you want to make sure that your fear is proportionate to the actual danger. And I think, sometimes our instinctive fear is not proportionate to the actual danger. So you want to try to rethink things, and say ‘Okay, is that fear justified? Will some event actually happen?’ You know you sort of have to sometimes look at your instinctive fear, and question it, and decide whether that is really a valid fear, and often it is not. And simply looking at the fear, will make it go away. “

Watch the interview here https://youtu.be/l8sMFMBfFrM thanks to Elon Alerts.

CONCLUSION

Elon Musk has some great recommendations for productivity and one of them is not to emulate him.  He says he works every day and does not take breaks.  This would not be good for you.  Elon does recommend cultivating a “First Principles” standpoint based on the laws of physics.  He says, “physics is the law, and everything else is a recommendation!” He loved watching Star Wars and Star Trek as a kid, and read such books as Lord of the Rings, The Foundation Series. and, ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.’

On the education front, Elon Musk outlines a roadmap that includes teaching what is truly relevant and critical thinking, as well as identifying fallacies and eliminating mental obstacle courses.  He also highly recommends learning Physics.  

As far as being cautious about technology, he is mainly concerned about the risks of AI and synthetic biology.  Al could possibly harm humanity, and synthetic biology could create a far more damaging virus than would occur in nature.

When Elon Musk talked about mistakes he made in the past, he said they were too many to list, and he also said, “I think it’s important to place weight on both the heart and mind, not simply the mind. Some of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made in terms of hiring people was that they were strong of mind, but not of heart.”  

Hike & Bike Trail of East Austin, Colorado River, Courtesy CVSherman
Hike & Bike Trail of East Austin, Colorado River, Courtesy CVSherman

If you love Elon Musk Interviews, here’s more…

Elon Musk Interview in Norway (ONS 2022 Stavanger Conference August 29th) Less than 25 min long and packed with information (full interview) Elon Musk spoke at the ONS 2022 Conference in Norway in a less than 25-minute interview with Xenia Wickett. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I have, its packed with so much important information. Elon got to the main points quickly, making this a fabulous interview.

Elon Musk Talks at 29th Annual Baron Investment Conference: Conversation About Tesla In a rare appearance, Elon Musk talked at the 29th Annual Baron Investment Conference, on November 4, 2022 in NYC.  For this article, I am sharing the parts of his talk that were about Tesla.

Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – This article was created by Gail Alfar with the goal to preserve this interview in text or written form for the purpose of 1. education and 2. preserving the brilliant insight and words of Elon Musk. November 26, 2022. 

Elon Musk Conversation with Reporters (Only 4 minutes long and packed with information)

Elon Musk with reporters, Stavenger, Norway. credit video image from TV 2 Norway.

You may notice that it is rare for Elon Musk to talk with reporters.  In a gesture of love for Norway and it’s people, he stopped and had an informal conversation with reporters outside under the beautiful trees on his way into the ONS 2022 Conference (on August 29, in Stavanger). Here is the conversation and major highlights. I also share my informal outlook at the end of the article.

  • Gratitude from Elon Musk to Tesla owners in Norway
  • Why we need to maintain oil and gas production 
  • Is it possible for Norway to produce more wind and hydropower?
  • Norway possibly storing wind power from North Sea in large battery packs 
  • World’s Biggest Challenges: Underpopulation and transition to sustainable energy
  • Underpopulation is at a crisis level

Elon Musk visits Norway to show appreciation for the support of the Norwegian people for electric vehicles

Elon Musk: Hello everyone, I look forward to speaking today.

Reporter: Why did you come to Stavanger?

Elon Musk: Actually I came in appreciation for the support of the Norwegian people for electric vehicles. I wanted to say thank you to the people of Norway for their tremendous support for sustainable transport over the many years. 

Reporter: What’s your message for today?

Elon Musk: Actually I came in appreciation for the support of the Norwegian people for electric vehicles. I think I’m going to maybe answer some questions and provide some ideas for the transition to a sustainable energy world, But, like I said, the reason that I’m here is in appreciation for the support that the people of Norway have provided for electric vehicles, so once again, thank you very much for that! 

Civilization depends on energy and would crumble without it

Reporter: What do you think about the oil and gas now? Should we use it?

Elon Musk: I think, realistically, we do need to use oil and gas in the short term, because otherwise, civilization would crumble. So, in order for civilization to continue to function, we do need oil and gas. And I think actually, especially these days, with the Russia sanctions, we do need to provide oil and gas to keep civilization running. I think any reasonable person would conclude that. While at the same time accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.

Winters in Norway may benefit from stationary battery packs storing wind, hydropower

Reporter: So, Norway should explore more?

Elon Musk: I think some additional exploration is warranted at this time, and also continue to support the transition to electric vehicles.

I was sort of wondering if it’s possible for Norway to produce more perhaps hydropower, and wind power as well? And potentially export that to Southern Europe?

But overall, I’m very glad to be here and I’m looking forward to a lovely day, and I always have a great time here in Norway.

Reporter: Would you consider yourself endorsing oil and gas?

Elon Musk: No, ha ha, I’ve got to focus on sustainable energy, electric vehicles, stationary battery packs, and solar.

But, one of the things I was wondering, is if there might be sort of the North Sea, places where it’s very windy, there might be a potential for a tremendous amount of wind power.  And then, when combined with stationary battery packs, this could be a very strong sustainable energy source in the winter. So, that seems like something that would be worth exploring as well.

Reporter: You were here in 2014, what is the biggest difference now?

Elon Musk: I don’t know, Norway looks great, ha ha! I mean I just got here, so… I don’t know, I love Norway, it’s a great place! 

World’s Biggest Challenges: Underpopulation crisis and transition to sustainable energy

Elon Musk also met with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on the sidelines of the ONS 2022 Conference. credit The Brussels Times

Reporter: What is the biggest challenge for the world right now?

Elon Musk: Definitely, one of the biggest challenges that civilization has ever faced, is the transition to sustainable energy.  And having a sustainable energy economy, so obviously, we’ve got that. But that will take some decades to complete.

And then one of my sort of less obvious things to be concerned about, is the birth rate. You know, I think it’s important that people have enough babies to support civilization. and we don’t sort of dwindle away. Because they say like, civilization may end with a bang or a whimper. and if we don’t have enough kids, then we will die with a whimper in adult diapers. and that will be depressing, and… 

Reporter: So make more babies?

Elon Musk: Yes, make more babies! At least make enough babies to sustain the population. you know, we don’t want the population to drive so low that we just eventually die, you know? haha 

Sorry, I’ve got to go inside guys. 

Reporter: Energy crisis, climate crisis, and also the war crisis?

Elon Musk: And the baby crisis! Let’s not forget the baby crisis. 

Reporter: More babies means more demand for energy.

Elon Musk: Trust me, the baby crisis is a big deal.

Elon then said goodbye to the press and was soon talking to Xenia Wickett inside at the ONS 2022 Conference.  You may enjoy that interview here, on Elon Musk Interview with Xenia Wickett in Norway (ONS 2022 Stavanger Conference August 29th) Less than 25 min long and packed with information (full interview)

CONCLUSION

Elon Musk at ONS 2022 Conference. credit Twitter user @kapsarc

Norway is a leader in the support of EVs. On his way to the ONS 2022 Conference, Elon Musk expressed gratitude for this, saying “I came in appreciation for the support of the Norwegian people for electric vehicles.” Norway has promoted EVs by giving certain benefits at different times to EV owners. (These have included lowering taxes on EVs, some free parking and toll road access for EV owners.) About 75% of NEW cars sold in Norway are electric and most are Teslas. Tesla vehicles are also known to perform well in cold weather.

I agree that keeping civilization running smoothly depends on energy, and today that has to include gas and oil.  Norway currently supplies about 22% of the EU’s natural gas demand using subsea pipelines.  Elon Musk said he does not specifically endorse this, and said more exploration is warranted due to the Russian sanctions.  He did emphasize that he wonders if Norway could produce more hydropower and windpower and export that to Southern Europe. He also said that stationary battery packs could store wind power from the North Sea and that could provide Norway with power in the winter. 

When asked what is the biggest challenge for the world right now, Elon spoke about both the transition to sustainable energy and underpopulation.  He said, “Definitely, one of the biggest challenges that civilization has ever faced, is the transition to sustainable energy.”

For the last 70 years, fertility rates have significantly decreased worldwide, with a total 50% decline, according to numbers from Our World in Data. Elon spoke with conviction about the low birth rate, saying “I think it’s important that people have enough babies to support civilization. and we don’t sort of dwindle away.” He later called it a baby crisis and urged people not to forget that the baby crisis is a big deal.  I agree with Elon Musk and hope to offer my personal encouragement in a future article, written from the viewpoint of a mom with 5 kids.

If this topic interests you, you may also read  Elon Musk: Discussion About Underpopulation.  I think you’ll enjoy it!

Watch the video of Elon Musk talking to reporters here. (credit, Tesla Hype)

Tesla Model 3 | Norway by Minimal Duck.
Boats in the harbor of Stavenger, Norway on the day of ONS 2022 and Elon Musk’s arrival, credit Juliet Dunlop.

Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – This article was created by Gail Alfar with the goal to preserve this interview in text or written form for the purpose of 1. education and 2. preserving the brilliant insight and words of Elon Musk. All Rights Reserved. September 11, 2022

Elon Musk Interview with Xenia Wickett in Norway (ONS 2022 Stavanger Conference August 29th) Less than 25 min long and packed with information (full interview)

Arriving to Norway: Elon Musk on way to ONS 2022 Conference. cr. Jarle Aasland / Stavanger Aftenblad

Elon Musk spoke at the ONS 2022 Conference in Norway in a less than 25-minute interview with Xenia Wickett. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I have, its packed with so much important information. Elon got to the main points quickly, making this a fabulous interview.

Main Points in Interview

  • Thoughts About Trust (Twitter)
  • Taking The Set Of Actions That Are Most Likely To Lead To A Better Future
  • 3 Pillars Of A Sustainable Energy Future: Sustainable Energy Generation, Stationary Battery Packs, Electric Vehicles
  • Sustainable Rocket Propellant
  • Looking Years Ahead At The Auto Industry
  • What Are The Limiting Factors Governing The Rate At Which We Can Transition To Sustainable Energy?
  • Update On Master Plan Part 3
  • Is There A Limiting Function To The Transition To Sustainable Energy?
  • China, Gigafactory Expansion, The Fundamental Good Of Tesla
  • Approach To Risk, The Riskiest Thing Is No Action 
  • Ukraine
  • Caution in Developing Artificial Intelligence
  • Two Goals: Starship To Orbit And Self-Driving Cars 
August 29, 2022 Elon Musk speaks at ONS Conference, Stavanger, Norway in an Interview with Xenia Wickett.

Of course, Elon started out warmly thanking the Norwegian people,

“Thank you for inviting me and it’s an incredible honor to be here. I love Norway. And I just want to thank the leaders and the people of Norway for their long-standing support of electric vehicles and sustainable energy. I just want the people of Norway to know, that hey you have really made a difference. So thank you!”

Thoughts About Trust (Twitter)

In response to “what do you think about trust?“ Elon said,

“That’s really quite a philosophical question, and one could wax on at length about that. (laughter asking if talking about Twitter?)  I do think, with respect to information, generally, people want to know that the information they are receiving is accurate, that it is representative of the full picture, and they want to be able to believe what they read and not feel that it’s overly biased or at least understand the nature of the bias.

I think one of the key things to trust is transparency, and for people to really know or understand, if it’s a social media company, what the algorithm is. We should open-source the algorithm so people can know it and critique it, and so it’s not a black box. And then if there are any modifications done by people who are at that social media company, it should be clear and transparent, so it’s not hidden.

I believe in the free flow of ideas, and just generally erring on the side of free speech, within the boundaries of the law. You can’t go beyond that without being arrested I think.”

Set Of Actions That Are Most Likely To Lead To A Better Future

Elon Musk and Prime Minister (Jonas Gahr Støre) have lunch together at ONS. cr. Bjørn Shaogon / VG

“I don’t aim to disrupt for the sake of disrupting. It’s more like, what set of actions are more likely to lead to a better future? In order for humanity to have a compelling future for civilization, we must have a clear path to a sustainable energy future. That’s one of the things that I think everyone would agree with. I am not someone who would tend to demonize oil and gas, to be clear. This is necessary right now or civilization could not function. So I do think at this time, we actually need more oil and gas and not less. But simultaneously, moving as fast as we can to a sustainable energy economy.  I thought the words of the Prime Minister were spot on. I am glad to hear that there is a large effort for ocean wind. That’s a massive untapped potential. I would say go even more than what the Prime Minister said frankly, I mean if you did a 100 x 100 array, of 10 MW systems, you would have 100-gigawatt capability. And then, you do need to combine that with stationary storage battery packs to buffer the energy, because sometimes the wind blows and sometimes it doesn’t blow, or it just blows hard. So you need to buffer it with stationary battery packs. Tesla and other companies are also making that.”

3 Pillars of Sustainable Energy Future: Sustainable Energy Generation, Stationary Battery Packs, Electric Vehicles

“The three pillars of a sustainable energy future are sustainable energy generation, which is hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar.  I’m also pro-nuclear. I think we should really keep going with the nuclear plants. I know it’s an unpopular view in some quarters, and I think if you have a well-designed nuclear power plant, you should not shut it down. Especially right now.

But I try to say what I think is scientifically cogent, even if it is not popular. So the pillars are sustainable energy generation, but then you must also store the energy. The two main sources of sustainable energy, wind and solar, are intermittent, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. So you must buffer the energy in stationary battery packs. And then the third element obviously is electric vehicles. Electric cars, trucks, aircraft, boats. with the ironic exception of rockets.”

Sustainable Rocket Propellant

“We do have a plan for sustainably producing the rocket propellant, which is actually, almost 80% liquid oxygen. So liquid oxygen you can get obviously from the atmosphere. And then we are going with Methane fuel, which is 20% of the propellant, but that you can make also sustainably long term from CO2 and water, H2O which produces CH₄ and O₂ so that’s the sustainable long-term path for rocket propellant generation and that’s how it would have to be done on Mars, for example. 

We do actually have some sustainable power generation for some of our propellant generation already, but it’s a small percentage now but will be a big percentage in the future.”

Car Industry Moving Rapidly Towards Electric

“I think we’ll see tremendous change over the next 5, 10, or 15 years. By 2030, I would say probably about half of all new cars will be electric. By 2035, it might be 80% or something like that. It could be even higher than those numbers, but the car industry is moving rapidly towards electric.

One country after another, and one state after another is making zero-emission mandates. California recently passed, I think, by 2035 all new cars can only be zero emission. So, clearly, the people of the earth, decided this is the way to go.

So we’ll see quite a tremendous change in that regard and if you look at Norway you will see kind of an advanced version of that because Norway has some of the highest, I believe Norway has gone to the majority are electric vehicles of new cars sold, which is great. Again, thank you! So, it’s pretty cool! (applause)”

What Are The Limiting Factors Governing Rate At Which We Can Transition To Sustainable Energy?

“What are the limiting factors governing the rate at which the world can transition to sustainable energy? I think it’s the rate at which one can grow battery production. So then, if you say, what are the constituents in the battery, in lithium-ion batteries? You’ve obviously got lithium, you’ve got the cathode, which is the main cathode materials are going to be metal, and that’s nickel, manganese, and iron. And on the anode side, it’s primarily carbon and graphite. So, in a sense, you’re sequestering a little bit of carbon in the battery, with some silicone added for energy density on the anode side. And then there’s the electrolytes and whatnot.

The main limitations are not that these metals are exceptionally rare, but that there’s a tremendous amount of processing equipment to take the ore and turn it into battery-grade materials. Because the battery grade anode and cathode have to be extremely pure in order for the battery to last for a long time. So, it’s sort of processing of those elements.”

Update on Master Plan Part 3

“I’m sort of writing this master plan part three, which is, what are the steps needed to scale sustainable energy, again, what are the limiting factors? And how can we potentially accelerate these? So hopefully, I’ll finish that in a month or two.”

In response to Xenis’s question, Can you give us a preview, what are the big steps, what are the gating functions? Elon said,

 “Well, the materials that I mentioned are really essential. There’s not a raw material constraint, there’s actually a tremendous amount of Lithium.  Lithium is almost everywhere, it’s one of the most common elements on earth, so is Iron, and so is Carbon. On the Iron you usually combine Phosphorus, so it’s Iron Phosphate (FePO4). So that will probably be the biggest chemistry that’s used.  It’s not so much the raw materials as it is converting the raw materials into the highly purified form used in batteries. There’s a tremendous amount of processing that needs to happen for that at the sort of scale that is currently, you know, comparable to the oil and gas industry. The scale is just tremendous. So this is all happening, it’s happening fast. It’s just a question of what we could do to accelerate that, to go even faster. So this is happening, it’s just a question of when.”

Is There A Limiting Function To The Transition To Sustainable Energy?

Elon explains that he does not see a limiting function to the transition to sustainable energy, he explains it this way,

“I don’t see a limiting function, it’s really just, what actions can we take to have it be faster? And it’s going to be, increasing the rate at which we can convert the ore into battery-grade materials. hat will set the rate at which we can build electric vehicles and stationary battery packs to capture solar and wind.

What I’m saying, is this is an optimistic and positive message. I’m not suggesting at all, complacency. But just saying that things are moving in a good direction, and but obviously if we can make them go even faster that’s better.”

China, Gigafactory Expansion, The Fundamental Good Of Tesla

“Tesla is actually investing in production in China. so we have a large factory in Shanghai that we are continuing to expand outward and invest in the factory. We’re also investing in Europe with our factory just outside of Berlin. and in the US, with our factory just outside of Austin. [note: pictures of Austin factories appear at bottom of this article] We hope to announce a location for another Gigafactory perhaps later this year. So we’re going as fast as we can. 

I’ve always said that the, I would say when you look at Tesla, the fundamental good that Tesla does, I think, sometimes it’s by profit, but rather by how many years will Tesla have accelerated the transition to sustainable energy? This is how I think one should look at it. 

I think we have accelerated it to some degree already. You know, I think if it wasn’t for Tesla, the car industry would have transitioned to EVs much later.

It is an exponential curve, yes. Most people don’t know what an exponential curve means, but it’s a (moves hand in the upward direction). I think things are improving exponentially with respect to sustainable energy. but if we can make it go faster, all the better.

What will actually happen is, the transition from, it’s following an S curve. So you have an exponential increase, then linear, then logarithmic. (points hand into the air) that’s basically how any large industrial transition happens.”

Approach To Risk, The Riskiest Thing Is No Action

“I don’t sort of like, just arbitrarily seek risk. I think some things are risky, but if the stakes are important enough then you take the risk. (applause). The stakes are extremely important. Very fundamental to the future.

I think there are probably a lot of people in this room that do take a lot of risks. I literally just try to use the scientific method, frankly. What is the importance of the outcome? What is one risking, in order to achieve that outcome? Like I said, if the outcome is important enough, even if the probability of success is low, I think, still do it, in my view, some things are very important, and in order to have a good future, if we don’t do them then we are in big trouble, and so how much of a risk really is it? Because if we don’t take those actions we won’t have a good future. I think the riskiest thing would be no action.” 

Ukraine

“We did have some guess that maybe there would be something happening in Ukraine, and so we did pre-position some STARLINK terminals there, just in case. And so that was helpful for the initial part of the invasion. And then we accelerated delivery of a lot of terminals within a few days of the invasion taking place and then the Ukrainian government tells me it’s been very helpful.

I do hope some peace can be achieved in Ukraine and Russia. I do think some thought should be given to, what’s the endgame there. I think the endgame will require some compromise on the part of both parties.”

Caution in Developing Artificial Intelligence

“Tesla‘s goal, from when we started it, has always been to accelerate sustainability, so that is still our primary goal by far. Our secondary goal is to solve at least real-world intelligence as it applies to self-driving cars, and then potentially with humanoid robots, so Tesla is in part an AI company and increasingly an AI company but it’s still primarily a sustainable energy company. I don’t think we need AI to solve sustainability. If that is happening, it might help us accelerate it. 

I think we should also be cautious about AI, and just make sure that as we develop AI, that it does not get out of control, and that AI helps make the future better for humanity. 

I think we should be more worried about AI‘s safety than we currently are. Especially, the future wars are going to be (and we’re seeing a taste of that with Ukraine), very much, drone wars. So if your drones are better than their drones, then you win, basically, it’s what will happen.”

Two Goals: Starship To Orbit And Self-Driving Cars 

In response to the closing question, “what keeps you up at night?” Elon stated,

“I’m fundamentally a technologist, it’s kind of important, or an engineer, so, yes sometimes people call me a businessman, I have to do business, I have to have a group of people because I can’t just do this in a garage by myself.

But, I am fundamentally an engineer or a technologist and so the two technologies I am focused on trying to ideally, get done before the end of the year are getting our Starship to orbit, which I think is important for expanding consciousness beyond Earth and life beyond Earth. And then, having the Tesla cars be able to do self-driving. So have self-driving in wide release at least In the USA, and hopefully, potentially in Europe, depending on regulatory approval.”

CONCLUSION

Some of the main points made by Elon Musk in the Norway interview that really caught my attention:

  • Twitter algorithm should be open-source, and Elon believes in the free flow of ideas and free speech.
  • Elon explains that in order for humanity to have a compelling future for civilization, we must have a clear path to a sustainable energy future. 
  • When asked what are the limiting factors governing the rate at which we can transition to sustainable energy?  Elon explains that Lithium, Iron and Carbon are plentiful.   He says, “The main limitations are not that these metals are exceptionally rare, but that there’s a tremendous amount of processing equipment to take the ore and turn it into battery-grade materials. Because the battery grade anode and cathode have to be extremely pure in order for the battery to last for a long time. So, it’s sort of processing of those elements.”
  • Similarly, Elon was asked again if there is a limiting function to the transition to sustainable energy, and he explains, “I don’t see a limiting function, it’s really just, what actions can we take to have it be faster? And it’s going to be, increasing the rate at which we can convert the ore into battery-grade materials. That will set the rate at which we can build electric vehicles and stationary battery packs to capture solar and wind.”
  • We are moved to action by Elon’s explanation of risk: He says, “Like I said, if the outcome is important enough, even if the probability of success is low, I think, still do it, in my view. some things are very important, and in order to have a good future, if we don’t do them then we are in big trouble, and so how much of a risk really is it? Because if we don’t take those actions we won’t have a good future. I think the riskiest thing would be no action.”
  • If you know Elon, he has warned us all about the dangers of AI many times before. Here is expresses great concern over developing artificial intelligence in the context of war.  He cautions, “I think we should be more worried about AI’s safety than we currently are. Especially, the future wars are going to be (and we’re seeing a taste of that with the Ukraine), very much, drone wars. So if your drones are better than their drones, then you win, basically, it’s what will happen.” 
  • As the world’s Technoking, Elon explains he is most driven to get Starship to orbit this year and have Tesla cars be able to do self-driving.  “But, I am fundamentally an engineer or a technologist and so the two technologies I am focused on trying to ideally, get done before the end of the year are getting our Starship to orbit, which I think is important for expanding consciousness beyond Earth and life beyond Earth. And then, having the Tesla cars be able to do self-driving.”
Tesla Gigafactory near Austin, cathode plant seen in the distance at 12 o’clock. September 3, 2022. cr. Joe Tegtmeyer
Tesla builds massive battery cathode plant next to Gigafactory Texas near Austin, Sept 3 cr. Tegtmeyer

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Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – This article was created by Gail Alfar with the goal to preserve this interview in text or written form for the purpose of 1. education and 2. preserving the brilliant insight and words of Elon Musk. All Rights Reserved. September 4, 2022