The Tesla founder doesn't hide behind bland PR statements
You probably don’t have a spare hour to listen to Keir Starmer’s conference speech in full. But just in case to you do, let me urge to listen to Elon Musk instead.
Appearing at the Code conference this week, his interview with Kara Swisher is a much better use of your time. Given the choice between listening to a talker or a doer, choose the doer every time — especially if the latter is willing to say what he or she really thinks instead of hiding behind bland PR statements.
Musk is unfiltered. Indeed he appears to relish provocation. Answering questions on his space race rivalry with Jeff Bezos, Musk comments on Bezos’s rocket. “It could be a different shape, potentially…” Asked to explain its current shape from a technological point view, Musk is happy to oblige: “if you are only doing sub-orbital then your rocket can be sort of… shorter.”
On tougher issues, like his tax affairs, Musk is also outspoken (or at least gives that impression). He’ll be paying over 50% tax on his stock options (when they expire), he says. As for the stratospheric increase in the value of those shares he said: “I’ve literally gone on record and said I think my stock price is too high… and this did nothing to stop the rise in the stock price. So what am I suppose to do?”
He gives pithy answers to other questions. What should governments do about the rise of cryptocurrency? “Nothing.” How about the use of psychedelic drugs to improve humanity? “People should be open to the use of psychedelics.” Are we living in a computer simulation? “My heart says no and my brain says yes.”
Perhaps we’re all living in Elon’s simulation — an environment in which he cleverly fuels the hype surrounding his various ventures. Except it’s not just hype. What he’s done to push forward the frontiers of technology is real. Tesla has lead the way on electrical vehicles. Space X on commercial space flight. His work on self-driving technology may hasten the end of human-driven cars (or “two-ton death machines” as he calls them).
His most interesting answer, however, was to a personal question about his large number of children (six so far). “A lot of people think there are too many people on the planet,” he said, “in fact there’s too few. Possibly the greatest threat to human civilisation is the rapidly diminishing birth rate.”
It was the most important thing he said in the entire interview. The approaching demographic crunch is terrifying. It also poses a problem for his argument that humankind should become a “multi-planet” species. While colonising outer space may help us survive an asteroid strike or a nuclear war — it’s not going to help us with our baby shortage.
If people refuse to reproduce on planet Earth, then why would they do so in the cramped habitats of Mars or the Moon? We’d love to hear Musk’s answer to that one.