Elon Musk is a visionary. He made a pile of money and now he has leveraged that, and the reputation it gained him, to do some incredible things. Things lots of people said were impossible. I hear the naysayers, and I think they are wrong. Today I am going to do my best to read Elon’s mind.
Most people assume he is only out to make a lot of money. I admit that he may want to turn a good profit, but I don’t think that’s the goal. I think he has a plan and making money is just an enabler. I think that in the end there will be museums and statues of this guy, and if I’m right, I am completely on board with where he’s going.
Let me take a step back for a moment.
We know enough about the universe now to know that the cosmological timescale is hard to comprehend. When years start being measured in the billions our brains just throw that into the “a long time ago” bucket and move on. In that timescale, humanity is not even a blip. Hell even on a planetary timescale we’re barely noticeable. All we have done, and all that we have accomplished as a species, are historical afterthoughts.
Besides that, we are so, so fragile. The human race has almost gone extinct a few times. There are plenty of meteors and comets out there that could take us out tomorrow. Then there is the fact that all stars eventually run out of gas (pun intended), and ours is no different. Plus, these days we have the technology, and the absolute, bugshit, narcissistic, craziness required to end the habitability of our planet in a myriad of ways.
I said all of that to point out that as vast and wonderful as our home-world is, it is a big basket that contains all of humanity’s eggs. If we want to continue in perpetuity as a species, we need to get ourselves off the surface of good old mother earth and start learning how to live elsewhere.
This is where I think Elon is going. Look at the companies he is working so hard on.
Space X is not hard to fit into this picture. Rockets are our ticket to the stars. Making them affordable and reusable is the best way to learn how to make better ones and to get people out where we can start working through all of the problems of living beyond our atmosphere.
Solar City is finding ways to turn the only fuel that is available everywhere into an affordable option. The more that research is pushed, the more innovation there will be. As solar generation becomes more viable it is the perfect power source for both space stations and new planetary colonies.
Tesla is currently a luxury brand, but it is also paving a mental pathway for an all electric transportation system that would be needed in the absence of fossil fuels or even consumable chemicals in an off-wold homestead. This links perfectly in with Solar City and Space X. The rockets get you there, the solar panels generate the power needed to run the vehicles that you need to move around in your new home.
Hell, even the new National Geographic series Mars is just propaganda for the cause. The more real Elon can make this all seem in people’s minds, the more doable, the more likely it is he can make it happen. It worked for Kennedy, why not for our generation? I doubt he would even mind if the competition suddenly became fierce. Competition has always been a great engine for change.
None of this could be done by the government. It had to be a private citizen who was free to push unpopular things. A visionary was needed to drive incredibly smart people to their limits to make it all affordable and robust.
The unstated necessity of this project has been in the science fiction literature for at least a century, and there is no better place to find the direction technology needs to go than the imagination of the sci-fy community. How many technologies that were first seen in the pages of pulp novels have inspired their readers to create them? Nearly all of them.
So that’s what I see. I think Elon’s got a nice neat little plan for getting humanity off its ass and working toward a sustainable future. For my part I like it. Comfort has a way of eating into the timeline for anything on as grand a scale as spreading our race to the stars. When the killer asteroid is spotted its too late. If all of the predictions about the effects of global warming are true, we have a lot less time that we will need. Elon’s vision (if I got it right) will not take decades, it will take centuries, and possibly millennia of focused effort.
I doubt that I can help with the nuts and bolts, but I need to do my part getting inspiring words onto pages that might recruit the next generation that will stand on the shoulders of today, and just maybe build the insurance policy for humanity.
If you want to get a feel for Elon Musk’s story, I highly recommend his biography. If I haven’t sent you a book before, drop me an email and I’ll send you the audible version for free!
Update: Maybe I should have researched this a little more first. I was looking for links and found this article that pretty much confirms what I was thinking. He doesn’t expand his plan all the way to moving beyond the solar system, but that is the logical next step.