Today is January 1, 2021. Happy New Year to you all. As a kick-off for 2021, we would like to share an interview with you.
On December 1, 2020, Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer, the largest digital publishing house in Europe, and Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, had an interview.
In this interview, Elon Musk continued his usual style. In addition to the must-talk topics such as Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, he also shared his views on the future of the coronavirus pandemic, biotechnology, science, engineering, wealth, religion, history, humanity and the universe.
He did not even avoid sharing his views on the different systems of the world’s two largest countries today, but in order to preserve this article on the Chinese internet, our translation has made some deletions.
However, we will also provide the unedited version of the interview video.
Here are some points distilled from Elon Musk:
The future of medicine is mRNA. mRNA can basically cure everything. It’s like a computer program, essentially a synthetic virus. You can program it to perform any necessary operation.
Tesla is not interested in building a moat or anything like that. Tesla plans to open up its Supercharger network to other automakers, including Autopilot licensing, battery (openness), etc., all of which can be open for discussion.
Many Chinese (automotive) companies are very, very, very fast. For Tesla, the most competitive company could be a company established in China.
Overall, there must be someone who reviews Germany’s regulations. From a policy perspective, there should be a “regulation deletion committee” to review rules that are no longer applicable and in need of change. This is crucial.
If you fully believe in humanity, then you must ensure that there will be humans in the future and they won’t just disappear. Some people say that there are signs of overpopulation on Earth. This is completely wrong.
Regarding the universe, what is the right question to ask? My conclusion is that the more we can expand our range and scope of consciousness, the better we can ask questions that lead to answers. That is the universe.
Based on my observations after reading all religious texts, I do agree with some principles, such as compassion being a virtue. Forgiving others instead of seeking revenge is basically a good principle. But are all these stories true? It seems highly unlikely.
Döpfner: Wise German politician Wolfgang Schäuble once said, “If our Basic Law has an absolute value, it is human dignity,” which is inviolable. Of course, we will all die.
Elon: Everyone will die.
Döpfner: Everyone will die, but dignity should be protected, even during the new crown epidemic. Did your view of the new crown virus change during the time you were infected?
Elon: No, honestly, it did not.
Döpfner: What is your outlook for next summer? Will the vaccine work?
Elon: We will have lots of vaccines, more than we know what to do with. We may have more vaccines than we can use.
Döpfner: But it has a positive effect on cancer drugs.
Elon: If you say, what is the frontline hope for vaccine production, it is that vaccine technology has developed rapidly, which is certain. People are very interested in accelerating the development of vaccines. Particularly mRNA vaccines, which are very interesting because they can be potential cancer treatments.
I think the work of Biontech, Curevac, and Moderna – the future of medicine is mRNA. Essentially, you can use mRNA to cure anything. It’s like a computer program, essentially a synthesized virus. You can program it to do whatever you want it to. You can turn into a butterfly.
(Biontech: German biotechnology company, Europe’s largest biotech unicorn; Curevac: German biopharmaceutical company, its clinical trial of the new crown virus vaccine has entered phase III with optimistic results; Moderna: American genetic engineering company, is the largest pharmaceutical company with the fastest progress in the research and development of new crown virus vaccine.
Biontech, Curevac, and Moderna are collectively referred to as “the three giants of global mRNA therapy.”)# Döpfner: So this will have a huge boost on the economy.
Elon: A lot of money is flowing into vaccine research. We are also better in testing. The testing technology has improved tremendously.
Döpfner: You received the ultimate award, which is the 2014 Berlin Golden Steering Wheel Award. I was sitting next to a very well-known CEO of a large German automobile company at that time.
When you were on stage, I asked him, “Aren’t you worried about this guy? I mean, he’s really serious about what he’s doing.”
He said, “No, no, I’m not worried at all. He may have some crazy ideas about electric cars, but that won’t expand to the mass market. And secondly, these people don’t know how to build good cars. They don’t have the professional engineering knowledge.”
Elon: Very interesting. We definitely need to improve.
Döpfner: What do you think of this “complacency”?
Elon: Complacency is never wise.
Döpfner: He was definitely serious. “This will never work.” Now, Tesla’s market value is $536 billion, 2.5 times the sum of VW, Daimler and BMW.
Herbert Diess (CEO of Volkswagen Group) half-jokingly said that Tesla might actually take over Volkswagen. Is that attractive to you?
Elon: We might continue to operate independently. But we can make certain technologies for manufacturing or licensing available to companies like BMW. For our mission, to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
In fact, we’re not interested in building a moat or anything like that. We plan to open up the Supercharger network to other companies, we’ll offer Tesla Autopilot licensing if other carmakers want to use our autonomous driving capability. We can also do something with batteries (open).
We are willing to license technology to help other companies do the right thing.
Döpfner: Traditional acquisitions are not Tesla’s strategy?
Elon: Traditional acquisitions are difficult because every company has its own culture. If a company says to us, “Hey, we’re interested in a merger with Tesla,” then we’d consider that. But we’re not going to do hostile takeovers. If they approach us and say they’re interested in a combined company, then we’ll consider it.
Döpfner: Did you feel the “complacency” of the former automotive leaders six years ago?
Elon: The leaders were very arrogant. They weren’t being polite.
Döpfner: Were they somewhat offensive to Tesla?
Döpfner: Has this harmed Tesla, or has it helped motivate you and your team?# Elon:
We didn’t take it too personally. But overall, when new technologies emerge in an industry, the reaction of the incumbents is to defend the status quo. This is natural. For us, it’s a big motivator.
To some extent, we did try to have some form of joint venture with Mercedes and Toyota. But we found that our partners weren’t enthusiastic enough. So we ended those partnerships and continued to make our own cars. I think there has been a change today.
What kind of change?
Now the trend is clear, people want electric cars, they want sustainable transportation, clean energy. And it is related to age.
The younger a person is, the more they care about the environment. With time, they grow up and become the decision-makers. That’s the normal way the world works.
How many cars do you hope Tesla will sell in 10 years?
There are about 2 billion cars and trucks on the road today, and that number is increasing. Our internal goal is to replace 1% of the global fleet every year. To really make progress, we need to get well above the decimal point.
So Tesla needs to sell about 20 million cars per year.
So the current valuation of Tesla is reasonable. You previously commented that it was too high. Why?
In fact, the stock price was much lower then. I said it was high when it was around $800 per share, before the split. We did a five-for-one split.
The stock market is a strange thing, like a manic depressive who keeps telling you what your company is worth. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s terrible, but the company’s conditions are basically the same. Public markets are too crazy.
So will Tesla have such a high market value in the future? Yes, maybe more. It really depends on how people perceive our ability to deliver 20 million cars per year. In addition, solar power and fixed battery storage are also important components of Tesla’s future.
Do traditional car companies have a chance to play a role in the highly competitive ecosystem, or is it too late for them?
It’s not too late yet. We’re seeing a significant shift in VW Group towards electrification.
Many Chinese companies are very, very, very fast. I guess the most competitive company for Tesla might be one established in China, where the market competition is very fierce.
They have some very good companies, and they work very hard.
Of course, on this point, all mainstream car manufacturers, 80% or 90% of them, have signaled that they are moving rapidly towards electrification.# Döpfner: Are there any changes in the field of self-driving? I remember a few years ago someone asked you “when do you think there will be approved self-driving cars?”
You said “I’m not concerned with when self-driving will be allowed, I’m concerned about the moment when legislation prohibits humans from driving.”
Then the other person said “this is impossible, because no one can imagine sitting in a car without a steering wheel.”
Then you said “well, a hundred years ago no one could imagine an elevator without an operator. Today, you cannot imagine having an operator in the elevator anymore.”
Do you still believe this analogy?
Elon: I want to clarify. I will never take anyone’s steering wheel away from them. I’m just saying the most likely thing to happen- and I’m certain of this- is that an autonomous driving system will be much safer than a human driver, maybe by a factor of 10. This means the standards for allowing a person to drive may go up.
Currently, getting a driver’s license is easy relative to the need to get a car for transportation. But people cause accidents for various reasons like being drunk, distracted, or texting while driving.
In the future where autonomous driving is 10 times safer than human driving, there will be stricter standards for allowing humans to drive cars. That’s the most likely outcome.
Döpfner: What is the time frame, when will level 5 autonomous driving be available? Do you believe in the application of level 4 autonomous driving technology? That would require a combination of human and machine, which could be more dangerous than just a machine.
Elon: This is a dangerous transition period. Some places, the autonomous driving system works very well, but occasionally there are problems because people may become too relaxed and then they stop paying attention to the road.
99.9% of the time, it’s good, 0.1% of the time it’s not. What we need is 6 nines, 99.9999% reliability.
Döpfner: Is there any timetable?
Elon: I’m very confident that Tesla will achieve level 5 autonomous driving next year, very confident. 100%.
Döpfner: You can provide level 5, but when will it be approved by regulation?
Elon: The schedule for approval is not controlled by me.
Döpfner: But theoretically, can Tesla achieve it next year?
Elon: Of course. I’ve been driving the latest alpha version of Tesla’s FSD software, without ever having to take over through a series of very complex intersections and narrow roads. I’ve been able to drive to work without touching anything, and come back home.
Döpfner: Are there any expectations for regulatory approval in the US, Europe, and China?
Elon: In the US, it will be approved soon, especially in some states. Some countries, like Norway, will approve it soon.The EU is actually the biggest challenge we face. It is very challenging. The EU Commission meets every six months and decides the agenda for the six months ahead. So, it is very difficult.
Our biggest challenge in terms of regulatory approval comes from the EU. Perhaps this is a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.
Döpfner: You have also made great progress in battery durability. You mainly need lithium, copper, and cobalt.
Elon: In fact, nickel is our biggest limitation.
Döpfner: These things are relatively scarce, and most of them come from undemocratic countries. Some minerals are mined using child labor and other terrible things. Isn’t this a concern for you?
On the one hand, you are considering finding a solution that is good for the earth and climate. But the side effect may be that authoritarian regimes are strengthened or people have to work in terrible conditions.
Elon: We have actually released a sustainability report. We insist that all raw material sources for our suppliers are ethical. This has been confirmed by relevant political parties. So, I am very confident that our mining operations do not use child labor. If they do, please point it out, and we will take immediate action.
In addition, cobalt is a very important economic resource in the Congo. People really need the money.
Döpfner: Apart from the moral issue, are you not concerned that this may cause a shortage that could one day become a bottleneck factor, and at some point, you may not have enough materials?
Elon: I am confident that there is enough material in the earth’s crust to make electric cars, and this will not become a fundamental bottleneck.
Döpfner: I went to Grunheide (Tesla’s Berlin factory) this morning. It’s amazing.
I remember you announced this project here in November last year. The project started in June this year and is expected to be completed in July next year. The first step is 12,000 people, and if the entire entity is fully developed, it may be 40,000 people.
I remember your budget was $1.1 billion. Do you think you can complete it within the budget and on time?
Elon: Unfortunately, we will exceed the budget. This is based on the nature of things.
Döpfner: For comparison, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonic concert hall had an initial budget of $77 million, but it cost $866 million to build it 10 years later; Berlin’s new airport was supposed to be completed in 2011, but it has just opened. Its initial budget was $1.7 billion, and the final budget was $7.3 billion.
Elon: Ah! Well, I hope this won’t happen to us.# Translation
Döpfner: The timetable you mapped out here is a challenge for the long-term development of the German real estate industry, which often exceeds the budget and cannot meet the initial schedule. What is the secret behind your speed? Are you personally involved?
Elon: I’m very invested personally. Right now, I spend more time on the Tesla Gigafactory in Berlin than anything else in Tesla. Actually, I spend a lot of time dealing with regulatory approvals.
Döpfner: Don’t you have the permit yet? You just got a temporary permit.
Elon: Yeah, strictly speaking, we have a temporary permit. So, it’s a risk. Hopefully, we’ll get the permanent permit soon. We have a good relationship with the permit office, and they’re working hard.
I do think it’s important overall that there’s someone looking at the rules and regulations in Germany. In fact, from a policy standpoint, having a “rule deletion committee” or some organization or entity re-examine the rules, and say that these rules no longer apply, they should be changed, is very important.
It’s helpful for the entire country.
Döpfner: When you talk to politicians and regulators, do you feel they are seriously considering this issue?
Elon: Regulators are themselves people trying to get permits, and they’re enforcing the rules they’ve been given. So, I think this needs to be at a high level, at the political level, where some rules were made by people 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Maybe they’re still good, but maybe some are no longer applicable.
If nobody is looking at them, then every year we will get more rules and regulations. Eventually, you can’t even move.
Döpfner: You know, this is a special European problem, maybe a German problem. Nevertheless, you decided to go to Germany and build a factory near Berlin.
Are you driven by the idea that I want to go to the country where the dominant player in the global automotive industry is located? Or is it purely to attract talent because it’s a good and cheap place?
Elon: First of all, for Tesla, it’s very important to have a critical mass of engineering and manufacturing talent in Europe. From an efficiency standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to manufacture cars in California and then ship them halfway around the world.
Döpfner: Purely for logistical reasons?
Elon: Long-distance transportation of cars is also environmentally unfriendly. So, from an efficiency and environmental standpoint, it makes sense to produce cars relatively close to the consumers. And obviously, we need a factory in Europe, and why Berlin, we have engineering and design there as well.
Personally, I really like the greater Berlin area because Berlin’s a cool place. There are a lot of talented people in Germany, I have a lot of good friends that are German, and I like going to Berlin.
Döpfner: So, hedonistic motives play a role, too?Elon: I need to find a place. Obviously, Munich will be a good choice, but that’s the home of BMW, the Bavarian car manufacturer.
Today, we’re basically in Prussia, and I love history. I love Frederick the Great, he’s such a great leader, and anyone who knows history knows that he’s great.
(Prussia: a German kingdom in northern Germany between 1701-1918; Frederick the Great: Frederick II, King of Prussia at that time)
Döpfner: Berlin was the center of innovation, value creation and nightlife 100 years ago. Do you want to rebuild it?
Elon: Yes, Berlin has the best nightclubs.
Döpfner: Will you live here in the future?
Elon: Well, I plan to be like a gypsy or something, and I’ll definitely stay in Berlin for a long time.
Döpfner: Are you looking for a house?
Elon: No, I don’t actually buy houses. Sometimes I stay in hotels.
Döpfner: Where are you sleeping tonight?
Elon: I’m sleeping in a meeting room at the Berlin factory.
Döpfner: You’re sleeping in a meeting room at the factory?
Elon: That’s my understanding, yes.
Döpfner: You recently said that having property just weighs you down. Is that why you’re selling your property? Are you selling your property as a metaphor or are you actually selling your property?
Elon: I sold my main property.
Döpfner: In Los Angeles?
Elon: Sold it two months ago, actually to a Chinese person. And then I also sold the house across the street and I’m selling my other properties. I think I’ll just rent a house.
Döpfner: Why are you doing this? Too many obligations or does it limit your freedom? You’re considered the second richest person in the world but now you’re getting rid of your property.
Elon: In fact, except for Tesla stock, I hardly have any property of monetary value. So if work is tight, I sleep in the factory or office. But I have children, so obviously I need a house, and then I rent a house or something.
Many times I live alone, so I don’t need a big house.
Döpfner: So, no art collections, no cars, no real estate, no other things we usually associate with wealthy people. Do you believe that getting rid of everything can make you a free person?# Elon:
Yes, essentially that’s how I feel. Take, for example, the reason I accumulated wealth. If you take a look, it’s actually through Tesla and SpaceX stocks. The only publicly-traded stock I own is Tesla. If Tesla and SpaceX were to go bankrupt, I would personally go bankrupt as well. 100%.
But I also wonder why I should hold stocks. Why do I need these things? Going back to what I said earlier, I believe it’s important for humanity to become a spacefaring civilization and a multi-planetary species. Building a city on Mars requires a lot of resources, and I would like to contribute as much as possible to the city on Mars. This means I need a lot of money.
Do you want to focus on this point?
Yes, I also want to make it clear that this has nothing to do with personal consumption. Because people will attack me and say, “Oh, he has so much wealth. He has so many houses.” Well, now I don’t.
You said that there is a priority that may limit your freedom, but for you, it seems that the top priority is your children, of which you have six.
That’s right, currently.
Can you explain why children are so important to you? Why do you want to protect or encourage people to have as many children as possible?
Of course. All my friends say, “Oh, another baby. We should have kids, etc.” But many of my friends don’t have children. Maybe one.
I’m thinking, “Brother, if you don’t have kids, how are we going to propagate the human species?” The population growth rate in many countries is negative. You can’t solve the problem just by immigration, that’s impossible.
So, if you truly believe in humanity, you have to say that we need to ensure there will be humans in the future, and they won’t just appear out of nowhere. Many people say there are signs of overpopulation on Earth. This is completely wrong. They are only based on their immediate impressions because they live in densely populated cities.
Have you ever been to the countryside, or looked down from a plane? What is the chance that if you drop a bomb in space, it will hit a person? Basically zero.
One of my friends had a very unhappy childhood and concluded that he shouldn’t have any children. Your childhood wasn’t very happy either. However, you have come to the opposite conclusion and want as many children as possible.
I’m not sure if it’s enough, technically, I could have more. Yes, I like children. I want to be a good role model.
Were you really bullied at school?
My childhood was not happy. There were many years when I was very unhappy.
What was the reason?
Hell, it was hell at school and at home.# Döpfner:
At school, did your classmates bully you because they realized that you were a different kind of person, or how do you explain it?
It is important to know that South Africa is a very, very violent place. Violence is normal. It’s not uncommon, so it’s not just me running my mouth.
I almost got beaten to death at one point. So it really was touch and go. I spent some time in the hospital.
Anyway, to be frank, this is not an uncommon story.
Do you think it has instilled in you a key role in improving the world? In a way, as the trauma we experience in childhood often drives us to excellence and achievement in life?
I was a very driven kid, even when I was very young. I think it increased my drive. But what has been most helpful for me is reading a lot. Especially science fiction. I played Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, I was a nerd and I kept reading the Monster Manual over and over again.
I think when you have a difficult childhood, you can take two paths. One is that I’m going to get back into real life and treat others the way they treated me, which is obviously not a good thing. I took another path.
What do you think was the key moment or reason? Is this the source of love you still feel? Can you explain this?
Because I read a lot of books.
Which author is most important to you?
With Nietzsche’s books, I was a bit depressed, and Schopenhauer too. Not recommended for 13-year-olds to read.
Only a few people understand their books.
They should be more optimistic. But then I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is actually a philosophy book disguised as a stupid comedy. The viewpoint of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is that the universe has answers, and the hardest part is asking the right questions.
What are the right questions to ask about the universe?
The conclusion I came to is that the more we can expand the scope and scale of our consciousness, the better we can ask questions about the answers, which is the universe. I think that’s the right approach. That helps us understand what’s going on. Why are we here?
I mean, take a step back, what’s the meaning of life? That’s not even the right question to ask. How did we get here? Where are we? All of these things.
I want to expand the scope and scale of our consciousness so that we can try to figure out how to answer these questions and what questions we should be asking.
I remember we were sitting together in Potsdam, in the middle of the night, and I asked you about the meaning of life. A few seconds later, you said, “Maybe it’s this great French cheese.”
That’s right.# Döpfner: Can you explain that?
Elon: You need to feel life, the sensory experience of life. You can’t be too addicted to the cold cortex. You need to feel it in the edge system, ask yourself, what is your heart saying? Then take the time to appreciate many beautiful things in life.
Döpfner: You said a simple but fascinating sentence, “I cannot be happy without laughter.” Can you describe it?
Elon: Of course. What is laughter? This is a sign that civilization is moving in the right direction.
Döpfner: Catholics prohibit laughter in church.
Elon: Are they serious? That’s not fun at all.
Döpfner: You can identify dictators and totalitarianism by their lack of humor.
Elon: Napoleon had a good sense of humor.
Döpfner: I’m not sure he was the best person in every way.
Elon: You know, no one is perfect. Honestly, if you want to get to know someone, Napoleon is a good choice.
Döpfner: You once said that imagining yourself alone in a house is a terrible idea. So, do you feel lonely?
Elon: Few people like to be alone.
Döpfner: I can’t be alone, but I know many people like being alone. Or at least pretend they do.
Elon: Humans are inherently very social animals. Maybe something defined as lonely is not necessarily lonely.
What I mean is, if you really are alone, maybe just books, and no communication, I think this will drive most people crazy.
In prison, solitary confinement is considered a severe punishment for a reason.
You want friends, family, and someone, ideally, you want to be surrounded by people you love and who love you.
Döpfner: Last time we talked about your major projects, from Space X to Neuralink, from the Boring Company to Tesla. I asked you, of all the projects, which one is most important to you. You said, “AI is the most important to me.” Why?
Elon: We need to be careful about the arrival of artificial intelligence. Who is using it, who is controlling it, and does it serve the greatest interests of the people?
Döpfner: The biggest question is, does AI serve the people? In the long run, will machines serve humans, or will humans serve machines?
Elon: Well, sometimes when I see everyone looking at their phones all the time, I wonder, who is the master of whom?
Döpfner: Do you ask yourself that question?# Elon:
Yes, people are constantly responding to messages on their phones. They think they are in control of their phones, but maybe they should ask themselves if their phones are controlling them.
So, with every interaction, we effectively train the digital collective intelligence.
I believe that artificial intelligence is a symbiotic relationship between serving humans and being served by humans. Hopefully this symbiosis will enable both digital and biological intelligence to benefit each other.
When do you think we will reach the singularity? The moment when things will start to get better?
Not far away.
This is a question about AI governance. Is it controlled by a few super powerful players? Will it one day fall into the hands of bad actors? Or are there many people in control? Is there fierce competition? Is this what you are worried about?
Some form of government regulation is important.
Generally, whenever something has potential risks to the public, we agree that there should be a regulatory agency. Cars, planes, food, medicine, etc. all have regulatory agencies.
We all agree that nobody wants to abolish the Federal Aviation Administration, we want them to oversee airplanes. We need somebody to inspect and confirm that planes are safe, just as we need the same for cars, food and medicine.
So, it seems like we should also have some sort of regulatory agency with public oversight to ensure that artificial intelligence is being pursued for the public good.
Can we say that projects like Neuralink are created to enhance human brain power? In competition with artificial intelligence?
Yes! I jokingly say that Neuralink’s slogan is “if you can’t beat them, join them.” In reality, in the long term, humans cannot beat computer intelligence. But maybe we can achieve a happy symbiosis.
During this process, we can also cure many diseases caused by brain damage, whether it is congenital, accidental, age-related, or for any other reason. So, if someone has suffered a stroke, or has epilepsy, or clinical depression, or similar conditions, these can be improved with brain implants.
Do you think that one day, in the not-too-distant future, language will no longer be necessary and we have come a long way? Because theoretically, we can read thoughts, read the desires of the brain, and to some extent, convert them into actions – which sounds great, can solve many diseases and terrible things, and has greatly helped people.
On the other hand, can someone read my thoughts? I don’t know if this is really the vision I want.
No, there is still privacy. They cannot read your thoughts without your permission.
But I must say, the initial use of Neuralink in the coming years will only be to solve medical problems, severe brain or spinal cord problems. Neuralink’s first application is to help people with limb paralysis, allowing them to easily use computers or phones with their brains.
Döpfner: Language may disappear or at least lose its relevance. I mean, we see all translation machines helping to solve this problem. What is your vision? How far can it go?
Elon: Sometimes people confuse long-term possibilities and short-term ones.
In the short term, brain-machine interface applications actually only solve very basic brain injuries, brain or spinal cord problems. This sounds like a good thing. Then, as devices become more advanced, in the long run, you can have conceptual and mutually permitted telepathy.
Döpfner: Do you agree that there are three priorities, one is that we need to give humans intelligence, the second is that we need good diversity governance, we must ensure that it is not in the hands of a few people. The third priority is that we need agile regulation?
Elon: Yes, of course.
Döpfner: A wonderful sentence from Thomas Mann’s novel “Magic Mountain”: “Time is the gift that God gives to humanity, so that he can make use of it. Use it, engineer, and serve the progress of mankind.” This seems to be the shortest description of your life mission.
Elon: I am trying to maximize the possibility of a better future using technology. Fundamentally, this means ensuring that we have a future, which is why sustainable energy is so important for the future of Earth. Then creating a space civilization and a multi-planet future is critical to the future of Earth.
This can ensure that in the worst case scenario, such as the third world war or global nuclear war, perhaps all civilizations on Earth may be destroyed, at least it will continue to exist elsewhere.
Moreover, the civilization on Mars may eventually have a stable impact on Earth. But fundamentally, this is like the possibility of consciousness and life as we know it. If we are a multi-planet species, as a space civilization, there will be significant improvements.
Döpfner: The word “Engineer” is important to you. Almost more important than entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs and so on. You define yourself as an engineer.
Elon: I might say that is the most accurate description of me.
Döpfner: Ultimately, it all comes back to creating products.
Elon: Yes, like developing new technologies to solve problems. Science is great, science discovers things that already existed in the universe, and engineering creates things that have never existed before. I want to create something new that has never existed in the universe as far as we know. That’s a great thing.Döpfner: Engineering is humanity’s greatest opportunity. It is a new hierarchy where you can say that it forms a sharp contrast with the old maximization of wealth and power. Actually, engineering is creating things and solving problems. In my opinion, it is also the spirit of Silicon Valley.
Elon: Yes, creating and solving problems. You know, using technology to make life better and more interesting, creating things that have never existed before in the universe.
Döpfner: Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO) said in his recent book that a company should never see itself as a family or define itself as such. It should define itself as a sports team. That’s why if people don’t make the best contributions, they must be replaced. In a family, you are basically helping the weakest members to survive.
Has the atmosphere in Silicon Valley become more like a family than a sports team?
Elon: I don’t think so. It feels like nothing has become like a family.
I have spent more than half of my life in California, and now I spend most of my time in Texas. Because we have built the Giga factory in Texas and established the Starship program in south Texas.
Besides Austin, I asked my team where they wanted to spend their time. Where do you want to move to? Because we have a lot of people who need to move to where our new Giga factory is located. Or important business layout in the United States.
Finally, Austin came out on top, so we ended up in Austin.
Döpfner: What do you think is humanity’s most important invention?
Elon: Language. Of course, we have to communicate.
Döpfner: Language is the first step. This is the fundamental difference between humans and animals or lower creatures. The second step may be writing.
Elon: Writing is like having a hard drive, things can continue beyond a person. It’s very difficult to try to preserve everything with oral history.
Döpfner: Indeed, only writing can disseminate. I think the third step is publishing, because that is the democratization of knowledge. You would say that the fourth is digitization because it accelerates the development of publishing, making it accessible and global.
Elon: Instant digital communication worldwide is like the human nervous system. Although all communication used to be between people, the phone is still between people, and the mail is like one person handing your letter to another person. Now with the internet, we can instantly access all the knowledge in the world.
Döpfner: I’m glad and surprised that you gave the answer: language-because that has always been my answer. That’s because I have a kind of romantic relationship with language and writing, which is the foundation of my work to a certain extent. I thought you would use the wheel to answer the question.Elon: Wheels. In fact, the really important thing is two wheels with an axle, which is a great invention. In ancient times, we easily knew that round objects roll more easily than triangular objects, but it wasn’t intuitive to put two round objects and an axle together.
Döpfner: You have one of the most analytical and creative brains. Is there anything you don’t understand completely?
Elon: There are many things I’m not quite sure of. I probably have a good understanding of most technologies. But I’m not sure if I understand the collective direction of humanity. Are we going in the right direction or are we getting too inward-looking and fighting with each other?
Döpfner: What is the biggest challenge we are facing?
Elon: The most important thing is that we are entering a new phase where our reach may extend. We have such advanced technology, but can we really handle it? This will be a test.
It will be a filter for many civilizations: Can we handle this technology without destroying ourselves?
With so much advanced technology, is it like giving a child a gun? We must ensure that we handle this technology in a way that is beneficial for the future. We must ensure that we have children to continue to propagate as humans.
We must consider what actions we need to take to have a better future.
Döpfner: When will humans be able to land on Mars?
Elon: It’s likely to be in 6 years, or maybe 4 years.
Döpfner: When will you enter space?
Elon: Probably in two or three years.
Döpfner: Why do you want to be buried on Mars?
Elon: If you had to be buried somewhere, being born on Earth and dying on Mars is a cool idea – but not because of an impact.
Döpfner: Why is the SpaceX project so important to you? Is it a child’s dream or do we really need a Plan B because one day Earth may not be a suitable place for human habitation?
Elon: Mars is not a backup plan, it’s that we want to be a multi-planetary species and space civilization. Eventually, life will spread throughout the entire solar system and then go beyond our solar system to other star systems.
Compared to the fact that we would remain on Earth forever until some extinction disaster. I think this is a very exciting and inspiring future.
I mean, eventually the sun will become bigger and bigger, evaporating the oceans. So, to some extent, we’d better do something.
I think the urgency of making life multi-planetary is important because it’s the first time in Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history that it’s possible, and this window of opportunity may be open for a long time. I hope so, but it may only be open for a short time.Civilization may not necessarily come to an end, but our technological level may decline. It is also possible that our fate is not instant destruction, but a slow disappearance. So, as long as there is a chance, I think we should take action.
But it should be clear that Mars will not be a prosperous vacation destination.
Döpfner: It is a symbol that humans can thrive in other regions.
Elon: Mars is a real planet, so we can create a real civilization there. But at the beginning, it’s a bit like Shackleton’s advertisement for Antarctica. He said, it’s dangerous, you may die, it will be uncomfortable, it will be a long journey. The food may not be good. And there will be terrible terror.
But this will be a great adventure, and if you don’t die, it will be one of the most exciting things ever.
That’s my advertisement for Mars.
Döpfner: What is the biggest problem that needs to be solved in order to make Mars habitable?
Elon: At the beginning, the atmosphere of Mars is carbon dioxide, not oxygen. Over time, you can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. That’s what happened on Earth in the past. There was no oxygen on Earth, only carbon dioxide. Mainly carbon dioxide, and a lot of nitrogen,
There is also some nitrogen on Mars. So over time, we can experience what Earth has experienced, the process of carbon dioxide and oxygen, plants and oceans. I think it really needs to be warmed up a bit.
At the beginning, we won’t have any problems. We need to establish a small foundation, we must be able to grow food, and we also need water. We must replenish the rocket propellant, because we need to send the rocket back, so that we can carry more people.
Or those who may not want to stay on Mars can choose to return to Earth. So we really need a lot of solar panels, propellant power generation and food, all these basic things.
Döpfner: What were the most fulfilling moments in your career? In your life?
Elon: Obviously, the birth of my children was very profound.
From a company perspective, the first time we entered orbit was very difficult. I was very excited. Prior to that, we had three failed launches. I am the chief engineer of SpaceX. So, the reason we didn’t get into orbit was mainly my fault, I could have done better.
But fortunately, the fourth method succeeded. That was our last money at the time. We had many failures and we would definitely go bankrupt.
I was under too much pressure at the time. It didn’t feel like happiness, I just felt relieved.
Döpfner: Do you believe in God?# Elon: Growing up, my father was a member of the Church of England – which is the Anglican Church – and I was sent to Church of England Sunday school; but then later, his engineering company partner was Jewish, so I was sent to Jewish kindergarten. It was nearby, and it was a good school.
So one day I sing Hava Nagila, and the next day I sing Jesus. As a kid, you’re like, “Okay, I’ll sing along with whatever.”
But I think, based on my reading of all the religious texts, I do agree with some principles, like empathy being a virtue. Basically, forgiving others instead of an eye for an eye is a good principle. Or loving your neighbor as yourself is another good principle. But are all these stories real? That seems unlikely.
Döpfner: Why is music so important to you? You’re an aficionado of electronic music.
Elon: Yeah. I’ve been into electronic music for a long time.
Döpfner: That’s why you’re going to Berlin?
Elon: It’s one of the reasons. We’d come to Berlin and throw sort of like a techno-rave Giga Berlin party. Well, actually we’re going to start off with like a family picnic-type thing in the afternoon, invite everyone who lives in the area, and then as the night progresses, it gets harder. Then techno rave until the sun comes up. It’s gotta be techno or hard techno, because this is Berlin.
Döpfner: Your recent song, “Don’t Doubt Ur Vibe”, seems to be your personal single.
Elon: To be frank, I was joking with some friends. I have to thank my friend Mike for helping me with the lyrics. It was just for fun.
Döpfner: For entertainment and to encourage people. Who’s your favorite DJ?
Elon: Well, I have many. Let me think. Someone like Boris Brejcha, he’s pretty good. I feel like naming names is always limiting.
Döpfner: Favorite club?
Elon: Berghain is pretty good, although it’s been closed for a while.
Döpfner: Closed. It should reopen at the launch of the (Berlin) Gigafactory at the latest.
Elon: That sounds good. The Swedish House Mafia is great. We’re going to invite a lot of musicians for the opening day, and we’ll throw a fun party that everyone likes, from families with kids to young people. So there’s no need for companies to be corporate and boring. It can be fun. We want to make it fun.
This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email email@example.com.