- Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has an interesting way of looking at both the world and the universe.
- In August, he repeated his belief that humans should drop thermonuclear weapons on Mars to warm the planet.
- Musk has also expressed interesting ideas about autonomous-driving technology and the nature of human existence.
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Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has an interesting way of looking at both the world and the universe.
In August, Musk tweeted, “Nuke Mars,” repeating a sentiment he expressed on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in 2015. At the time, Musk said hitting Mars with thermonuclear weapons could warm the planet.
Below are 16 of Musk’s craziest views on everything from Mars to artificial intelligence.
Danielle Muoio contributed to an earlier version of this story.
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Musk has said he wants to begin sending humans to Mars by 2024.
“We’re establishing cargo flights to Mars that people can count on,” he said in June 2016. “The Earth-Mars orbital rendezvous is only every 26 months, so there’ll be one in 2018; there will be another one in 2020. And I think if things go according to plan, we should be able to launch people probably in 2024 with the arrival in 2025.”
Musk reiterated this timeline in 2017, though he did not meet his timeline to send a cargo flight to Mars in 2018.
He has even shared his vision for a Martian government.
“I think most likely the form of government of Mars would be a direct democracy, not representative,” he said during the Code conference in 2016. “So it would be people voting directly on issues. And I think that’s probably better because the potential for democracy is substantially diminished.”
And he isn’t merely interested in people surviving on Mars. He wants a thriving city to exist.
Musk said in a 2016 Reddit AMA that he wanted the red planet to include everything from “iron foundries to pizza joints.”
But Musk also said anyone who goes on the first journey to Mars should be “prepared to die.”
“The first journey to Mars is going to be really very dangerous,” he said in 2016. “The risk of fatality will be high. There’s just no way around it.”
And he’s said hitting Mars with thermonuclear weapons could warm the planet and create the equivalent of two suns over the planet’s poles.
If Mars doesn’t pique your interest, you could still take a ride in a SpaceX rocket to travel around the world.
“Most of what people consider to be long-distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour,” he said at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia in 2017.
But if you do decide to risk it and journey to Mars, Musk said dying out in space wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
“I think if you’re going to choose a place to die, then Mars is probably not a bad choice,” he said in 2016.
On that topic, Musk has said dissuading people from using semi-autonomous driving technology is tantamount to killing them.
Musk made those remarks in October 2016 when he criticised the media’s coverage of accidents involving Tesla vehicles using Autopilot.
“One thing I should mention that is, frankly, it’s been quite disturbing to me, is the degree of media coverage of Autopilot crashes,” he said, adding that it “is basically almost none relative to the paucity of media coverage of the 1.2 million people that die every year in manual crashes.
“And think carefully about this because if in writing some article that’s negative you effectively dissuade people from using autonomous vehicles, you’re killing people.”
But Musk said this year that turning semi-autonomous technology into fully-autonomous technology will be very difficult, saying a “massive effort” will be needed to get fully-autonomous technology to “99.9999% safety.”
He also compared a company accepting liability for crashes involving self-driving cars to getting stuck in an elevator.
“No, I think that would be up to the individual’s insurance,”Musk said in 2016 when asked whether Tesla would accept liability if it were able to develop self-driving cars and they got in an accident. “Point of views on autonomous cars are much like being stuck in an elevator in a building. Does the Otis [Elevator Company] take responsibility for all elevators around the world? No, they don’t.”
But when he’s not planning to send humans to Mars, Musk said he regularly debates whether humans actually exist in another civilisation’s video game.
“I’ve had so many simulation discussions it’s crazy,” he said at Vox Media’s Code Conference in 2016. “In fact, it got to the point where basically every conversation was the AI-slash-simulation conversation, and my brother and I finally agreed that we’d ban any such conversations if we’re ever in a hot tub. Because that really kills the magic.”
But it’s a worthy debate, because it’s more probable than not that we are living in a simulation than actual reality, he said.
“There’s a billion-to-one chance we’re living in base reality,”he said in 2016.
In fact, humans should really hope we are living in some sort of simulation because things could get really ugly if not, he said.
“Arguably we should hope that that’s true, because otherwise if civilisation stops advancing, that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilisation,” he said in 2016. “So maybe we should be hopeful that this is a simulation, because otherwise … We are either going to create simulations indistinguishable from reality or civilisation ceases to exist.”
The Tesla CEO also said humans were “already a cyborg.”
Musk said our ability to have a digital presence through email and social media gives us “superpowers” like a cyborg.
“You have more power than the president of the United States had 20 years ago,” he said in 2016. “You can answer any question, you can video conference with anyone, anywhere. You can send messages to millions of people instantly. Just do incredible things.”
What’s more, though, he said we should take the whole cyborg thing even further and add a digital layer of intelligence to our brains to avoid becoming “house cats” to artificial intelligence.
“I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution?” he said in 2016. “I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer. A third, digital layer that could work well and symbiotically” with the rest of your body.
In fact, Musk has said AI could be our “biggest existential threat.”
“So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence,”he said in 2014. “I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence, we’re summoning the demon.”
Though he’s also funded a startup, Neuralink, that wants to implant chips into people’s brains to create a “brain-computer” interface.
Neuralink’s end goal is to achieve “symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” Musk said during a presentation in July.