Tesla & SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sat down with Chris Anderson this week, head of TED, for an interview where his love for humanity shone brightly. In this interview, Elon Musk discussed his recent offer to Twitter, Tesla and how it almost went bankrupt, the Optimus bot, and Tesla’s Full-Self Driving suite, but more importantly, he opened up a little bit about his perspective on things.
Anderson was also able to interview Elon Musk the day before the Giga Texas event and he noted that he did so just in case Elon couldn’t make it to the TED Talk. Before sharing the short preview of an eight-minute clip, Anderson described his experience at Giga Texas, pointing out that the machine that builds the machine was mind blowing.
“What I saw there was pretty honestly mind blowing. This is Elon Musk’s famous machine that builds the machine, and his view, the secret to a sustainable future, is not just making an electric car. It’s making a system that churns out huge numbers of electric cars with a margin so that they can fund further growth.”
In the eight-minute clip, Anderson focused on the challenges of Full-Self Driving and why it’s been hard for Tesla to predict its progress.
“I mean, the thing that really got me, and I think it’s going to get a lot of other people, is that there are just so many false dawns with self-driving where you think you have a handle on the problem and then, nope, it turns out you just hit a ceiling.”
The lesson that Elon Musk and Tesla realized is that to solve Full-Self Driving, real-world AI needed to be solved.
“In order to solve Full Self Driving properly, you have to solve real-world AI. What are the road networks designed to work with? The designs work with a biological neural net, our brains, and with vision, our eyes. And so in order to make it work with computers, you basically need to solve real-world AI and vision.
“We need cameras and silicon neural nets in order to have self-driving work for a system that was designed for eyes and biological neural nets. I guess when you put it that way, it’s sort of quite obvious that the only way to solve Full-Self Driving is to solve real-world AI and sophisticated vision.”
In the TED Talks interview, Elon Musk also talked about his goals with Twitter and what he would like to see happen. He elaborated on his definition of free speech.
Funding Secured & The SEC
Elon also said that the real reason he settled with the SEC over the funding secured tweet was that the banks metaphorically put a gun to Tesla’s head.
“With Tesla, back in the day, funding was actually secured. I want to be clear about that. In fact, this may be a good opportunity to clarify that. Funding was indeed secured.”
He added that he didn’t have respect for the SEC in that situation, while emphasizing that the individuals working for the SEC themselves weren’t the focus of his lack of respect. The SEC, Elon Musk said, knew that the funding was secured yet pursued the active public investigation while knowing full well the funding was secured, and this took place during one of Tesla’s most intense periods of time where it was on the edge between failure and massive success.
“The SEC knew that the funding was secured, but they pursued an active public investigation nonetheless. At the time, Tesla was in a precarious financial situation, and I was told by the banks that if I did not agree to settle with the SEC that the banks would cease providing working capital and Tesla would go bankrupt immediately.
“So that’s like having a gun to your child’s head. I was forced to concede to the SEC unlawfully. Those bastards. And now it makes it look like I lied when I did not, in fact, lie. I was forced to admit that I lied to save Tesla’s life and that’s the only reason.”
His Love For Humanity
Elon’s love for humanity shone brightly in his response to a question about his own children and family. Anderson asked what the future would be like for Little X — what the world he’ll grow up in will be like. Elon pointed out that his son will grow up in a very digital future.
“A very different world than I grew up in, that’s for sure. But I think we want to do our absolute best to ensure the future is good for everyone’s children and that the future is something that you can look forward to and not feel sad about.
“You know, you want to get up in the morning and be excited about the future, and we should fight for the things that make us excited about the future. The future cannot be about one miserable thing after another; solving one sad problem after another. There’s got to be things that get you excited — like you want to live. These things are very important. We should have more of it.”
The TED Talks head pointed out that the future isn’t a done deal but that there is the possibility that it could be horrible. However, Elon sees a pathway to an exciting future both on Earth and Mars, and even in our minds with artificial intelligence. Anderson asked,
“In your heart of hearts, do you really believe that you are helping deliver that exciting future for X and for others?”
“I’m trying my hardest to do so. I love humanity and I think that we should fight for a good future for humanity. I think we should be optimistic about the future and fight to make that optimistic future happen.”
I found the TED Talks interview rather inspiring. I think that humanity has a great champion in Elon. Though we are flawed as a species (we have war, hate, fear, and poverty), we also have goodness. We have love, kindness, emotional connections, and the ability to overcome the darkness within each of us if we choose to. And that’s what, I think, Elon sees. After all, it was Elon Musk who once advised me to believe in good while I was going through a dark time in my life. I think that was not only the kindest but also the best advice I’d ever received.
You can watch the replay of the full TED Talks interview with Elon Musk here.