Elon Musk wants to build a future worth getting excited about, and he elaborated more on this in a recent TED Talks interview at Tesla Giga Texas. TED Talks head Chris Anderson recently held a live interview with Elon Musk in Vancouver. However, before the live interview, Anderson said that he also held a pre-recorded interview with Elon at Giga Texas. That interview is now available to watch online.
The very first question of the interview was one that I found inspiring yet challenging. It’s about the future and being excited about it. It’s about doing more than focusing on and solving miserable problems. The reason I find this challenging is due to some of the places I’ve been — mentally and physically.
I grew up in poverty, and to make a long story short, changing one’s mindset about poverty itself is really hard, and too many people have not been able to do this. I won’t go into my story, but I will say this: many people feel as if they don’t have the luxury to think about the future. I’ve been in that mindset. Countless people are in that mindset.
However, if Elon Musk can come to the US with only $2,000 to his name and an idea, surely more of us can fight our own ways out of poverty and debt. (Note: that doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge hurdle and that there are systematic barriers that prevent many people from doing so.) Surely, we can also all come together to advocate for sustainability and a clean energy future. This is my own mentality now, but I know all too well that there are millions of Americans struggling with making it day to day.
Painting a future worth getting excited about
Elon’s response to Anderson’s question asked him to help try to picture what it would take to build a future that is worth getting excited about.
“I think, in general, there’s a lot of discussion of, like, this problem or that problem. A lot of people are sad about the future and they’re pessimistic. And I think that this is not great. I mean, we really want to wake up in the morning and look forward to the future. We want to be excited about what’s going to happen. And life cannot simply be about, sort of, solving one miserable problem after another.”
It may seem as if Elon didn’t answer that question directly, but I remember this saying: “Attitude everything.” It was in a frame on my high school counselor’s wall. In order to get excited about the future, you need to adjust your mentality or thoughts about it. I think this is what Elon does — at least, it seems that way to me.
A path toward sustainability
Anderson’s second question touched upon the idea that 2050 is a sort of doomsday date for the climate and asked Elon if he saw a path out of the climate crisis, noting that there’s a large consensus of scientists that believe that if we haven’t completely eliminated or offset greenhouse gases completely by 2050, we could have a climate catastrophe. Elon responded that he isn’t one of the doomsday believers but that there is a path forward that would help our planet avoid that catastrophe.
“I actually think we’re on a good path, but at the same time, I want to caution against complacency. So, as long as we’re not complacent, as long as we have a high sense of urgency about moving towards a sustainable energy economy, then I think things will be fine.
“I can’t emphasize that enough. As long as we push hard and are not complacent, the future is going to be great.”
Elon also said not to worry about it, but not in the sense that we need to ignore the problem. We need to not put all of our focus into worrying about the problem, but instead put that focus into solving the problem. As in, use the problem itself for motivation for finding a solution instead of just wasting time and energy worrying about it.
This is something I’ve seen happen in my own life. I’ll put too much mental energy into something but not work toward solving that problem, and the outcome is a self-unfulfilling prophecy. I think this is something that’s happened to all of us at one point or another. Elon continued:
“There are three elements to a sustainable energy future. One is obviously sustainable energy generation, which is primarily wind and solar. There’s also hydro, and geothermal, I’m actually pro-nuclear. I think nuclear is fine. But it’s going to be primarily solar and wind as the primary generators of energy.
“The second part is you need batteries to store solar and wind energy because the sun doesn’t shine all the time, the wind doesn’t blow all the time. So, it’s a lot of stationary battery packs. And then you need electric transport. So, electric cars, electric planes, boats.”
Elon also touched upon the limiting factor of progress. He said that this will be battery cell production, which will be the fundamental rate driver. He added that the slowest element of the entire lithium-ion battery cell supply chain would also be the limiting factor on progress towards sustainability. You can watch the full interview here.
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