Elon Musk

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Elon Musk
A close-up of Musk's face while giving a speech
Musk in 2015
Born Elon Reeve Musk
(1971-06-28) June 28, 1971 (age 49)
Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
Residence Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, U.S.[1][2]
Alma mater
Occupation Entrepreneur, engineer, inventor, and investor
Net worth US$20.9 billion (January 2018)[6]
Children 6
Elon Musk

Elon Reeve Musk (/ˈlɒn ˈmʌsk/; born June 28, 1971) is a South African-born Canadian American business magnate, investor,[9][10] engineer,[11] and inventor.[16][17] In December 2016, Musk was ranked 21st on the Forbes list of The World's Most Powerful People.[18] As of January 2018, he has a net worth of $20.9 billion and is listed by Forbes as the 53rd richest person in the world.[19]

Born in Pretoria, Musk taught himself computer programming at the age of 12. He moved to Canada when he was 17 to attend Queen's University. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania two years later, where he received a degree in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences and an economics degree from the Wharton School. He began a PhD in applied physics and material sciences at Stanford University in 1995 but dropped out within a month to pursue an entrepreneurial career. He subsequently co-founded Zip2, a web software company, which was acquired by Compaq for $340 million in 1999. Musk then founded X.com, an online payment company. It merged with Confinity in 2000 and became PayPal, which was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002.[24]

In May 2002 Musk founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, of which he is CEO and lead designer. He co-founded Tesla, Inc., an electric vehicle and solar panel manufacturer, in 2003, and operates as its CEO and product architect. In 2006 he inspired the creation of SolarCity, a solar energy services company that is now a subsidiary of Tesla, and operates as its chairman. In 2015 Musk co-founded OpenAI, a nonprofit research company that aims to promote friendly artificial intelligence, and serves as its co-chair. He co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company focused on developing brain–computer interfaces, in July 2016 and is its CEO. He founded The Boring Company, an infrastructure and tunnel-construction company, in December 2016.

In addition to his primary business pursuits, Musk has envisioned a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop, and has proposed a vertical take-off and landing supersonic jet electric aircraft with electric fan propulsion, known as the Musk electric jet.[25][26] Musk has stated that the goals of SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity.[27] His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the "risk of human extinction" by establishing a human colony on Mars.[28]

Early life

Early childhood

Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa,[29] the son of Maye Musk (née Haldeman), a model and dietician from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada,[30] and Errol Musk, a South African electromechanical engineer, pilot, and sailor. He has a younger brother, Kimbal (born 1972), and a younger sister, Tosca (born 1974).[34] His paternal grandmother was British, and he also has Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry.[35][36] His maternal grandfather was American, from Minnesota.[37] After his parents divorced in 1980, Musk lived mostly with his father in the suburbs of Pretoria,[35] which Musk chose two years after his parents split up, but now says was "not a good idea".[38] As an adult, Musk has severed relations with his father.[38] He has a half sister.[39]

During his childhood he was an avid reader.[40] At age 10, he developed an interest in computing with the Commodore VIC-20.[41] He taught himself computer programming at the age of 12, sold the code of a BASIC-based video game he created called Blastar, to a magazine called PC and Office Technology, for approximately $500.[42][43] A web version of the game is available online.[42][44] His childhood reading included Isaac Asimov's Foundation series from which he drew the lesson that "you should try to take the set of actions that are likely to prolong civilization, minimize the probability of a dark age and reduce the length of a dark age if there is one."[38]

Musk was severely bullied throughout his childhood,[38] and was once hospitalized when a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs and then beat him until he lost consciousness.[40]

Musk was initially educated at private schools, attending the English-speaking Waterkloof House Preparatory School. Musk later graduated from Pretoria Boys High School and moved to Canada in June 1989, just before his 18th birthday,[45] after obtaining Canadian citizenship through his Canadian-born mother.[46][47]


At the age of 17, Musk was accepted into Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, for undergraduate study. In 1992, after spending two years at Queen's University, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where in May 1997 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from its College of Arts and Sciences, and a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from its Wharton School of Business. Musk extended his studies for one year to finish the second bachelor's degree.[40][48] While at the University of Pennsylvania, Musk and fellow Penn student Adeo Ressi rented a 10-bedroom fraternity house, using it as an unofficial nightclub.[40]

In 1995, at age 24, Musk moved to California to begin a PhD in applied physics and materials science at Stanford University, but left the program after two days to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations in the areas of the internet, renewable energy and outer space.[43][49] In 2002, he became a U.S. citizen.[50][51]



In 1995, Musk and his brother, Kimbal, started Zip2, a web software company, with money raised from a small group of angel investors.[38] The company developed and marketed an Internet "city guide" for the newspaper publishing industry.[52] Musk obtained contracts with The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune[53] and persuaded the board of directors to abandon plans for a merger with CitySearch.[54] While at Zip2, Musk wanted to become CEO; however, none of the board members would allow it.[40] Compaq acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options in February 1999.[55] Musk received US$22 million for his 7 percent share from the sale.[53]

X.com and PayPal

In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company, with US$10 million from the sale of Zip2.[45][52][54] One year later, the company merged with Confinity,[53][56] which had a money-transfer service called PayPal. The merged company focused on the PayPal service and was renamed PayPal in 2001. PayPal's early growth was driven mainly by a viral marketing campaign where new customers were recruited when they received money through the service.[57] Musk was ousted in October 2000 from his role as CEO (although he remained on the board) due to disagreements with other company leadership, notably over his desire to move PayPal's Unix-based infrastructure to Microsoft Windows.[58] In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock, of which Musk received US$165 million.[59] Before its sale, Musk, who was the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.[60]

In July 2017, Musk purchased the domain x.com from PayPal for an undisclosed amount stating that it has "great sentimental value" to him.[61]


In 2001, Musk conceptualized "Mars Oasis"; a project to land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith, in an attempt to regain public interest in space exploration.[62][63] In October 2001, Musk travelled to Moscow with Jim Cantrell (an aerospace supplies fixer), and Adeo Ressi (his best friend from college), to buy refurbished Dnepr Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could send the envisioned payloads into space. The group met with companies such as NPO Lavochkin and Kosmotras; however, according to Cantrell, Musk was seen as a novice and was consequently spat on by one of the Russian chief designers,[64] and the group returned to the United States empty-handed. In February 2002, the group returned to Russia to look for three ICBMs, bringing along Mike Griffin. Griffin had worked for the CIA's venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, as well as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was just leaving Orbital Sciences, a maker of satellites and spacecraft. The group met again with Kosmotras, and were offered one rocket for US$8 million; however, this was seen by Musk as too expensive; Musk consequently stormed out of the meeting. On the flight back from Moscow, Musk realized that he could start a company that could build the affordable rockets he needed.[64] According to early Tesla and SpaceX investor Steve Jurvetson,[65] Musk calculated that the raw materials for building a rocket actually were only 3 percent of the sales price of a rocket at the time. It was concluded that theoretically, by applying vertical integration and the modular approach from software engineering, SpaceX could cut launch price by a factor of ten and still enjoy a 70-percent gross margin.[66] Ultimately, Musk ended up founding SpaceX with the long-term goal of creating a "true spacefaring civilization".[67]

Musk and President Barack Obama at the Falcon 9 launch site in 2010

With US$100 million of his early fortune,[68] Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, in May 2002.[69] Musk is chief executive officer (CEO) and chief technology officer (CTO) of the Hawthorne, California-based company. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles with a focus on advancing the state of rocket technology. The company's first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets (a nod to Star Wars' Millennium Falcon), and its first spacecraft is the Dragon (a nod to Puff the Magic Dragon).[70] In seven years, SpaceX designed the family of Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon multipurpose spacecraft. In September 2008, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fueled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit.[40] On May 25, 2012, the SpaceX Dragon vehicle berthed with the ISS, making history as the first commercial company to launch and berth a vehicle to the International Space Station.[71]

In 2006, SpaceX was awarded a contract from NASA to continue the development and test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft in order to transport cargo to the International Space Station,[72][not in citation given] followed by a US$1.6 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services program contract on December 23, 2008, for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the Space Station, replacing the US Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011.[73] Astronaut transport to the ISS is currently handled solely by the Soyuz, but SpaceX is one of two companies awarded a contract by NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Development program, which is intended to develop a US astronaut transport capability by 2018.[74] On December 22, 2015, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon rocket back at the launch pad. This was the first time in history such a feat had been achieved by an orbital rocket and is a significant step towards rocket reusability lowering the costs of access to space.[75] This first stage recovery was replicated several times in 2016 by landing on an Autonomous spaceport drone ship, an ocean-based recovery platform,[76] and by the end of 2017, SpaceX had landed and recovered the first stage on 16 missions in a row where a landing and recovery were attempted, including all 14 attempts in 2017. 20 out of 42 first stage Falcon 9 boosters have been recovered overall since the Falcon 9 maiden flight in 2010.[77] In the most recent full year—2017—SpaceX launched 18 successful Falcon 9 flights, more than doubling their highest previous year of 8.[78]

SpaceX is both the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world, and holder of the record for highest thrust-to-weight ratio for a rocket engine.[79] SpaceX has produced more than 100 operational Merlin 1D engines, currently the world's most powerful engine for its weight.[80] The relatively immense power to weight ratio allows each Merlin 1D engine to vertically lift the weight of 40 average family cars. In combination, the 9 Merlin engines in the Falcon 9 first stage produce anywhere from 5.8 to 6.7 MN (1.3 to 1.5 million pounds) of thrust, depending on altitude.[81]

Musk was influenced by Isaac Asimov's Foundation series[82] and views space exploration as an important step in preserving and expanding the consciousness of human life.[83] Musk said that multiplanetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species.

An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct.

Musk's goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 10.[84] In a 2011 interview, he said he hopes to send humans to Mars' surface within 10–20 years.[85] In Ashlee Vance's biography, Musk stated that he wants to establish a Mars colony by 2040, with a population of 80,000.[41] Musk stated that, since Mars' atmosphere lacks oxygen, all transportation would have to be electric (electric cars, electric trains, Hyperloop, electric aircraft).[86] Musk stated in June 2016 that the first unmanned flight of the larger Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) spacecraft is aimed for departure to the red planet in 2022, to be followed by the first manned MCT Mars flight departing in 2024.[87] In September 2016, Musk revealed details of his architecture to explore and colonize Mars.[88] By 2016, Musk's private trust holds 54% of SpaceX stock, equivalent to 78% of voting shares.[89]

In late 2017, SpaceX unveiled the design for its next-generation launch vehicle and spacecraft system—BFR—that would support all SpaceX launch service provider capabilities with a single set of very large vehicles: Earth-orbit, Lunar-orbit, interplanetary missions, and even intercontinental passenger transport on Earth, and totally replace the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon vehicles in the 2020s. The BFR will have a 9-meter (30 ft) core diameter. Significant development on the vehicles began in 2017, while the new rocket engine development began in 2012.[90][91]


Tesla, Inc. (originally Tesla Motors) was incorporated in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who financed the company until the Series A round of funding.[92]

Both men played active roles in the company's early development prior to Elon Musk's involvement.[93] Musk led the Series A round of investment in February 2004, joining Tesla's board of directors as its chairman.[94] Musk took an active role within the company and oversaw Roadster product design at a detailed level, but was not deeply involved in day-to-day business operations.[95]

Following the financial crisis in 2008,[96] Musk assumed leadership of the company as CEO and product architect, positions he still holds today. Tesla Motors first built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster in 2008, with sales of about 2,500 vehicles to 31 countries. Tesla began delivery of its four-door Model S sedan on June 22, 2012. It unveiled its third product, the Model X, aimed at the SUV/minivan market, on February 9, 2012; however, the Model X launch was delayed until September 2015.[97][98][99] In addition to its own cars, Tesla sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler for the Smart EV, Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive and Mercedes A Class, and to Toyota for the RAV4 EV. Musk was able to bring in both companies as long-term investors in Tesla.[100]

Musk has favored building a sub-US$30,000 compact Tesla model and building and selling electric vehicle powertrain components so that other automakers can produce electric vehicles at affordable prices without having to develop the products in-house; this led to the Model 3 that is planned to have a base price of US$35,000.[101] Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his work on advanced vehicle powertrains.[102]

In a May 2013 interview with All Things Digital, Musk said that to overcome the range limitations of electric cars, Tesla is "dramatically accelerating" its network of supercharger stations, tripling the number on the East and West coasts of the U.S. that June, with plans for more expansion across North America, including Canada, throughout the year.[103] As of January 29, 2016, Musk owns about 28.9 million Tesla shares, which equates to about 22% of the company.[104][105]

As of 2014, Musk's annual salary is one dollar, similar to that of Steve Jobs and other CEOs; the remainder of his compensation is in the form of stock and performance-based bonuses.[106][107]

In 2014, Musk announced that Tesla would allow its technology patents to be used by anyone in good faith in a bid to entice automobile manufacturers to speed up development of electric cars. "The unfortunate reality is electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn't burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales", Musk said.[108]

In February 2016, Musk announced that he had acquired the Tesla.com domain name from Stu Grossman, who had owned it since 1992, and changed Tesla's homepage to that domain.[109]


Musk provided the initial concept and financial capital for SolarCity, which was then co-founded in 2006 by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive.[110][111] By 2013, SolarCity was the second largest provider of solar power systems in the United States.[112] SolarCity was acquired by Tesla, Inc. in 2016 and is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Tesla.[113][114][115]

The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla was to help combat global warming.[116] In 2012, Musk announced that SolarCity and Tesla are collaborating to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid, with the program going live in 2013.[117]

On June 17, 2014, Musk committed to building a SolarCity advanced production facility in Buffalo, New York, that would triple the size of the largest solar plant in the United States. Musk stated the plant will be "one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world", and it will be followed by one or more even bigger facilities in subsequent years.[118][needs update]


On August 12, 2013, Musk unveiled a concept for a high-speed transportation system incorporating reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.[119] The mechanism for releasing the concept was an alpha-design document that, in addition to scoping out the technology, outlined a notional route where such a transport system might be built: between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area.[120]

After earlier envisioning Hyperloop, Musk assigned a dozen engineers from Tesla and SpaceX who worked for nine months, establishing the conceptual foundations and creating the designs for the transportation system.[121][122] An early design for the system was then published in a whitepaper posted to the Tesla and SpaceX blogs.[123][124][125] Musk's proposal, if technologically feasible at the costs he has cited, would make Hyperloop travel cheaper than any other mode of transport for such long distances. The alpha design was proposed to use a partial vacuum to reduce aerodynamic drag, which it is theorized would allow for high-speed travel with relatively low power, with certain other features like air-bearing skis and an inlet compressor to reduce freestream flow. The document of alpha design estimated the total cost of an LA-to-SF Hyperloop system at US$6 billion, but this amount is speculative.[126]

In June 2015, Musk announced a design competition for students and others to build Hyperloop pods to operate on a SpaceX-sponsored mile-long track in a 2015–2017 Hyperloop pod competition. The track was used in January 2017, and Musk also started building a tunnel.[127]

Hyperloop One, a company unaffiliated with Musk, had announced that it had done its first successful test run on its DevLoop track in Nevada on July 13, 2017. It was on May 12, 2017 at 12:02 a.m. and had lasted 5.3 seconds, reaching a top speed of 70 mph.[128]

On July 20, 2017, Elon Musk announced that he had gotten "verbal government approval" to build a hyperloop from New York City to Washington D.C, stopping in both Philadelphia and Baltimore.[129] However, the New York City Transit Authority, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Maryland Transit Administration, United States Department of Homeland Security, as well as the mayors of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. stated that they are unaware of any such agreement.[130]


In December 2015, Musk announced the creation of OpenAI, a not-for-profit artificial intelligence (AI) research company. OpenAI aims to develop artificial general intelligence in a way that is safe and beneficial to humanity.[131]

By making AI available to everyone, OpenAI wants to "counteract large corporations who may gain too much power by owning super-intelligence systems devoted to profits, as well as governments which may use AI to gain power and even oppress their citizenry".[132] Musk has stated he wants to counteract the concentration of power.[38]


In 2016, Musk co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology startup company, to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence. The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.[133] Musk sees Neuralink and OpenAI as related: "OpenAI is a nonprofit dedicated to minimizing the dangers of artificial intelligence, while Neuralink is working on ways to implant technology into our brains to create mind-computer interfaces. ... Neuralink allows our brains to keep up in the intelligence race. The machines can't outsmart us if we have everything the machines have plus everything we have. At least, that is if you assume that what we have is actually an advantage."[38]

The Boring Company

On December 17, 2016, while stuck in traffic, Musk tweeted "Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging..." The company was named 'The Boring Company'.[134] On January 21, 2017, Musk tweeted "Exciting progress on the tunnel front. Plan to start digging in a month or so."[135] The first tunnel will start on the SpaceX campus,[136] and will probably go to a nearby parking garage. As of January 26, 2017, discussions with regulatory bodies have begun,[137] but no requests for permits to dig in the Los Angeles area had been filed with the California Department of Transportation by late January 2017.[138][needs update]

In February 2017, the company began digging a 30-foot-wide, 50-foot-long, and 15-foot-deep "test trench" on the premises of Space X's offices in Los Angeles, since the construction requires no permits.[139][140] Musk has said that a 10-fold decrease in tunnel boring cost per mile is necessary for economic feasibility of the proposed tunnel network.[141][needs update]

Political views

Musk speaking alongside Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny

Politically, Musk has described himself as "half Democrat, half Republican". In his own words: "I'm somewhere in the middle, socially liberal and fiscally conservative."[142] In December 2016, Musk became a member of two of then President-elect Donald Trump's presidential advisory committees (the Strategic and Policy Forum[143][144][145][146] and Manufacturing Jobs Initiative)[147] but resigned from both in June 2017, in protest at Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change.[148][149]

Musk has described himself as "nauseatingly pro-American". According to Musk, the United States is "[inarguably] the greatest country that has ever existed on Earth", describing it as "the greatest force for good of any country that's ever been." Musk believes outright that there "would not be democracy in the world if not for the United States", arguing there were "three separate occasions in the 20th-century where democracy would have fallen with World War I, World War II and the Cold War, if not for the United States." Musk also stated that he thinks "it would be a mistake to say the United States is perfect, it certainly is not. There have been many foolish things the United States has done and bad things the United States has done."[150]

Prompted by the emergence of self-driving cars and Artificial Intelligence, Musk has voiced support for a universal basic income.[151]

Prior to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, Musk criticized candidate Trump by saying: "I feel a bit stronger that he is probably not the right guy. He doesn't seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States."[152] Following Donald Trump's inauguration, Musk expressed approval of Trump's choice of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and accepted an invitation to appear on a panel advising President Trump. Regarding his cooperation with Trump, Musk has subsequently commented: "The more voices of reason that the President hears, the better."[153]


In an interview with the Washington Post, Musk stated he was a "significant (though not top-tier) donor to Democrats", but that he also gives heavily to Republicans. Musk further stated, "in order to have your voice be heard in Washington, you have to make some little contribution."[154][155]

A recent report from the Sunlight Foundation (a nonpartisan group that tracks government spending), found that "SpaceX has spent over US$4 million on lobbying Congress since it was established in 2002 and doled out more than US$800,000 in political contributions" to Democrats and Republicans. The same report noted that "SpaceX's campaign to win political support has been systematic and sophisticated", and that "unlike most tech-startups, SpaceX has maintained a significant lobbying presence in Washington almost since day 1." The report further noted that "Musk himself has donated roughly US$725,000 to various campaigns since 2002. In 2004, he contributed US$2,000 to President George W. Bush's reelection campaign, maxing out (over US$100,000)[156] to Obama's reelection campaign and donated US$5,000 to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who represents Florida, a state critical to the space industry. (...) All told, Musk and SpaceX gave out roughly US$250,000 in the 2012 election cycle."[154][157] Additionally, SpaceX hired former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to represent the company, via the Washington-based lobbying group Patton Boggs LLP. Alongside Patton Boggs LLP, SpaceX uses several other outside lobbying firms, who work alongside SpaceX's own lobbyists.[158]

Musk had been a supporter of the U.S. political action committee (PAC) FWD.us, which was started by fellow high-profile entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg and advocates for immigration reform. However, in May 2013, Musk publicly withdrew his support in protest of advertisements the PAC was running that supported causes like the Keystone Pipeline. Musk and other members, including David O. Sacks, pulled out, criticizing the strategy as "cynical".[159] Musk further stated, "we shouldn't give in to the politics. If we give in to that, we'll get the political system we deserve."[160]

In December 2013, Sean Becker of the media/political website Mic called Musk a "complete hypocrite", stating that "[for] the 2014 election cycle, Musk has contributed to the Longhorn PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee – both of which have funded the campaigns of anti-science, anti-environment candidates such as Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minn.)."[160] Musk has directly contributed to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been accused of holding similar positions regarding climate change.[157]


Musk has stated that he does not believe the U.S. government should provide subsidies to companies but should instead use a carbon tax to price in the negative externality of air pollution and discourage "bad behavior". Musk argues that the free market would achieve the "best solution", and that producing environmentally unfriendly vehicles should come with its own consequences.[161]

Musk's statements have been widely criticized, with Stanford University Professor Fred Turner noting that "if you're an entrepreneur like Elon Musk, you will take the money where you can get it, but at the same time believe as a matter of faith that it's entrepreneurship and technology that are the sources of social change, not the state. It is not quite self-delusion, but there is a habit of thinking of oneself as a free-standing, independent agent, and of not acknowledging the subsidies that one received. And this goes on all the time in Silicon Valley."[162] Author Michael Shellenberger argued that "in the case of Musk, it is hard not to read that as a kind of defensiveness. And I think there is a business reason for it. They are dealing with a lot of investors for whom subsidies are not the basis for a long-term viable business, and they often want to exaggerate the speed with which they are going to be able to become independent." Shellenberger continues, "we would all be better off if these entrepreneurs were a bit more grateful, a bit more humble." While journalist and author Jim Motavalli, who interviewed Musk for High Voltage, his 2011 book about the electric vehicle industry, speculated that "Elon is now looking at it from the point of view of a winner, and he doesn't want to see other people win because they get government money – I do think there is a tendency of people, once they have succeeded, to want to pull the ladder up after them."[163]

In 2015, Musk's statements were subject to further scrutiny when an LA Times article claimed that SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity and buyers of their products had or were projected to receive together an estimated US$4.9 billion in government subsidies over twenty years. One example given is New York state, which is spending $750 million to build a solar panel factory in Buffalo which will be leased to SolarCity for $1 a year. The deal also includes no property taxes for a decade, an estimated $260 million valuation. Musk employs a former U.S. State Department official as the chief negotiator for Tesla.[164]


Destiny and religion

When asked whether he believed "there was some kind of destiny involved" in humanity's transition to a multi-planetary species, rather than "just physics", Musk responded:

Well, I do. Do I think that there's some sort of master intelligence architecting all of this stuff? I think probably not because then you have to say: "Where does the master intelligence come from?" So it sort of begs the question. So I think really you can explain this with the fundamental laws of physics. You know it's complex phenomenon from simple elements.[165]

Musk has stated that he does not pray, or worship any being, although previously admitted to praying before an important Falcon 1 launch, asking "any entities that [were] listening" to "bless [the] launch". When asked whether he believed "religion and science could co-exist", Musk replied "probably not".[166]

Extraterrestrial life

Although Musk believes "there is a good chance that there is simple life on other planets", he "questions whether there is other intelligent life in the known universe".[166] Musk later clarified his "hope that there is other intelligent life in the known universe", and stated that it is "probably more likely than not, but that's a complete guess."[167]

Musk has also considered the simulation hypothesis as a potential solution to the Fermi paradox:

The absence of any noticeable life may be an argument in favour of us being in a simulation.... Like when you're playing an adventure game, and you can see the stars in the background, but you can't ever get there. If it's not a simulation, then maybe we're in a lab and there's some advanced alien civilization that's just watching how we develop, out of curiosity, like mould in a petri dish.... If you look at our current technology level, something strange has to happen to civilizations, and I mean strange in a bad way. ... And it could be that there are a whole lot of dead, one-planet civilizations.[168]

Artificial intelligence

Musk has frequently spoken about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, declaring it "the most serious threat to the survival of the human race". During an interview at the MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium, Musk described AI as "[humanity's] biggest existential threat", further stating, "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." Musk described the creation of artificial intelligence as "summoning the demon".[169][170]

Despite this, Musk has previously invested in DeepMind, an AI firm, and Vicarious, a company working to improve machine intelligence. In January 2015, he donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, an organization focused on challenges posed by advanced technologies.[171] He is the co-chairman of OpenAI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research company.[172]

Musk has said that his investments are, "not from the standpoint of actually trying to make any investment return... I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence". Musk continued, "There have been movies about this, you know, like Terminator – there are some scary outcomes. And we should try to make sure the outcomes are good, not bad."[173]

In June 2016, he was asked whether he thinks humans live in a computer simulation, to which he answered "probably". Elaborated as follows:

The strongest argument for us probably being in a simulation I think is the following: 40 years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot. That's where we were. Now 40 years later we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it's getting better every year. And soon we'll have virtual reality, we'll have augmented reality. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, just indistinguishable.[174]

Elon Musk's dark warnings over Artificial Intelligence has brought him some controversy. He and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have clashed with the latter terming his warnings "irresponsible". Musk responded to Mark's censure by saying that he had discussed AI with Zuckerberg and found him to have only a "limited understanding" of the subject.

Numerous AI experts have since criticised Musk's statements, describing them as fear mongering. Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said that "media are too full of alarmist, hysterical doomsday scenarios", as the EU is looking at ways of stopping the flow of false information regarding AI.[175] Rodney Brooks, founding director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, told TechCrunch that Elon Musk and those who share his views "share a common thread, in that: they don’t work in AI themselves."[176] François Chollet and David Ha, deep learning researchers at Google, said that it is unclear if AI will create any new threats and that they disagree with Musk's statements.[177] Pedro Domingos, professor of Computer Science at the University of Washington, tweeted "One word: sigh" as a response to Musk's comments about AI.[178]

Public transport

At a Tesla event on the sidelines of the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems in December 2017, Musk stated that:

I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end? And it doesn’t go all the time. [...] It’s a pain in the ass. That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great.[179]

Afterwards, he dismissed an audience member’s response that public transportation functioned effectively in Japan.[180][181]

His comment sparked widespread criticism from both the public and transit experts. Urban planning expert Brent Toderian started the hashtag #GreatThingsThatHappenedonTransit which was widely adopted by Twitter users in order to dispel Musk's notion that everybody hated public transport.[180][182][183] Yonah Freemark, an urbanist and journalist specialising in planning and transportation, summarised Musk's views on public transport as "It's terrible. You might be killed. Japanese trains are awful. Individualized transport for everyone! Congestion? Induced demand? Climate change impacts? Unwalkable streets? Who cares!"[179]

Jarrett Walker, a known public transport expert and consultant from Portland, said that "Musk's hatred of sharing space with strangers is a luxury (or pathology) that only the rich can afford," referring to the theory that planning a city around the preferences of a minority yields an outcome that usually does not work for the majority.[184][185] [186] Musk responded with "You're an idiot," later saying "Sorry [...] Meant to say 'sanctimonious idiot.'"[187][188][189] The exchange received a significant amount of media attention and prompted Nobel laureate Paul Krugman to comment on the controversy, saying that apparently, "You're an idiot" is Musk's idea of a cogent argument.[184][190]

Personal life

Musk owned a McLaren F1 supercar, which he crashed while it was uninsured.[191] He also previously owned an Aero L-39, a Czech-made jet trainer aircraft.[192]

The 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft used in the 2005 film Thank You for Smoking is registered to Musk (N900SX),[193] and Musk had a cameo as the pilot of his plane, opening the door for Robert Duvall and escorting Aaron Eckhart aboard. Musk owns Wet Nellie, the Lotus Esprit from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. He plans to convert it into the functional car-submarine from the film.[194]

Musk attended the Burning Man festival in 2004 and has said he first thought up the idea for SolarCity at the festival.[117]

Tosca Musk, Elon's sister, is a filmmaker. She is the founder of Musk Entertainment and has produced various movies.[195]

Musk stated that he wants "to die on Mars, just not on impact".[196]


Musk is chairman of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on providing solar-power energy systems in disaster areas. In 2010, the Musk Foundation collaborated with SolarCity to donate a 25-kW solar power system to the South Bay Community Alliance's hurricane response center in Coden, Alabama.[197] In July 2011, the Musk Foundation donated US$250,000 towards a solar power project in Sōma, Japan, a city that had been recently devastated by tsunami.[198]

In July 2014, Musk was asked by cartoonist Matthew Inman and William Terbo, the grandnephew of Nikola Tesla, to donate US$8 million toward the construction of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.[199] Ultimately, Musk agreed to donate US$1 million toward the project and additionally pledged to build a Tesla Supercharger in the museum car park.[200]

Musk donated US$10 million to the Future of Life Institute in January 2015, to run a global research program aimed at keeping artificial intelligence beneficial to humanity.[201][171][202]

As of 2015, Musk is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation[203] and a signatory of The Giving Pledge.[204]


Musk met his first wife, Canadian author Justine Wilson, while both were students at Ontario's Queen's University. They married in 2000 and separated in 2008.[205]

Their first son, Nevada Alexander Musk, died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) at the age of 10 weeks.[206] They later had five sons through in vitro fertilization – twins in 2004, followed by triplets in 2006. They share custody of all five sons.[207]

In 2008, Musk began dating English actress Talulah Riley, and in 2010, the couple married. In January 2012, Musk announced that he had ended his four-year relationship with Riley,[33][208] tweeting to Riley, "It was an amazing four years. I will love you forever. You will make someone very happy one day."[209] In July 2013, Musk and Riley remarried. In December 2014, Musk filed for a second divorce from Riley; however, the action was withdrawn.[8] The media announced in March 2016 that divorce proceedings were again under way, this time with Riley filing for divorce from Musk.[210] The divorce was finalized in late 2016.[211]

Musk began dating American actress Amber Heard in 2016 but the two split up after one year due to their conflicting schedules.[212]

Zolpidem usage

In an apparent self-admission of mixing zolpidem and alcohol, Musk tweeted in June 2017 "A little red wine, vintage record, some Ambien ... and magic!".[213] Musk gained media attention for advocating the dangerous drug combination publicly on his social media.[214][215]


Title Application number Grant number Application date Grant date Original assignee
Funnel shaped charge inlet[216] 13/549185 8579635 2012-07-13 2013-11-12 Tesla Motors, Inc.
Vehicle charge inlet[217] 29/427056 D724031 2012-07-13 2015-03-10 Tesla Motors, Inc.
Vehicle[218] 29/412833 D683268 2012-02-08 2013-05-28 Tesla Motors, Inc.
Vehicle door[219] 29/412841 D678154 2012-02-08 2013-03-19 Tesla Motors, Inc.

Awards and recognition

Honorary doctorates

In popular media

In the 2005 film Thank You for Smoking, Musk had a cameo as the pilot of his own plane, opening the door for the Captain (Robert Duvall) and escorting Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) aboard.[citation needed]

In Iron Man 2 (2010), he met Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in a restaurant, and had some brief lines regarding an "idea for an electric jet".[250]

In Transcendence (2014), he briefly appeared as an audience member listening to speeches on artificial intelligence at an Evolve the Future conference.[citation needed]

Also in 2014, he was satirized in the South Park episode "Handicar".[citation needed] He later made a guest appearance in three more episodes of South Park in 2016, this time voicing himself in the episodes "Members Only", "Not Funny", and "The End of Serialization as We Know It."[citation needed]

In January 2015, Musk made a guest appearance playing himself on The Simpsons in an episode titled "The Musk Who Fell to Earth"; the episode poked fun at many of the inventor's ideas.[251]

In November 2015, Musk appeared in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, playing himself, volunteering at a soup kitchen with Howard.[252]

Musk was featured in the 2015 environmental documentary Racing Extinction, in which a custom Tesla Model S was designed to help project images of critically endangered species onto public buildings, including the Empire State Building and the Vatican.[253]

In 2016, Musk appeared as himself in the romantic comedy film Why Him? where he was briefly met by one of the main characters, Ned Flemming played by Bryan Cranston, in a bar at a party.[254]

Also in 2016, Musk was referenced by Dr. Martin Stein on The CW time-travel TV show DC's Legends of Tomorrow. During time travel to the past, Stein meets his younger self and introduced himself as Elon Musk, to disguise his own identity.[255]

In October 2017, Musk was prematurely immortalized as a historic pioneer on the CBS All Access series Star Trek Discovery. Set in the year 2256, Captain Gabriel Lorca attempts to motivate a scientist on his ship by asking him "How do you want to be remembered in history? Alongside the Wright Brothers, Elon Musk, Zefram Cochrane? Or as a failed fungus expert. A selfish little man who put the survival of his own ego before the lives of others?"[256][257] According to an article in techcrunch.com published the day after the episode aired, this mention is "also interesting because of its notable omission of Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos: This other space entrepreneur is such a big fan of Star Trek that he pitched and succeeded in landing a cameo in Star Trek Beyond as an alien being, but he doesn’t rate a mention from Lorca among the spaceflight pantheon."[258]

Musk is significantly referenced numerous times in Hat Films' 2017 album, Neon Musk.[259]

In November 2017, Musk appeared as himself in the Season 1, Episode 6, episode of The Big Bang Theory spin-off prequel series Young Sheldon. The successful first landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage on April 8, 2016, is shown being covered by CNN. This is followed by a scene where Musk is shown alone in his office reading the notebook that young Sheldon mailed NASA in 1989 (a scene shown earlier in the episode) containing calculations detailing how this feat could be accomplished.[260]


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Further reading

External links



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