7 Weird and Wild Things Elon Musk Said at SXSW
The SpaceX founder shared some eye-opening insights this weekend in Austin.
Elon Musk took some time out of his busy schedule this weekend to head to Austin, Texas, for the 2018 SXSW Festival. The event’s freewheeling vibe was evident in the appearances the SpaceX and Tesla CEO made, as he stopped by the panel for HBO’s Westworld and also had a last-minute chat with the show’s co-creator Jonathan Nolan and Musk's brother, fellow entrepreneur Kimbal Musk.
The casual nature of the conversations led to some particularly illuminating insights about how Musk thinks about business and the future. Case in point, when Nolan asked him how he set about growing a business where the products often blow up on the launch pad, Musk responded, “I don’t really have a business plan.”
Notably, there was also a musical interlude, complete with cowboy hats, awkward dancing from Elon and Kimbal playing My Little Buttercup on the guitar.
Check out some of the most intriguing things Musk said at SXSW.
On the role of entrepreneurs in space
“Once there is a means of getting cargo and people to and from Mars, as well as to and from the moon, and other places in the solar system, then I think that’s really where there’s a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial resources that are needed. Because you’ve got to build out the entire base of industry. Everything that allows human civilization to exist.”
On the explorer spirit needed for space travel
“For the early people that go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It really kind of reads like [Ernest] Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. Difficult, dangerous, good chance you will die.”
On how he gave himself an aerospace crash course
“I started reading a lot of books on rockets and did sort of a first principles analysis of a rocket. Just broke down the materials that are in a rocket. What would it cost to buy those materials. ... There is a gigantic difference between the raw material cost of the rocket and the finished cost of the rocket.”
On what he’s afraid of
“I’m really quite close to the cutting edge in AI and it scares the hell out of me. It’s capable of vastly more than almost anyone knows. And the rate of improvement is exponential. ... We have to figure out some way to ensure that the advent of digital superintelligence is one which is symbiotic with humanity. I think that’s the single biggest existential crisis that we face, and the most pressing one. ... Mark my words, AI is far more dangerous than nukes.”
On how to make sure human civilization thrives in the future
“I’m not predicting that we’re about to enter the dark ages. There’s some probability that we will, particularly if there is a third World War. Then we want to make sure that there is enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back.”
On how he would organize a city on Mars
“I think most likely, the form of government on Mars would be somewhat of a direct democracy where you vote on issues, where people vote directly on issues instead of going through a representative government. ... There are a few things I would recommend, which is keep laws short. Long laws, it’s like, that’s something suspicious.”
On going after a goal that seems impossible
“There are a lot of negative things in the world ... there are lots of problems that need to get solved. There are lots of things that are miserable and kind of get you down. But life cannot just be about solving one miserable problem after another. That can’t be the only thing. There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity.”
Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.