Elon Musk

Elon Musk was born and raised in South Africa.  His mother, a Canadian, was a model and dietitian.  His father was an engineer and by Elon account, a terrible human being.  They split up when Elon was eight. When Elon was ten he made what he regarded as one of the worst decisions of his life.  He was living with his mother, half-sister and half-brother, but decided to live with his dad.  Why? Because he thought that his dad must be lonely and unhappy.  No doubt he was; but joining up with him was no cure and was very bad for Elon.

 

To make matters worse Elon was physically a late developer, and by dint of the date of his birthday he was the youngest kid in his class.  He was taunted relentlessly. Once he was thrown down a flight of stairs and knocked unconscious.  While his physique may have been slow to develop.  His intellect was another matter.  He taught himself computer programming on his Commodore VIC-20, and at twelve he had developed a computer game called Blastar which he sold for $500.

To play Blaster

His childhood reading included Isaac Asimov and the views extolled by Asimov still resonate in Musk’s world view.

 

At the age of fifteen he miraculously changed from being a weedy boy to a six-foot man. He temporarily put aside his books and concentrated on Karate, Judo and Wrestling.  After getting into a fight with the biggest bully at his school and silencing him with one king hit he was never bullied again.  Not that it mattered because soon after that he moved to Canada.  His mother, half-brother and half-sister followed.

 

For two years Musk studied at Queens University in Ontario, then transferred to The University of Pennsylvania where he completed a degree in economics and one in physics. He then when west to California to start a Ph.D. at Stanford.  After two days he dropped out to pursue his entrepreneurial career.

His father had told him that he was an idiot and that he would never do any good, but in 1999 Compaq gave Musk $340 million for a software company he had created. He then founded X.com, an online payment company which merged with another company and became PayPal.  PayPal was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.

 

Musk met his first wife, Canadian author Justine Wilson, while both were students at Queens. They married in 2000 and separated in 2008. Their first son, died of sudden infant death syndrome at 10 weeks. They later had five sons through in vitro fertilization – twins in 2004, followed by triplets in 2006. They share custody of all five sons.

 

Musk has said that a quick way to turn a large fortune into a small one is to get involved in the space industry. In May 2002, he founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company in support of a goal to establish a colony on Mars. Musk believes that in order to avoid extinction, settlements must be established off-site.

 

Musk is, however, an irrepressible optimist and to this end he co-founded Tesla, Inc., an electric vehicle and solar panel manufacturer, in 2003.

 

In 2006, he inspired the creation of SolarCity, a solar energy services company that is now a subsidiary of Tesla.  No one has done more than Musk to avert climate change catastrophe.

In 2010 Musk married English actress Talulah Riley.  They divorced in 2012; married again in 2013 and then divorced in 2016.

Most recently (November 2017) he has had a hurtful breakup with American actress Amber Heard (recently divorced from Johnny Depp).

 

In an article in Rolling Stone Musk is astonishingly unguarded, in speaking about his loneliness.  It’s lonely at the top.  Not for everyone (think Bill Gates), but it is certainly more difficult to find an honest relationship when ‘what you are’ overshadows ‘who you are’.

As if saving mankind wasn’t enough to keep Musk occupied, he has recently started another company called the Boring Company.   It’s not that the company is boring, it’s that it’s business is tunnelling, with a view to overcoming gridlock.  This dovetails with another concept of his, the hyperloop a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed.

 

Musk is deeply concerned about unbridled artificial intelligence running amuck.   In 2015,  Musk co-founded OpenAI, a non-profit research company that aims to promote friendly AI.  In July 2016, he co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company focused on developing brain–computer interfaces,

 

In history, I can think of two people that fall into the same league as Musk.  They would be Thomas Edison, and Leonardo da Vinci, both men who had multiple projects and conceived ideas that other's hadn't thought of.

 

To be a chess grand master it is said that you need to be able to think twelve moves ahead.  I think that is the sort of mind that Musk has, and fortunately he has applied it to things that are making a real difference.  He will turn 47 in three weeks, so it’s fair to say that he is in his intellectual prime. I hope he has a sustained peak.

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