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Elon Musk Revisited


Most people had never heard of Elon Musk when, in 2018, I first wrote about him.  Now, just about everyone knows who he is.

He’s pressed on with world changing innovation, But first, you may like some background, so here’s a link to my 2018 article.

Elon Musk is irascible, as was Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Leonardo Da Vince.  Often, he is not a nice person, but he is not, in my opinion, a bad person.  It must be tough being so driven and creative, even without having leagues of critics.

When Henry Ford’s engineers told him that it wouldn’t be possible to make a V8, he told them to do it. 

When Musk was told that casting a one-piece, aluminium chassis, was too difficult, he said ‘do it’.

When Thomas Edison needed a simple method for installing a light bulb, he adopted the tread, pitch and diameter of screw top Thermos. (Try it.  You’ll find that a standard Edison Screw light bulb will screw into an old- fashioned Thermos.)

When Musk was confronted with paying $1500 for latches for his Space X rockets servicing the international space station, he opted for a modified latch from toilet cubicles (cost: $30 plus the cost of modifying).

Disregarding expert advice, breeds contempt, even when that disregard is vindicated. But Musk wants solutions, not friends. 

Being the subject of Musk’s ire, is humiliating.  He is prone to being insulting, and then forgetting that an altercation ever occurred.  He is subject to dark moods, but the flip side is the global benefits of his creative mind.


Regards patents, he says “I don’t care about patents. Patents are for the weak.”  His view is that they are generally used as a blocking technique, designed to prevent others from innovating.

Tesla is patent-free.  This open access to Tesla’s innovation, has contributed to the global stock of electric cars of all brands, and made them cheaper.

In 2018, Musk was on the brink of ruination, having had his wealth explosively demolished in three failed attempts at launching, into space, a reusable rocket, and he was failing to deliver Tesla, Model 3s to thousands of contracted buyers.


To fulfil his promises to his Tesla customers, and avoid having to return of their deposits, he needed to produce 5000 vehicles per week.  From his factory in Freemont, California, production was running at 2,000 per week.  Even when running at peak efficiency, twenty-four hours per day, he was only able to lift output to 3,500 vehicles per week.

An angel investor stumped up for one last rocket launch.  That was successful, and thereby unlocked funding from NASA.  But there was no time to celebrate.  Tesla’s production shortfall required urgent attention.

It would take at least a year just to get a consent to extend the Freemont factory,  but in Freemont there was such a thing, as a permit to build ‘a Temporary Vehicle Repair Facility’.  The consenting authority had in mind was permitting shelters for ‘muffler, tyre, or the like’ changing bays.  These permits were easily obtainable, and did not specify a size limit.

With one of these permits in hand, Musk organised the clearance of rubble from a disused carpark behind the factory.  As the rubble left, concrete trucks arrived to pour a strip which would be the platform for an assembly line.  The strip was given a given slight downward incline, because the conveyor system Musk was going to install lacked the power to drive the long line he planned, at the speed required.  Heading down-hill would lighten the load, and enable it to do the job.

A 'temporary' structure three hundred meters long and forty-five meters wide was erected.  New staff were hired, or old ones redeployed.  There was no time to install robotics. On June 16th 2018, three weeks after Musk conceived the idea, the first Tesla was driven out of the ‘Temporary Vehicle Repair Facility’.

After another three weeks, the ‘5000 vehicle per week’ target was achieved. 

Tesla stocks soared, and Musk became the world’s richest person. 

 You might think that he would have been euphoric, at having averted bankruptcy, and succeeded when failure seemed inevitable.  In-fact he descended into a dark mood.  He needed high stakes crisis to energise him. 

When the sailing is smooth, he looks for a storm.  A case in point being his purchase of Twitter.   Musk is passionate about freedom of expression, and Twitter had become, in his view, overly censorial. That is it suppressed and blocking tweets that did not support Twitters world view.  Notably the deregistering of Donald Trump.

Within a month of taking over Twitter, Musk sacked three quarters of its staff.  He also lost at least three quarters of its advertisers; the people that paid for Twitter. 

Twitter is now called ‘X’ and is still functioning, but it is hard to imagine how.

One constant feature is Musk’s conviction that mankind must establish a colony off planet Earth.  He seems to be driven by the goal of getting a human presence off this particular rock as soon as possible. 

He doesn’t indulge in luxury, and never takes holidays.  All the money he earns is reinvested in audacious projects.

He has deep concerns about AI running amuck, and is working to prevent that happening. In 2014 he tweeted “We need to be super careful with AI.  Potentially more dangerous than nukes”.

People are wary of Musk, because they assume that he is driven by greed or the desire for power.  I see no evidence of that.  He’s simply, hooked on doing extraordinarily difficult things. 

Musk is only fifty-three.  Provided nothing terrible happens we can expect, from him, plenty more surprises.

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