Interconnected, interplanetary, affordable and very green – this is how the future will be according to Elon Musk, powerful American entrepreneur and fearless investor. He is the creator of Tesla, the electric car giant that today has 33,000 employees and a stock market value of approx. 48 billion dollars, even higher than Ford’s. All newspapers around the world defined him the world’s most visionary businessman and Musk earned every inch of this record. If we consider his vertiginous climb to the top of the Silicon Valley, and, above all, his entrepreneurial choices, so different from those of his colleagues, it seems as if his objective has always been one – transforming the world we live in and shape our future.
Business Insider has defined him more than once the Thomas Edison of our time. A dreamer who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and business from the University of Pennsylvania, always keeping his feet firmly on the ground between the figures of business plans and math formulas needed to bring his most ambitious inventions to life.
In his early twenties Musk revolutionised the online payment system founding the company that would later become PayPal. In 2002, at the age of thirty, he switched to the transport and energy industry creating SpaceX – the aerospace company that aims at offering affordable Mars trips – even before Tesla and then SolarCity, the Californian company specialised in solar energy systems.
Sustainability and affordability are the two cornerstones of Musk’s thinking, both linked to very simple economic laws.
A green Future
“The fundamental value of a company like Tesla is that it accelerates the implementation of sustainable energy,” candidly explained Musk to journalists during the last press conference, as if for an entrepreneur the most natural thing in the world was to embrace an environmental cause. Musk, indeed, believes that if we want to look to the future, continuing to rely on fossil fuels is not an option and he is among the main supporters of the carbon tax to reduce emissions into the atmosphere, “It’s the right thing to do”.
This explains June’s tweet when he bluntly announced that he would quit the White House advisory councils in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
‘All’ is the most frequent word in Musk’s company presentations, because, according to the entrepreneur, future should offer opportunities to all, success can be obtained only with a non-elitist product.
This was Tesla’s goal right from the beginning and Musk aimed at launching a mass-production of electric cars. It took him thirteen years, but he made it: the Tesla Model 3 launched in April 2016 costs 35,000 dollars, a price that appears set to decrease because the real change is only obtained with great numbers and, according to Musk, in the future, everybody who wants a car will have to buy an electric one, “it’s the only way to have clean air in our cities”.
Space X is also based on the ‘innovation for all’ concept. “We want to open the universe to all humanity and to do so space needs to be affordable”. Since 2002, the company has continued to experiment space missions with the goal of creating low-cost trips to Mars. Once more, this is founded on a sound economic law, more than on a principle of social justice. “Private space transportation companies have failed because they couldn’t attract a critical mass or because they ran out of money.”
If the future doesn’t mean living up there among the stars, I think it would be incredibly depressing.”
The Migration to Mars
In fifty years, to find better living conditions we may have to transfer directly to Mars. Elon Musk is convinced about this. His philosophy may go like this: take care of Earth as if it were the only planet we have, but aim at conquering another one, because you never know. “I think there are really two fundamental paths,” said Musk. “One path is we stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some eventual extinction event. The alternative is to become a multi-planetary species.” The first expedition to Mars is planned for 2023, a moment Musk has been waiting for a long time. “The main reason I’m personally accumulating assets is in order to fund this. So I really don't have any other motivation for personally accumulating assets, except to be able to make the biggest contribution I can to making life multi-planetary.”
Behind the billionaire’s huge space transportation investment there is not only fear of an environmental Armageddon but also the sincere passion of a pioneer. “I just think there have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? If the future does not include being out there among the stars, I find that it's incredibly depressing if that's not the future that we're going to have.”
The 46-year-old entrepreneur founder of four revolutionary companies could have stopped here and rest for a while, but instead, he never stops planning. Elon Musk’s latest experiment is the Boring Company, which has planned an underground network of tunnels to alleviate traffic congestion. In fact, there is nothing boring about this project and the idea of calling it like this came to Musk while he was stuck in his car in a traffic jam. He found inspiration to find a solution for all the time we spend stuck in the car and the conviction that, unlike what we have always imagined, the cars of the future will not have wings but will instead go underground. “It will be a lot safer and less noisy,” said Musk.
In Los Angeles, The Boring Company has just begun digging next to Space X headquarters. On one side of the road there is the attempt of the man who believes Earth is not enough and on the other side there is the plan of strongly cares about Earth and wishes to make it a better place, even if, “I’m not trying to be anyone’s savior,” said Musk to the journalist who asked him the reason for his constant research. “I’m just trying to think about the future and not be sad.”