There is nothing that has not been said about Elon Musk, especially now that he made it to the top of the list of the world’s richest. Many unsavoury epitaphs have been attached to his name and image. Illuminati. New World Order. Antichrist. Occultist. Reptilian shape shifter. Anyway, it is typical of how most people view rich people. To be wealthy, they must “belong” to “somewhere or something,” dark, esoteric or evil.
The funniest of them all are the ones that declared that, for Musk to know so much about space, he must be an extra-terrestrial alien! This line of thinking caught on so much that when the American entrepreneur tweeted the question, “Did aliens build the Egyptian pyramids?”, the Egyptian government officially replied him.
But to me, there are two reasons why Musk is now the richest man: he thinks green, and he thinks outside the box. He is eco-conscious because his work is focused on how to make the environment a better place; how to adapt to the unstable earth’s geography; and how to discover the hidden spaces in our ecosystem. And how to integrate these systems so that they can work seamlessly, for our own survival as evolving intelligent species. Indeed, the Musk is on a mission to serve Mother Earth.
Before we proceed, it is germane to think about the fact that most of the persons named as the richest in the world are entrepreneurs working on information and communication technologies related projects. Such popular brands include Microsoft, Amazon and Google. Why are these innovations global money-makers?
The answer is that as the world’s population continued to grow, there was a need to make the earth as sustainable as possible. The carbon emissions from the emerging urban areas must be contained. The outdoor activities of earth citizens must be rechanneled indoors. And, what better way to achieve these than by herding everyone to go online?
As our world matured, we realized that the best way to make money is to create ideas with which to manage the ever-dwindling global space. Hence, the virtual world became a viable world. People began to shop online; to study, to date, and even to worship online. The ones that made these services available became the darlings of the world. They smiled to the bank because Mother Earth smiled on them. It is not rocket science. There is no magic, or occultism, involved.
Elon Musk is a poster boy for “Light-Bulb innovation”. He was stuck on traffic on a certain day, and the idea to travel via underground tunnels came to him. Right there and then, he tweeted the idea to the world; and then started his tunnel making firm, The Boring Company, the same year, to do exactly that which he conceived on traffic – start boring tunnels (optimized for electric cars) as alternative transport routes to the congested terrestrial road networks.
He is also driven by the green agenda. He provided the initial concept and financial capital for SolarCity, which his cousins Lyndon and Pete Rive co-founded in 2006. By 2013, SolarCity was the second largest provider of solar power systems in the United States. In 2012, Musk announced that SolarCity and Tesla would collaborate to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid, with the program going live in 2013.
In June 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. The Tesla Gigafactory 2 is a photovoltaic cell factory, leased by Tesla subsidiary SolarCity in Buffalo, New York. Construction on the factory started in 2014 and was completed in 2017.
Tesla acquired SolarCity for over $2 billion in 2016 and converted it into its solar division; the announcement of the deal resulted in a more than 10% drop in Tesla’s stock price.
Perhaps, the most audacious of Musk’s ideas is his Brain-Computer Interface project. In 2016, Musk co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology start-up company to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence. The company is centred 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 more direct interfacing with computing devices.
Listening to the South African born entrepreneur discuss Neuralink could sometimes seem like watching a science fictional character narrate an invention. He said that the philosophy behind the project is our dependence on our personal phones and communication devices as our second personalities. Because, the world has come to the place where we can no longer do without our cellphones, we can actually design them in such a manner as to be our second personality. We can program activities and responses into them, and they will represent us, even while we sleep.
Musk reckons his brain-computer interface could one day help humans merge with Artificial Intelligence, record their memories, or download their consciousness.
And while Neuralink has yet to implant any of its devices into human subjects, a number of research laboratories have done just that. As of today, a number of individuals have been fitted with functioning brain-computer interface devices. Typically, they are people who have suffered a spinal injury that is left them paralyzed, and who use BCIs to help them regain some of that lost function. One notable user has already been able to recover enough movement in his hands to play Guitar Hero.
Nevertheless, the serial entrepreneur has some notable values he brought to the table. While many current BCIs often involve wired systems, Musk’s own innovation uses Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate wirelessly. Traditional BCIs use arrays that integrate with the brain using rigid electrodes; Neuralink uses flexible threads. Usually, BCIs leave their uses with a box of hardware that sits outside the skull; whereas the Nueralink should not be visible externally. Most research BCI hardware is implanted by a human neurosurgeon; Neuralink has a robot to do most of the same surgical heavy-lifting.
Elon Musk’s capacity for marketing his ideas enough for people to buy into “potential products” has also made him enemies. Some “hard-core” scientists think he is a hype machine. He has made controversial comments, especially on the potential dangers of earth people embracing artificial intelligence – the reason he started his own organization, OpenAI, to promote friendly artificial intelligence interface systems.
Yet, one thing we can take away from the life and strides of the Tesla CEO is that the future belongs to only those that create products for the survival of mankind; and for the sustainable development of the ecosystem. Once there is a dream to make the world a better place, the innovator finds the resources and the right partnerships to make it happen.
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