Elon Musk

Elon Musk
Elon Musk 2015.jpg
Elon Musk in 2015
Born Elon Reeve Musk
(1971-06-28) June 28, 1971 (age 45)
Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
Residence Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, U.S.[1][2]
  • South African (1971–present)
  • Canadian (1989–present)
  • American (2002–present)
Alma mater Queen's University
University of Pennsylvania[3][4]
Occupation Entrepreneur, engineer, inventor, investor
Known for SpaceX, PayPal, Tesla Inc., Hyperloop, SolarCity, OpenAI, The Boring Company, Neuralink, Zip2
  • Tesla Inc.[5]
  • $78.2 million (2012)
  • $69,989 (2013)
  • $1 (2014)
Net worth US$14 billion (March 31, 2017)[6]
Title CEO and CTO of SpaceX
CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.
CEO of Neuralink
Chairman of SolarCity
Co-chairman of OpenAI
Children 6
Parent(s) Maye Musk (mother)
Errol Graham Musk (father)
Relatives Tosca Musk (sister)
Kimbal Musk (brother)
Lyndon Rive (cousin)
Elon Musk

Elon Reeve Musk (/ˈiːlɒn ˈmʌsk/; born June 28, 1971) is a South African-born Canadian-American business magnate, investor,[9][10] engineer,[11] and inventor.[12][13][14][15]

He is the founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Inc.; founder and CEO of Neuralink; co-founder and chairman of SolarCity; co-chairman of OpenAI; co-founder of Zip2; and founder of X.com, which merged with Confinity and took the name PayPal.[16][17][18][19] As of March 2017, he has an estimated net worth of $13.9 billion, making him the 80th wealthiest person in the world.[20] In December 2016, Musk was ranked 21st on Forbes list of The World's Most Powerful People.[21]

Musk has stated that the goals of SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity.[22] His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the "risk of human extinction" by "making life multiplanetary"[23][24] by setting up a human colony on Mars.

In addition to his primary business pursuits, he has also envisioned a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop, and has proposed a VTOL supersonic jet aircraft with electric fan propulsion, known as the Musk electric jet.[25][26]


Early life

Early childhood

Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa,[27] the son of Maye Musk (née Haldeman), a model and dietician from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada;[28] and Errol Musk, a South African electromechanical engineer, pilot and sailor. He has a younger brother, Kimbal (born 1972), and a younger sister, Tosca (born 1974).[28][29][30][31] His paternal grandmother was British, and he also has Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry,[32][33] and his maternal grandfather was American, from Minnesota.[34] After his parents divorced in 1980, Musk lived mostly with his father in the suburbs of Pretoria.[32]

During his childhood he was an avid reader.[35]

At age 10, he developed an interest in computing with the Commodore VIC-20.[36] He taught himself computer programming at the age of 12, sold the code for a BASIC-based video game he created called Blastar, to a magazine called PC and Office Technology, for approximately $500.[37][38] A web version of the game is available online.[37][39]

Musk was severely bullied throughout his childhood, and was once hospitalized when a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs and then beat him until he lost consciousness.[40]

Musk was initially educated at private schools, attending the English-speaking Waterkloof House Preparatory School. Musk later graduated from Pretoria Boys High School and moved to Canada in June 1989, just before his 18th birthday,[41] after obtaining Canadian citizenship through his Canadian-born mother.[42][43] Although at the time Musk had to register to become a Canadian citizen, Bill C-37, which came into law in April of 2009, effectively made his Canadian citizenship retroactive to his birth since he was born in the first generation abroad to a Canadian-born mother. Therefore, with the law change, he is considered to have always been a Canadian citizen by birth.[44]


At the age of 17, Musk was accepted into Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, for undergraduate study. In 1992, after spending two years at Queen's University, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where, at the age of 24, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from its College of Arts and Sciences, and a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from its Wharton School of Business. Musk extended his studies for one year to finish the second bachelor's degree.[45] While at the University of Pennsylvania, Musk and fellow Penn student Adeo Ressi rented a 10-bedroom fraternity house, using it as an unofficial nightclub.[40]

In 1995, at age 24, Musk moved to California to begin a PhD in applied physics and materials science at Stanford University, but left the program after two days to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations in the areas of the Internet, renewable energy and outer space.[38][46] In 2002, he became a U.S. citizen.[47][48]



Main article: Zip2

In 1995, Musk and his brother, Kimbal, started Zip2, a web software company, with US$28,000 of their father's money.[40] The company developed and marketed an Internet "city guide" for the newspaper publishing industry.[49] Musk obtained contracts with The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune[50] and persuaded the board of directors to abandon plans for a merger with CitySearch.[51] While at Zip2, Musk wanted to become CEO; however, none of the board members would allow it.[40] Compaq acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options in February 1999.[52] Musk received US$22 million for his 7% share from the sale.[50]

X.com and PayPal

Main article: PayPal

In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company, with US$10 million from the sale of Zip2.[41][49][51] One year later, the company merged with Confinity,[50][53] which had a money transfer service called PayPal. The merged company focused on the PayPal service and was renamed PayPal in 2001. PayPal's early growth was driven mainly by a viral marketing campaign where new customers were recruited when they received money through the service.[54] Musk was ousted in October 2000 from his role as CEO (although he remained on the board) due to disagreements with other company leadership, notably over his desire to move PayPal's Unix-based infrastructure to Microsoft Windows.[55] In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock, of which Musk received US$165 million.[56] Before its sale, Musk, who was the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.[57]


Main article: SpaceX

In 2001, Musk conceptualized "Mars Oasis"; a project to land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith, in an attempt to regain public interest in space exploration.[58][59] In October 2001, Musk travelled to Moscow with Jim Cantrell (an aerospace supplies fixer), and Adeo Ressi (his best friend from college), to buy refurbished ICBMs (Dnepr) that could send the envisioned payloads into space. The group met with companies such as NPO Lavochkin and Kosmotras; however, according to Cantrell, Musk was seen as a novice and was consequently spat on by one of the Russian chief designers,[60] and the group returned to the United States empty-handed. In February 2002, the group returned to Russia to look for three ICBMs, bringing along Mike Griffin, who had worked for the CIA's venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and was just leaving Orbital Sciences, a maker of satellites and spacecraft. The group met again with Kosmotras, and were offered one rocket for US$8 million, however, this was seen by Musk as too expensive; Musk consequently stormed out of the meeting. On the flight back from Moscow, Musk realized that he could start a company that could build the affordable rockets he needed.[60] According to early Tesla and SpaceX investor Steve Jurvetson,[61] Musk calculated that the raw materials for building a rocket actually were only 3 percent of the sales price of a rocket at the time. By applying vertical integration and the modular approach from software engineering, SpaceX could cut launch price by a factor of ten and still enjoy a 70-percent gross margin.[62] Ultimately, Musk ended up founding SpaceX with the long-term goal of creating a "true spacefaring civilization".[63]

Musk and President Barack Obama at the Falcon 9 launch site in 2010

With US$100 million of his early fortune,[64] Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, in May 2002.[65] Musk is chief executive officer (CEO) and chief technology officer (CTO) of the Hawthorne, California-based company. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles with a focus on advancing the state of rocket technology. The company's first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets (a nod to Star Wars' Millennium Falcon), and its first spacecraft is the Dragon (a nod to Puff the Magic Dragon).[66] In seven years, SpaceX designed the family of Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon multipurpose spacecraft. In September 2008, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fueled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit.[40] On May 25, 2012, the SpaceX Dragon vehicle berthed with the ISS, making history as the first commercial company to launch and berth a vehicle to the International Space Station.[67]

In 2006, SpaceX was awarded a contract from NASA to continue the development and test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft in order to transport cargo to the International Space Station,[68][not in citation given] followed by a US$1.6 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services program contract on December 23, 2008, for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the Space Station, replacing the US Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011.[69] Astronaut transport to the ISS is currently handled solely by the Soyuz, but SpaceX is one of two companies awarded a contract by NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Development program, which is intended to develop a US astronaut transport capability by 2018.[70] On 22 December 2015, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon rocket back at the launch pad. This was the first time in history such a feat had been achieved by an orbital rocket and is a significant step towards rocket reusability lowering the costs of access to space.[71] This first stage recovery was replicated several times in 2016 by landing on an Autonomous spaceport drone ship, an ocean based recovery platform.[72]

SpaceX is both the largest private producer of rocket motors in the world, and holder of the record for highest thrust-to-weight ratio for any known rocket motor.[73] SpaceX has produced more than 100 operational Merlin 1D engines, currently the world's most powerful motor for its weight.[74] The relatively immense power to weight ratio allows each Merlin 1D motor to vertically lift the weight of 40 average family cars. In combination, the 9 Merlin engines in the Falcon 9 first stage produces anywhere from 5.8 to 6.7 MN (1.3 to 1.5 million pounds) of thrust, depending on altitude.[75]

Musk was influenced by Isaac Asimov's Foundation series[76] and views space exploration as an important step in expanding—if not preserving—the consciousness of human life.[77] Musk said that multiplanetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species.

An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct.

Musk's goal is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 10.[78] In a 2011 interview, he said he hopes to send humans to Mars' surface within 10–20 years.[79] In Ashlee Vance's biography, Musk stated that he wants to establish a Mars colony by 2040, with a population of 80,000.[36] Musk stated that, since Mars' atmosphere lacks oxygen, all transportation would have to be electric (electric cars, electric trains, Hyperloop, electric aircraft).[80] Space X intends to launch a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon Heavy in 2018 to soft-land on Mars - this is intended to be the first of a regular cargo mission supply-run to Mars building up to later crewed flights.[81] Musk stated in June 2016 that the first unmanned flight of the larger Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) spacecraft is aimed for departure to the red planet in 2022, to be followed by the first manned MCT Mars flight departing in 2024.[82] In September 2016, Musk revealed details of his plan to explore and colonize Mars.[83] By 2016, Musk's private trust holds 54% of SpaceX stock, equivalent to 78% of voting shares.[84]


Main article: Tesla, Inc.

Tesla, Inc. (originally Tesla Motors) was incorporated in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who financed the company until the Series A round of funding.[85]

Both men played active roles in the company's early development prior to Elon Musk's involvement.[86] Musk led the Series A round of investment in February 2004, joining Tesla's board of directors as its chairman.[87] Musk took an active role within the company and oversaw Roadster product design at a detailed level, but was not deeply involved in day-to-day business operations.[88]

Following the financial crisis in 2008,[89] Musk assumed leadership of the company as CEO and product architect, positions he still holds today. Tesla Motors first built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster in 2008, with sales of about 2,500 vehicles to 31 countries. Tesla began delivery of its four-door Model S sedan on June 22, 2012. It unveiled its third product, the Model X, aimed at the SUV/minivan market, on February 9, 2012; the Model X launch was however delayed until September 2015.[90][91][92] In addition to its own cars, Tesla sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler for the Smart EV, Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive and Mercedes A Class and to Toyota for the RAV4 EV. Musk was able to bring in both companies as long-term investors in Tesla.[93]

Musk has favored building a sub-US$30,000 compact Tesla model and building and selling electric vehicle powertrain components so that other automakers can produce electric vehicles at affordable prices without having to develop the products in-house; this lead to the Model 3 that is planned to have a base price of US$35,000.[94] Several mainstream publications have compared him with Henry Ford for his work on advanced vehicle powertrains.[95]

In a May 2013 interview with All Things Digital, Musk said that to overcome the range limitations of electric cars, Tesla is "dramatically accelerating" its network of supercharger stations, tripling the number on the East and West coasts of the U.S. that June, with plans for more expansion across North America, including Canada, throughout the year.[96] As of January 29, 2016, Musk owns about 28.9 million Tesla shares, which equates to about 22% of the company.[97][98]

As of 2014, Musk's annual salary is one dollar. And, similar to Steve Jobs and others, the remainder of his compensation is in the form of stock and performance-based bonuses.[99][100]

In 2014, Musk announced that Tesla would allow its technology patents to be used by anyone in good faith in a bid to entice automobile manufacturers to speed up development of electric cars. "The unfortunate reality is electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn't burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales", Musk said.[101]

In February 2016, Musk announced that he had acquired the Tesla.com domain name from Stu Grossman, who had owned it since 1992 and changed Tesla's homepage to that domain.[102]


Main article: SolarCity

Musk provided the initial concept and financial capital for SolarCity, which was then co-founded in 2006 by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive.[103][104] SolarCity is now the second largest provider of solar power systems in the United States.[105]

The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.[106] In 2012, Musk announced that SolarCity and Tesla are collaborating to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar on the power grid, with the program going live in 2013.[107]

On June 17, 2014, Musk committed to building in Buffalo, New York, a SolarCity advanced production facility 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.[108][needs update]

In June 2016, Musk's car company, Tesla, formally submitted an offer to acquire SolarCity.[109]


On August 12, 2013, Musk unveiled a concept for a high-speed transportation system incorporating reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.[110] The mechanism for releasing the concept was an alpha-design document that, in addition to scoping out the technology, outlined a notional route where such a transport system might be built: between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area.[111]

After earlier envisioning Hyperloop, Musk assigned a dozen engineers from Tesla and SpaceX who worked for nine months, establishing the conceptual foundations and creating the designs for the transportation system.[112][113] An early design for the system was then published in a whitepaper posted to the Tesla and SpaceX blogs.[114][115][116] Musk's proposal, if technologically feasible at the costs he has cited, would make Hyperloop travel cheaper than any other mode of transport for such long distances. The alpha design was proposed to use a partial vacuum to reduce aerodynamic drag, which it is theorized would allow for high-speed travel with relatively low power, with certain other features like air-bearing skis and an inlet compressor to reduce air drag. The alpha design document estimated the total cost of an LA-to-SF Hyperloop system at US$6 billion, but this amount is speculative.[117]

In June 2015, Musk announced a design competition for students and others to build Hyperloop pods to operate on a SpaceX-sponsored mile-long track in a 2015–2017 Hyperloop pod competition. The track was used in January 2017, and Musk also started building a tunnel.[118]


Main article: OpenAI

In December 2015, Elon Musk announced the creation of OpenAI, a not-for-profit artificial intelligence (AI) research company. OpenAI aims to develop artificial general intelligence in a way that is safe and beneficial to humanity.[119]

By making AI available to everyone, OpenAI wants to "counteract large corporations who may gain too much power by owning super-intelligence systems devoted to profits, as well as governments which may use AI to gain power and even oppress their citizenry".[120]

The Boring Company

Main article: The Boring Company

On December 17, 2016, while stuck in traffic, Musk tweeted "Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging..." The company will supposedly be called 'The Boring Company'.[121] On January 21, 2017, Musk tweeted "Exciting progress on the tunnel front. Plan to start digging in a month or so."[122] The first tunnel will start on the SpaceX campus,[123] and will probably go to a nearby parking garage. As of January 26, 2017, discussions with regulatory bodies have begun,[124] but no requests for permits to dig in the Los Angeles area have yet been filed with the California Department of Transportation.[125]

In February 2017, the company has begun digging a 30 foot wide, 50 foot long, and 15 foot deep "test trench" on the premises of Space X's offices in Los Angeles, since the construction requires no permits.[126][127]


Main article: Neuralink

In 2016, Musk created Neuralink, a neurotechnology startup company, to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence. The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence and has no public presence whatsoever, is centered 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 for more direct interfacing with computing devices.[128]

Musk has hinted at the existence of Neuralink a few times over the last six months or so. More recently, Musk told a crowd in Dubai, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that “it's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." On Twitter, Musk has responded to inquiring fans about his progress on a so-called “neural lace,” which is sci-fi shorthand for a brain-computer interface humans could use to improve themselves.[129]


Musk has stated that he does not believe the U.S. government should provide subsidies to companies but should instead use a carbon tax to price in the negative externality of air pollution and discourage "bad behavior." Musk argues that the free market would achieve the "best solution," and that producing environmentally unfriendly vehicles should come with its own consequences.[130]

Musk's statements have been widely criticized, with Stanford University Professor Fred Turner noting that "if you're an entrepreneur like Elon Musk, you will take the money where you can get it, but at the same time believe as a matter of faith that it's entrepreneurship and technology that are the sources of social change, not the state. It is not quite self-delusion, but there is a habit of thinking of oneself as a free-standing, independent agent, and of not acknowledging the subsidies that one received. And this goes on all the time in Silicon Valley."[131] Author Michael Shellenberger argued that "in the case of Musk, it is hard not to read that as a kind of defensiveness. And I think there is a business reason for it. They are dealing with a lot of investors for whom subsidies are not the basis for a long-term viable business, and they often want to exaggerate the speed with which they are going to be able to become independent." Shellenberger continues, "we would all be better off if these entrepreneurs were a bit more grateful, a bit more humble." While journalist and author Jim Motavalli, who interviewed Musk for High Voltage, his 2011 book about the electric vehicle industry, speculated that "Elon is now looking at it from the point of view of a winner, and he doesn't want to see other people win because they get government money – I do think there is a tendency of people, once they have succeeded, to want to pull the ladder up after them."[132]

In 2015, Musk's statements was subject to further scrutiny when an LA Times article claimed that SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity and buyers of their products had or were projected to receive together an estimated US$4.9 billion in government subsidies over twenty years. One example given is New York state, which is spending $750 million to build a solar panel factory in Buffalo which will be leased to SolarCity for $1 a year. The deal also includes no property taxes for a decade, an estimated $260 million valuation. Musk employs a former U.S. State Department official as the chief negotiator for Tesla.[133]

Political positions

Musk speaking alongside Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny

Politically, Musk has described himself as "half Democrat, half Republican." In his own words: "I'm somewhere in the middle, socially liberal and fiscally conservative."[134] Musk became a member of President Donald Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum,[135][136][137][138] and Manufacturing Jobs Initiative as a corporate adviser.[139]

Musk has described himself as "nauseatingly pro-American." According to Musk, the United States is "[inarguably] the greatest country that has ever existed on Earth," describing it as "the greatest force for good of any country that's ever been." Musk believes outright that there "would not be democracy in the world if not for the United States," arguing there were "three separate occasions in the 20th-century where democracy would have fallen with World War I, World War II and the Cold War, if not for the United States." Musk also stated that he thinks "it would be a mistake to say the United States is perfect, it certainly is not. There have been many foolish things the United States has done and bad things the United States has done."[140]

Prompted by the emergence of self-driving cars and Artificial Intelligence, Musk has voiced support for a Universal Basic Income.[141]

Prior to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, Musk criticized candidate Trump by saying: "I feel a bit stronger that he is probably not the right guy. He doesn't seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States."[142] Following Donald Trump's inauguration Musk expressed approval of Trump's choice of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and accepted an invitation to appear on a panel advising president Trump. Regarding his cooperation with Trump, Musk has subsequently commented: "The more voices of reason that the President hears, the better."[143]


In an interview with the Washington Post, Musk stated he was a "significant (though not top-tier) donor to Democrats, but that he also gives heavily to Republicans." Musk further stated, "in order to have your voice be heard in Washington, you have to make some little contribution."[144][145]

A recent report from the Sunlight Foundation (a nonpartisan group that tracks government spending), found that "SpaceX has spent over US$4 million on lobbying Congress since it was established in 2002 and doled out more than US$800,000 in political contributions" to Democrats and Republicans. The same report noted that "SpaceX's campaign to win political support has been systematic and sophisticated", and that "unlike most tech-startups, SpaceX has maintained a significant lobbying presence in Washington almost since day 1". The report further noted that "Musk himself has donated roughly US$725,000 to various campaigns since 2002. In 2004, he contributed US$2,000 to President George W. Bush's reelection campaign, maxing out (over US$100,000)[146] to Obama's reelection campaign and donated US$5,000 to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who represents Florida, a state critical to the space industry. (...) All told, Musk and SpaceX gave out roughly US$250,000 in the 2012 election cycle."[144][147] Additionally, SpaceX hired former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to represent the company, via the Washington-based lobbying group Patton Boggs LLP. Alongside Patton Boggs LLP, SpaceX uses several other outside lobbying firms, who work alongside SpaceX's own lobbyists.[148]

Musk had been a supporter of the U.S. political action committee FWD.us, which was started by fellow high-profile entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg and advocates for immigration reform. However, in May 2013, Musk publicly withdrew his support in protest of advertisements the PAC was running that supported causes like the Keystone Pipeline. Musk and other members, including David O. Sacks, pulled out, criticizing the strategy as "cynical".[149] Musk further stated, "we shouldn't give in to the politics. If we give in to that, we'll get the political system we deserve."[150]

In December 2013, Sean Becker of the media/political website Mic called Musk a "complete hypocrite", stating that "[for] the 2014 election cycle, Musk has contributed to the Longhorn PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee — both of which have funded the campaigns of anti-science, anti-environment candidates such as Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minn.)."[150] Musk has directly contributed to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been accused of holding similar positions regarding climate change.[147]


Destiny and religion

When asked whether he believed "there was some kind of destiny involved" in humanity's transition to a multi-planetary species, rather than "just physics," Musk responded:

Well, I do. Do I think that there's some sort of master intelligence architecting all of this stuff? I think probably not because then you have to say: "Where does the master intelligence come from?" So it sort of begs the question. So I think really you can explain this with the fundamental laws of physics. You know its complex phenomenon from simple elements.[151]

Musk has stated that he does not pray, or worship any being, although previously admitted to praying before an important Falcon 1 launch, asking "any entities that [were] listening" to "bless [the] launch." When asked whether he believed "religion and science could co-exist," Musk replied "probably not."[152]

Extraterrestrial life

Although Musk believes "there is a good chance that there is simple life on other planets", he "questions whether there is other intelligent life in the known universe".[152] Musk later clarified his "hope that there is other intelligent life in the known universe", and stated that it is "probably more likely than not, but that's a complete guess."[153]

Musk has also considered the simulation hypothesis as a potential solution to the Fermi paradox:

The absence of any noticeable life may be an argument in favour of us being in a simulation.... Like when you're playing an adventure game, and you can see the stars in the background, but you can't ever get there. If it's not a simulation, then maybe we're in a lab and there's some advanced alien civilization that's just watching how we develop, out of curiosity, like mould in a petri dish.... If you look at our current technology level, something strange has to happen to civilizations, and I mean strange in a bad way. ... And it could be that there are a whole lot of dead, one-planet civilizations.[154]

Artificial intelligence

Musk has frequently spoken out about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, declaring it "the most serious threat to the survival of the human race". During an interview at the MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium, Musk described AI as "[humanity's] biggest existential threat", further stating, "I'm increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish." Musk described the creation of artificial intelligence as "summoning the demon".[155][156]

Despite this, Musk has previously invested in DeepMind, an AI firm, and Vicarious, a company working to improve machine intelligence. In January 2015, he donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, an organization focused on challenges posed by advanced technologies.[157] He is the co-chairman of OpenAI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research company.[158]

Musk has said that his investments are, "not from the standpoint of actually trying to make any investment return... I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence." Musk continued, "There have been movies about this, you know, like Terminator – there are some scary outcomes. And we should try to make sure the outcomes are good, not bad."[159]

In June 2016, he was asked whether he thinks humans live in a computer simulation, to which he answered "probably". Elaborated as follows:

The strongest argument for us probably being in a simulation I think is the following: 40 years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot. That’s where we were. Now 40 years later we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, we’ll have augmented reality. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, just indistinguishable.[160]

Personal life

Musk owned a McLaren F1 supercar, which he crashed while it was uninsured.[161] He also previously owned an Aero L-39, a Czech-made jet trainer aircraft .[162]

The 1994 model Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft used in the 2005 film Thank You for Smoking is registered to Musk (N900SX),[163] and Musk had a cameo as the pilot of his plane, opening the door for Robert Duvall and escorting Aaron Eckhart aboard. Musk owns Wet Nellie, the Lotus Esprit from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. He plans to convert it into the functional car-submarine from the film.[164]

Musk attended the Burning Man festival in 2004 and has said he first thought up the idea for SolarCity at the festival.[107]

Tosca Musk, Elon's sister, is a filmmaker. She is the founder of Musk Entertainment and has produced various movies.[165]

Musk stated that he wants to die on Mars, just not on impact.[166]


Musk is chairman of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on providing solar-power energy systems in disaster areas. In 2010, the Musk foundation collaborated with SolarCity to donate a 25-kW solar power system to the South Bay Community Alliance's (SBCA) hurricane response centre in Coden, Alabama.[167] In July 2011, the Musk Foundation donated US$250,000 towards a solar power project in Sōma, Japan, a city that had been recently devastated by tsunami.[168]

In July 2014, Musk was asked by cartoonist Matthew Inman and William Terbo the grandnephew of Nikola Tesla to donate US$8 million toward the construction of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.[169] Ultimately, Musk agreed to donate US$1 million toward the project and additionally pledged to build a Tesla Supercharger in the museum car park.[170]

Musk donated US$10 million to the Future of Life Institute in January 2015, to run a global research program aimed at keeping artificial intelligence beneficial to humanity.[171][157][172]

As of 2015, Musk is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation[173] and a signatory of The Giving Pledge.[174]


Musk met his first wife, Canadian author Justine Wilson, while both were students at Ontario's Queen's University. They married in 2000 and separated in 2008, after having six sons.[citation needed]

Their first son, Nevada Alexander Musk, died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) at the age of ten weeks.[175] They later had five sons through in vitro fertilization — twins in 2004, followed by triplets in 2006 — all of whom they share custody.[176]

In 2008, Musk began dating English actress Talulah Riley, and in 2010, the couple married. In January 2012, Musk announced that he had ended his four-year relationship with Riley,[31][177] tweeting to Riley, "It was an amazing four years. I will love you forever. You will make someone very happy one day."[178] In July 2013, Musk and Riley remarried. In December 2014, Musk filed for a second divorce from Riley, however, the action was withdrawn.[8] It was announced in March 2016 that divorce proceedings were again under way, this time with Riley filing for divorce from Musk.[179] The divorce was finalized in late 2016.[180]

Invented patents

Title Application number Grant number Application date Grant date Original assignee
Funnel shaped charge inlet[181] 13/549185 8579635 2012-07-13 2013-11-12 Tesla Motors, Inc.
Vehicle charge inlet[182] 29/427056 D724031 2012-07-13 2015-03-10 Tesla Motors, Inc.
Vehicle[183] 29/412833 D683268 2012-02-08 2013-05-28 Tesla Motors, Inc.
Vehicle door[184] 29/412841 D678154 2012-02-08 2013-03-19 Tesla Motors, Inc.

Awards and recognition

Honorary doctorates

In popular media

In the 2005 film Thank You for Smoking Musk had a cameo as the pilot of his own plane, opening the door for the Captain (Robert Duvall) and escorting Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) aboard. In Iron Man 2 (2010) he met Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in a restaurant, and had some brief lines regarding an "idea for an electric jet". In 2014, he was satirized in the South Park episode "Handicar". He later made a guest appearance in three more episodes of South Park in 2016, this time voicing himself in the episodes "Members Only", "Not Funny", and "The End of Serialization as We Know It." In January 2015, he made a guest appearance playing himself on The Simpsons in an episode titled "The Musk Who Fell to Earth"; the episode poked fun at many of the inventor's ideas.[215]

In November 2015, Musk appeared in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, playing himself, volunteering at a soup kitchen with Howard.[216] In 2016 Musk was referenced by Dr. Martin Stein on The CW time-travel TV show DC's Legends of Tomorrow. During a time travel to the past, Stein meets his younger self and introduced himself as Elon Musk, to disguise his own identity.[217] Following the same TV universe on The CW, in the DC Superhero series The Flash, one of the characters quoted that he wished he'd be like Elon Musk on alternate universes.

Musk was also featured in the 2015 environmental documentary Racing Extinction, in which a custom Tesla Model S was designed to help project images of critically endangered species onto public buildings, including the Empire State Building and the Vatican.[218]

In 2016 Musk appeared as himself in the romantic comedy film Why Him? where he was briefly met by one of the main characters, Ned Flemming played by Bryan Cranston, at a bar in a party.[219]


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Further reading

External links