12.02.2016

Too Short for a Blog Post, Too Long for a Tweet LV

Here are two excerpts from a book I just read, "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future," by Ashlee Vance.

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Musk’s behavior matches up much more closely with someone who is described by neuropsychologists as profoundly gifted. These are people who in childhood exhibit exceptional intellectual depth and max out IQ tests. It’s not uncommon for these children to look out into the world and find flaws—glitches in the system—and construct logical paths in their minds to fix them. For Musk, the call to ensure that mankind is a multiplanetary species partly stems from a life richly influenced by science fiction and technology. Equally it’s a moral imperative that dates back to his childhood. In some form, this has forever been his mandate.

 Each facet of Musk’s life might be an attempt to soothe a type of existential depression that seems to gnaw at his every fiber. He sees man as self-limiting and in peril and wants to fix the situation. The people who suggest bad ideas during meetings or make mistakes at work are getting in the way of all of this and slowing Musk down. He does not dislike them as people. It’s more that he feels pained by their mistakes, which have consigned man to peril that much longer. The perceived lack of emotion is a symptom of Musk sometimes feeling like he’s the only one who really grasps the urgency of his mission. He’s less sensitive and less tolerant than other people because the stakes are so high. Employees need to help solve the problems to the absolute best of their ability or they need to get out of the way.

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I’m more convinced than ever that Musk is, and has always been, a man on a quest, and that his brand of quest is far more fantastic and consuming than anything most of us will ever experience. It seems that he’s become almost addicted to expanding his ambitions and can’t quite stop himself from announcing things like the Hyperloop and the space Internet. I’m also more convinced than ever that Musk is a deeply emotional person who suffers and rejoices in an epic fashion. This side of him is likely obscured by the fact that he feels most deeply about his own humanity-altering quest and so has trouble recognizing the strong emotions of those around him. This tends to make Musk come off as aloof and hard. I would argue, however, that his brand of empathy is unique. He seems to feel for the human species as a whole without always wanting to consider the wants and needs of individuals. And it may well be the case that this is exactly the type of person it takes to make a freaking space Internet real.
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