Elon Musk gave insight into his “motivational philosophy” during a TED talk interview.
The billionaire said he finds purpose in questioning reality and the meaning of life.
Musk also commented on how Asperger’s Syndrome contributed to his success.
The world’s richest man explained what drives him about his work at Tesla and SpaceX during an interview Thursday.
Elon Musk said he developed his “motivational philosophy” after reading Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” as a teenager.
“Adams points out that it’s actually the question that’s harder than the answer,” Musk said during an interview at the TED 2022 conference in Vancouver.
The sci-fi novel tackles broad philosophical questions about the meaning of life with humor. Musk said the book helped relieve some of the “dark” German philosophers he studied as a teenager.
Ultimately, Musk said he finds his purpose in questioning reality and the meaning of life.
“My driving philosophy is to expand the scope and scale of consciousness so that we can better understand the nature of the universe,” Musk said. “I have a sort of motivational worldview or philosophy proposal that is about understanding what questions to ask about the answer that is the universe,” he added.
Find ways to “expand the scope and scale of consciousness”
This isn’t the first time Musk has referenced “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” In 2019, the CEO told CBS that Adam was his “favorite philosopher.” Musk said at the time that “becoming a multi-planet species and ensuring that we have a sustainable climate on Earth” are key to answering questions about the meaning of life.
Musk said he wanted to “broaden the scope and scale of consciousness, biological and digital” and learn how to better ask three questions: “Why are we here?” “How did we get here?” and “What’s going on?”
During the interview, Musk said much of his motivation stems from his teenage years, as he always had a deep curiosity about the universe and what it means to exist in it. In past interviews, he even speculated that life is a simulation.
“I think the ‘why’ of things is very important,” Musk said. “Young teenagers are quite depressed about the meaning of life and I was trying to understand the meaning of life by reading religious texts and reading books on philosophy.”
How Musk’s childhood shaped his business sensibilities
Musk also commented on how Asperger’s Syndrome — a condition on the autism spectrum that affects an individual’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others — played into his success. The billionaire revealed he had the condition during his monologue on Saturday Night Live last year.
“Social cues weren’t intuitive” when Musk was growing up, he said, a factor that prompted him to focus more on reading and coding.
“I don’t think I had a kind of happy childhood. To be honest, it was pretty, pretty tough, but I read a lot of books,” Musk said. “I think there’s maybe some value from a technology perspective as well, because I’ve found it rewarding to spend all night programming computers all by myself. And I think most people don’t ‘might not like typing weird symbols on a computer by themselves all night,’ he said. added.
Musk also speculated that his condition may have played into his innate curiosity and drive to build Tesla and SpaceX.
“I was absolutely obsessed with truth. I studied physics because physics tries to understand the truth of the universe,” Musk said. “Nobody forced me to study it,” he added.
The billionaire also said he wants to build things that could improve the state of the world in the future.
“We have to fight for the things that get us excited for the future,” Musk said. “The future cannot just be one miserable thing after another, solving one sad problem after another.”
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