Elon Musk’s philosophy

Elon Musk is the richest person in human history because he changed the way we send money and drive cars. He aims to take humans to Mars and has just bought Twitter, one of the most powerful ideas exchange platforms in the world.

He is loved by some, hated by others and, for the most part, a mystery to all. How can someone develop such an incredibly broad and positive vision for humanity while being able to reduce themselves to a Twitter troll?

Three months ago, Musk gave a little insight into his inner world and what drives his decision-making. On August 1, he retweeted a plug for “What We Owe the Future,” a book by Scottish philosopher and ethicist William MacAskill. “Worth reading. It aligns closely with my philosophy,” Musk captioned the retweet.

MacAskill’s book is a call for the adoption of a philosophy known as “long-termism”, which he defines as “the idea that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time”. He argues that we can improve the future in two ways, “by averting permanent disasters, thus ensuring the survival of civilization; or by altering the course of civilization to improve it while it lasts…Basically , ensuring survival increases the quantity of future life; changes in trajectory increase its quality.

The philosophy aims for the common good by focusing on the long-term goal of human survival. But the long-term good can sometimes come at the expense of the short-term. “Because the theory goes, giving a blanket to a poor man probably isn’t as helpful to the future of humanity as building a rocket to Mars,” writes investigative journalist Dave Troy on Medium.

Musk’s development of the Tesla fits perfectly into the long-term vision of the world. “Tesla’s core goodness…just like Tesla’s ‘why’, relevance, what Tesla is for, boils down to two things: sustainable energy acceleration and self-reliance,” Musk said.

“Accelerating sustainable energy is fundamental because it is the next potential risk to humanity,” Musk added. “So obviously that’s by far the most important thing.”

To achieve this goal, Musk had a long-term master plan which was an extremely rare thing in the automotive industry. It sounded more like John F. Kennedy’s call to go to the moon than the usual view of the auto industry, which is framed by quarter-to-quarter thinking.

Musk’s work to normalize space travel and eventually colonize the Moon and Mars also fits nicely into long-term theory. Musk called interplanetary travel and colonization “life insurance” for the human species. While some are focused on the medium-term goal of reducing the planet’s temperature, Musk is focusing on a possible future that may never come to fruition. However, in addition to climate change, we may face other cataclysmic events that render the Earth unsuitable for human life, such as a meteor or an ice age.

So why did Musk buy Twitter? Troy thinks the acquisition fits perfectly into the long-term worldview.

“The goals are more ideological in nature,” writes Troy. “Musk and his followers believe that the global geopolitical arena was distorted by too much ‘woke’ ideology and censorship and wanted to address this issue by first restoring the voices that had been silenced and then implementing technical and algorithmic solutions that allow each user to get the experience they want.

It seems that Musk thinks that the most regressive forms of progressive ideology strive to stifle the spread of ideas and open the platform to all voices, no matter how vile, serve the ultimate purpose. to expand human potential. Again, it sacrifices the short-term problems that arise from hate speech in favor of the possibility that good ideas emerge from the platform without being stifled.

Musk also alludes to long-termism with his stated mission to “expand the light of consciousness.” If Musk believes humans are the only truly sentient beings in the universe, our disappearance would effectively extinguish the universe’s knowledge of itself. The universe would be nothing more than the proverbial tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it.

The thought of the richest and potentially most powerful man in the world making world-changing decisions without rhyme or reason is a chilling proposition. Simply calling Musk a visionary or a troll is woefully insufficient. But if he is motivated by a moral imperative, then we can better understand the goals behind his work and make sense of it accordingly.

The problem is, given his focus on results that won’t be apparent for generations, will we ever really understand what he’s talking about?