Mix Einstein and Steve Jobs and what do you get?
Elon Musk operates on a different plane to the rest of us.
It's not that he's ridiculously intelligent. It's that he is so far beyond ridiculously intelligent that he struggles, publicly, to talk in a language that mere mortals can understand.
It's not that he's unfathomably gifted. It's that he possesses the most extraordinary combination of humanistic characteristics that is so improbable that a man of this distinction lives in solidarity once every few dozen generations.
It's not that he's introduced new theories similar to the likes of Einstein, Galileo and other historic icons of brilliance. It's that he has done that, and is now subtlety moving humanity forward hundreds of years in mere months - on several frontiers.
And he's only 45.
It is genuinely astonishing. You don't need to be immersed in 21st century technology or have an active interest in 'nerd-stuff' to appreciate what he's done or doing. Elon Musk has either accomplished, or is on his way to accomplishing feats that would normally take a countries' worth of brilliant scientists and engineers several decades - if they had correct political backing and unlimited funding. But as I've touched on in a previous article - Elon Musk decided to forgo the hindrances of politics and simply raise the capital himself, from nothing, to be able to quietly fund several giant infrastructure projects himself.
Here is a short but specific list of some of his ambitions - All of which I'll go into more detail about in a minute:
1: Deliver the Tesla Model 3 automobile - the first truly affordable ($35,000USD), fully-electric vehicle that is faster than any stock sports car under approximately $550,000USD today.
2: Deliver the new Tesla Semi - A project only hinted at for the very first time in a TED interview with Elon Musk this year.
3. Replace human drivers with autonomous driving, increasing safety around an estimated 10000% over the best human drivers.
4: Within a 15 year timeframe, make it a common sense decision to replace most household roofs with pure solar panels and erradicate household electricity 'grid' usage.
5: Pay students, interns and prospering engineers to develop and build the fastest form of land (and most air) transport known to man thus far: Hyperloop.
6: Create an underground global transportation system to end traffic and congestion - because Elon Musk hates traffic.
7: Deliver high speed, high bandwidth, low latency connection to every human on the planet, everywhere - for no cost to consumers.
8: Colonize Mars. Let me say that again: Colonize. ****ing. Mars.
Now this list of ambitions seems farcical, right? But this is the truly, unerringly astonishing part of Elon Musk - it's not. Let me go through this list with an update of progress.
1: The Tesla Model 3 has over 550,000 pre-orders, is in production and is expecting first deliveries as early as July 2017.
2: The Tesla Semi was first heard of during said TED interview above - where Elon casually remarks on how well it handles when he was taking it for a test drive earlier that week.
3: This is a video of a passenger in real-world conditions driving on a real world road in a non-simulated environment. It's here. Legislation pending, and expected to pass in November.
4: The roofs exist and are cheaper, more durable, longer lasting and more aesthetically pleasing than regular painted tile or wooden roofs. Oh - they also power your home.
5: Hyperloop exists and is in testing at one location thus far. It will be faster than a bullet train - times 10.
6: Boring is underway - we expect a tunnel to go from LA to New York by late next year. The travel time for commuters? 6 minutes.
7. First satellites earlier this year, as I've talked about in numerous posts so far - expected 4,200 satellites by 2021.
8. A step by mankind that rivals Neil Armstrong: Just last month, Elon Musk and SpaceX re-landed an already used and landed Falcon 9 rocket booster - a fundamental and crucial step in his plan to put a million regular people on mars in the next 10 years. Elon Musk thinks that step was potentially the most challenging obstacle to overcome, and see's no reason why his timeline can't succeed.
And who's to say he can't? Who in their right mind would dare question it? This is a man who came from a lower-middle class family in South Africa, with no money, and is self-taught in almost every facet of life. He taught himself programming and sold his first business at 12. He self-funded his trip to America to go to College, and paid his own way there. He created a few businesses in between until the spritely age of 18 when he invented PayPal, sold it for $1.5b and used that as a stepping stone to create Tesla. Then he taught himself ****ing rocket science - and improved it. Now founder and CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop and Solarcity (being absorbed into Tesla) - he seems to be a one-man wrecking ball of established business practices. When asked to describe how he 'rejuvenated' affordable solar, he simply replied "It wasn't hard. It turns out when you look at the supply chains for solar manufacturing, it was incredibly inefficient."
And such is his language when describing his methods of brilliance. He makes it seem so simple. When asked how underground boring was possible he said: 'Well once you take the ventilation cross-section requirements out from fossil fuel based cars, you can save a lot of space. And since the cost of boring tunnels is a function of cross section times distance, it reduces the cost by a factor of roughly 8." He then goes on to describe a running joke at work where they have "Gary the snail" who can move approximately 12 times faster than the fastest tunnel boring machine (mole) and process currently.
Under Elon Musk, engineers have invented a mole that moves faster than Gary the snail, and reinforces the tunnel walls in the process.
When about his new Semi Trailer from Tesla, his interviewer voiced the concerns of veteran trucking company execs stating a battery-based semi trailer would never match that of the power of traditional diesel trucks. Elon thinks otherwise: in a tug of war his battery-based semi trailer, in reverse, was able to pull a traditional diesel truck. Moving forward. UP A HILL.
Perhaps most impressively when asked how he could possible achieve this pie-in-the-sky ambition of colonising Mars, Elon Musk simply directs questions to his presentation from late last year that outlines, in meticulous detail, the obstacles to overcome, business strategy in place to overcome them, costs involved and logistical stages already in action to achieve it. I, for one, could not be more excited. He will then point out that he's currently ahead of schedule, and under budget.
And finally, when asked about politics, Elon Musk simply sighed in exasperation and disbelief at being asked the question. Who cares? Mr. Musk does not need politics. His dreams are bigger than the confines of this planet, literally. If Christianity rings true, and Jesus has arisen to become our saviour, there's a strong argument to suggest that Jesus is a figurative Elon Musk, working his way towards a figurative rapture to chariot those of us who 'see the light' towards another planet, leaving the rest of us to suffer in the potentially-soon-to-be-hell. And so far there's nobody standing in his way. But since he was asked, Elon did mention he was the only one in the room on two separate advisory councils to President Trump who believed in, and spoke up for climate change.
Why wouldn't he? There is not a man, woman or tree-hugging hippie on this planet in all of human history fighting climate change harder than Elon Musk. And hey - if he can take us to Mars in the process, why not tag along for the ride?
But through all of this, I think it's so important to recognise and acknowledge the inspiration behind such a colossus. Elon Musk has a brilliant point about what wakes us up in the morning. What do we do it all for? What is our goal? He goes on to state that we either need to be come a multi-planetary species, or inevitably wither and die on Earth. And he finds that incredibly depressing. That's his motivation. To try and "focus on a future that doesn't make him sad."
Elon Musk is looking to put two civilian SpaceX employees into space for the first time since the 1970's this year. We stopped travelling past the International Space Station in 1972. There's an amazing belief in our society that technology automatically evolves, but it doesn't. For continuous technological advancement, it requires an incredible amount of work from highly talented and dedicated people, none more so than Elon Musk. Without these people human advancement ceases and technology, the hallmark of human intelligence, degrades. There are historically important examples of great civilisations who have simply forgotten how to be great. The Egyptians who managed to build structures like the pyramids and the sphinx, and then forgot how. The Romans who first invented aquaducts, and then forgot how. The Arabians who invented plumbing, and then forgot how.
How close we were to being the civilisation who made it to the moon, and then forgot how.
Long Live Elon Musk.