The meteoric rise of SpaceX, SolarCity, Neuralink, OpenAI and Tesla. The genius, billionaire & philanthropist who shows no sign of stagnation.
Words by Josh Ong
Once described as ‘the real-life Iron Man’ by the Guardian, it’s easy to understand that if there were to be anyone in the world who would own a real Iron Man suit, it would be him. His remarkable rise in becoming the standard bearer for sweeping technological advances has been sudden, yet forthcoming.
Despite his current £51 million Bel Air residence, Musk’s origins are somewhat humble and epitomise the very grassroots nature of the effects that mere hard work and determination can produce. Growing up in suburban South Africa with a single parent did not make for an easy upbringing. Especially considering the unpleasant bullying he faced which once left him unconscious at the bottom of a flight of stairs after being knocked out cold by some rather vicious bullies. This didn’t stop him teaching himself programming and having sold the code for his first game at the tender age of 12. Skip forward a few years and he’s sold his first company, Zip2, for the small price of £221 million.
Arguably, this is the start of Elon’s revolution. The capital gained from the sale of this first company allowed him to endeavour into the depths of his ambition and transform in to the Elon we E-love today. His second company created, X.com, was his first area of technological revolt; banking. Unbeknownst to most, this company would merge to form one of the most used mediums of money transferral in the modern world, Paypal. Once Ebay purchased the website in 2002, Musk found himself £119 million better off. Not exactly a bad way to be in at 31 years old.
The familiar public territory of SpaceX has only really entered the public eye over the last two years, yet Musk’s ambitions of deep space exploration and utopian Martian aspirations can be traced back to as early as 2001 with his Mars Oasis project. Such ideas of creating a greenhouse on Mars to grow crops were done in the name of generating greater interest for space exploration, something which he felt was necessary as it had been almost 30 years since the last Apollo mission and the consequent cosmic interest surrounding the field. His early endeavours were arguably unsuccessful to the point of humour. In an attempt to purchase disused long range rockets from Russia for use in space, his ineptitude in the matter resulted in him being spat on by one of the chief designers. Fortunately, this did not discourage him from founding SpaceX in 2002 with £72 million of his previously generated income. Since then, the company has only continued to grow and break new boundaries. The first landing and successful landing of a reusable rocket stage in December of 2015 saw the first glimpse into the interstellar dynasty which Musk had been establishing outside of the public eye. Subsequently, Musk has since landed the Falcon 9 on and unmanned drone ships as well as the Falcon Heavy (effectively three Falcon 9s attached to one another) in February earlier this year, the landing of which created one of the most visually pleasing sights of all time. If you’re going to do anything today, I sincerely consider you watch the video of the landing.
The thinking behind the Falcon series of rockets served as one of materialism and reduction of waste. From within the early stages of SpaceX, Musk had calculated that the greatest cost of rocket building came from the wasted elements of boosters that previously crashed and burned down to earth once used. This mindset can arguably be seen in his ventures into other fields. He is well known for his progressive mindset regarding climate change once stating that the move away from fossil fuels was ‘inevitable.’ His adoption of Tesla and foundation of SolarCity, which has since been subsumed by the former, show his dedication to the matter. Where Musk differentiates himself from the majority of eco-warriors is his approach. Despite the modern Teslas following a fairly rigid template of safe, advanced ‘everyday’ cars, the first Tesla served as a sports car, and a very fast one at that. Until this point, almost all electric cars had been diabolically slow, unreliable and required you to recharge them far too frequently for hours on end. Naturally, the car had its faults yet the car still served a key demonstration of the potential of electric cars and how they could be, dare I say it, cool.
Tesla’s supremacy recently expanded beyond the automotive industry solving a looming energy crisis within Southern Australia after a coal plant failed to supply enough power to 170,000 homes. What started as a small Twitter joke, turned into a wager of promising to solve the issue in ‘100 days or it’s free.’ Much to the displease of the fossil fuels lobby of the Australian parliament, the company successfully created the world’s largest sustainably powered battery ahead of schedule, capable of responding to any drops in overall power within milliseconds. Once more Musk had demonstrated his personal desire and enthusiasm in helping to advance the field of science and technology in a forward thinking, sustainable manner.
Notably, Musk has further ventured into the fields which have yet to produce any notable advances but are undoubtedly bound for prosperity. Whether it’s the advancement of brain related artificial intelligence in his foundation of Neuralink in 2016 or The Boring Company to accommodate his Hyperloop concept for ultrafast travel, he clearly shows no signs of stopping in his personal desire to reform accelerate all sections of science and technology. His current achievements across all fields are unparalleled in. Yet, arguably his real success stems from the impact that these advancements have had on public perception. Whilst the majority of people within this lifetime will not be affected by any of these changes, Musk has successfully regenerated long overdue interest around areas of the past and the future. Whether it’s selling flamethrowers to fund his tunnel-digging enterprise or live streaming all SpaceX rocket launches for the whole world to eagerly watch on, Musk is prevailing in inspiring a whole new generation of aspiring innovators.