A Conversation with Elon Musk

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Written by Winona Roylance

What does the future of mankind look like, both tomorrow and 50 years from now? With technology evolving at an exponential rate, a future full of space travel, man-machine symbiosis, and underground tunnel cities may not be too far from the truth. With companies like Tesla and SpaceX leading the transportation industry, this future of space adventures and self-driving cars may be closer than we think. And with one of the brightest minds of this generation captaining both companies, it is only a matter of time before this potential future becomes a reality.

Key Takeaways

 There are three things necessary to ensure a successful future for Mankind:

Long-term sustainable transport. With the advent of self-driving cars and electric vehicles, other fuels such as oil will become somewhat obsolete.

Sustainable energy generation. With the transition to electric vehicles, demand for electricity will triple due to the decrease in other fuel sources.

Space-exploring civilization. Space exploration is not only important for the long-term survival of humanity, it is also important for the short-term motivation of adventure and excitement. In fact, within 50 years, it is possible that we may not only have humans on mars, but also the moons of Jupiter as we prepare for missions to even farther planets.

“If you consider two futures – one where we are forever confined to Earth where eventually something terrible happens, or another future where we are out there on many planets – I think that second version is exciting and inspiring and it is a reason to get up in the morning.” – Elon Musk

Life will be very different 50 years from now.

When the Wright brothers accomplished their first power-controlled flight in 1903, nobody expected that men would be flying to the moon a mere 66 years later. Now with the introduction of the Internet and other such technology, the next 50 years may be even more unpredictable. However, educated guesses can still be made as to what our future may be like:

Autonomy will advance tremendously. With the introduction of self-driving cars, it is almost inevitable that the car industry will become completely autonomous within the next 10 to 20 years, granting ease and convenience to consumers across the world.

Artificial Intelligence will advance tremendously. While narrow artificial intelligence – that is, AI programmed to work on narrow tasks, such as a voice-controlled search engines – may be harmless, artificial general intelligence – AI that is smarter than humans – is both very possible and potentially deadly. Therefore, it is imperative that government keeps a close eye on artificial intelligence in the coming years.
Self-driving cars will revolutionize the transportation industry. While it is predicted that self-driving cars will disrupt the car industry within 20 years, it is also predicted that it will consequently displace most driving-related jobs. Therefore, it is crucial that government prepare for the potential major disruptions and unemployment in the transportation industry.

Universal basic income will be necessary to sustain the world population. With technology set to take over most jobs in the coming years, it will be important that governments provide a basic income to all citizens. And while the increase in robot productivity will create an extremely high output of goods and services at a low-cost, people’s lack of jobs may cause feelings of uselessness and decrease human productivity.

Symbiosis between humans and artificial intelligence may be possible. With the Internet, humans have already begun to connect to technology in ways that were previously impossible. With the introduction of a high bandwidth interface in the brain, however, humans may be able to go one step further and create a symbiotic relationship with artificial intelligence.

“I think one thing that we can be quite certain of, is that any predictions we make today for what the future will be like in 50 years will be wrong.” – Elon Musk

Mankind must conquer both Space and the underground.

Large tunnel networks underneath cities can be created to relieve traffic issues. Unlike buildings that have a limit to how high they can be built, underground tunnel networks have a nearly infinite depth that can be used to alleviate traffic and crowding issues. With fast, low-cost, and safe tunnels, humans can travel, work, and even live entirely underground.

Fully reusable rockets can transform space travel. If spacecrafts were to gain reusable rockets akin to an aircraft’s reusable fuel supply, the cost of space travel would be comparable to that of a plane ticket. However, the issue of gravity has prevented such rockets from being invented as of yet, although future materials and techniques may one day make this possible.

 “I came to the conclusion that what really matters is trying to understand the right questions to ask. The more we increase the scope and scale of human consciousness, the better we’re able to ask these questions.” – Elon Musk

Your frame of mind will take you far in life.

Always take the position that you are, to some degree, wrong. You should therefore make it your goal to be less wrong as time goes on.

Avoid wishful thinking. Don’t ignore the real truth simply because of something you wish were true.

The best analytical framework for the future is physics. 

“The way of thinking in physics is the best framework for understanding things that are counterintuitive.” – Elon Musk

Editor’s Note: The preceding is an essay from a special print report produced by Diplomatic Courier after the 2017 World Government Summit in Dubai, UAE. To read the full report download our free app on your device or view the digital edition here.