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Eight Must-Know Facts From The New Elon Musk Book

I read the new book on Elon Musk, so you don’t have to.

The real-life Tony Stark. The next Steve Jobs. A modern Thomas Edison. All these titles belong to Elon Musk — the founder of the now infamous startups Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal and SolarCity.

 Ashlee Vance’s new book titled Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, released this week, delves into the inner workings of what many consider to be one of the most brilliant, inventive minds of the century. Known for his forward-thinking but sometimes outlandish ideas, Musk, according to Vance, is easily the most innovative industrialist Silicon Valley’s ever seen.

Although most of the book analyzed the major landmarks of Musk’s personal life and career, there were certain anecdotes, phrases or tidbits that were particularly intriguing.

Here’s my top eight picks:

  • Biggest Fear: That Google CEO and cofounder Larry Page is building a fleet of artificial-intelligence-enhanced robots that might be capable of destroying mankind. Musk says, “He could produce something evil by accident.” 

  • Life Goal: Turning humans into space colonizers. Although this sounds absurd, Musk makes a persuasive argument as to why this idea isn’t that far-fetched. According to Musk, “If we can solve sustainable energy and be well on our way to becoming a multiplanetary species with a self-sustaining civilization on another planet—to cope with a worst-case scenario happening and extinguishing human consciousness—then, I think that would be really good.”

  • Favorite Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He’s a self-proclaimed sci-fi geek (to no one’s surprise).

  • The Pepper Potts to His Tony Stark: Mary Beth Brown, a renowned figure in the early days of Tesla and SpaceX, was Musk’s right-hand woman. At one point, her desk was placed a few feet from his, so people had to pass by her in order to see him.

  • Best Factoid: The average American flies four times per year. In 2013, Musk flew 185 times (most of them on his private jet).

  • The Cult of Musk: Vance writes that Musk’s employees both fear and love him for his maniacal attention to detail and perseverance. Yet, they also warn that employees are sometimes expected to work 90-hour work weeks if Musk says so. Vance writes, “They give up their lives for Musk, and they usually do all of this simultaneously.”

  • Acronyms Seriously Suck”: Known for sending company-wide emails, Musk’s most famous one held this subject line. The body of the email was a short, poignant rant on the importance of minimizing acronym usage; apparently, Musk considers excessive use of acronyms to be a significant communication barrier.

  • Genius Syndrome: According to Vance, Musk is both gifted and cursed by his own genius. Musk feels a moral imperative to make mankind a mulitplanetary species but is sometimes limited or slowed down by those around him. Vance says it’s not money that drives Musk but instead the need to secure a future for the planet (hence the focus on EVs, home batteries and—my favorite—space Internet).

    What do you think of Elon Musk? Comment below or tweet me @MNetAbbey.

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