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Four takeaways from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Elon Musk – CNN


“You will never succeed,” Errol Musk told his 17-year-old son Elon in 1989, who was then preparing to move from South Africa to Canada to visit relatives and a college education.

This is one of the scenes that Walter Isaacson paints in his 670-page biography of Elon Musk, the richest man of all time. The biography gives readers a new glimpse into the personal life of the entrepreneur who popularized electric vehicles to the masses and landed rocket boosters back on Earth so they could be reused.

But Musk’s public statements and actions have become increasingly uncontrolled, prompting and threatening lawsuits against nonprofits that fight hate speech and allowing some of the internet’s worst actors to reclaim their platforms. Are.

Isaacson portrays Musk as a restless genius with a turbulent upbringing on the verge of launching a new AI company along with his five other companies.

The author said Musk allowed Isakson to keep it for two years but exercised no control over the content of the biography.

Here are four key solutions.

Musk’s upbringing and father troubles him

Isaacson’s book attributes Musk’s inspiration to his upbringing. He recalls the emotional wounds inflicted on Musk by his father, which Isaacson writes caused Musk to become “a tough but vulnerable man-child, with a high tolerance for risk, a craving for drama, a sense of mission. There was epic emotion and a madness.” An intensity that was senseless and sometimes destructive.”

Musk chose to live with his father from the ages of 10 to 17, enduring what Musk and others describe as occasional but regular verbal taunts and abuse. Musk’s sister Tosca said that Errol would sometimes lecture his children for hours, “calling you worthless, pathetic, making scary and nasty comments, not letting you go.”

Elon Musk became estranged from his father, although he occasionally supported his father financially. In an email sent to Elon Musk on Father’s Day in 2022, Errol Musk said that he was cold and had a power outage, so he asked his son for money.

In the letter Errol made racist comments about black leaders in South Africa. He wrote, “With no whites here, the blacks will go back to the trees.”

Elon Musk has said he opposes racism and discrimination, but according to the Anti-Defamation League, hate speech has been thriving on X, formerly known as Twitter, since he shut it down 11 months ago. Had bought. Musk threatened to sue the ADL for defamation last week, arguing that the nonprofit’s statements have caused his company to lose significant advertising revenue.

Isakson reported that Errol, in other emails, denounced COVID as a “lie” and attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ former top infectious disease expert who played a major role in the government’s fight against the pandemic .

Similarly, Elon Musk has also criticized Fauci and raised several questions on public health policy during the pandemic. But he has said he supports vaccination, even though he doesn’t believe the shots should be mandatory.

Musk’s obsession with liquid family and population

Musk has a fluid mix of girlfriends, ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, and significant others, and he has multiple children with multiple women. Isakson’s book revealed that Musk will have a third child (Techno Mechanicus) with musician Grimes in 2022, and Musk confirmed the revelation on Sunday.

Musk has repeatedly said that humans should be a multiplanetary species, warning that space exploration will ensure humanity’s future. Similarly, he has said many times that people need to have more children.

“Population decline due to low birth rates is a much greater threat to civilization than global warming,” Musk said last year.

Musk has cited his desire to increase the global population as an explanation of his unique family situation.

The book states that Musk encouraged employees like Shivon Zilis, the top operating officer of his Neuralink company, to have multiple children. Isaacson writes, “He feared that declining birthrates threatened the long-term survival of human consciousness.”

Although the book presents their relationship as an idealized work friendship, Musk volunteered to donate sperm to Zilis. She agreed and had twins through in vitro fertilization in 2021; She did not tell people who her biological father was.

According to the book, Zilis and Grimes were friendly, but Musk did not tell Grimes about the twins.

Musk asked Zilis if his twins would like to take his last name. Isaacson reports that Grimes was upset in 2022 when she received news that Musk had fathered children with Zilis.

Musk tried to defuse the tension at the time, tweeting, “Doing my best to help with the underpopulation crisis.” “The falling birth rate is the greatest threat civilization has ever faced.”

One of Musk’s children, Jenna, often criticized her father’s wealth and capitalism broadly. In 2022, she disowned her father, which made Isakson saddened Musk.

Isaacson reports that Musk’s broken relationship with Jenna, who is trans, partly led Musk to turn rightward toward libertarianism and questions whether he is a “woke-mind-virus, which is fundamentally antiscience, antimerit, and antihuman.” Is”.

Musk has questioned the use of alternative gender pronouns and made several statements that some critics consider anti-trans.

“I fully support trans, but all these pronouns are an aesthetic nightmare,” Musk said. Posted In 2020.

But in December 2020, he also posted a tweet, since deleted, that read, “When you put that in your bio” and also posted a photo of an 18th-century soldier standing near a pile of dead bodies. In front, he is rubbing blood on his face and wearing clothes. A hat that read “I love to torture.”

Late last year he tweeted: “My pronouns are prosecut/fauci.”

According to Isakson’s report, purchasing his favorite social media platform, firing employees, and tinkering with policies and branding have taken time and resources away from Musk’s other companies and projects.

Musk told Isakson at one point, “I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew.”

After a lengthy legal battle over his decision to buy Twitter, Musk said his enthusiasm for taking over the company came back when he realized he wanted to prevent a world where people were locked in their own echo chambers. Go and prioritize the world of civil discourse. ,

But Isakson says he “will undermine that important mission with statements and tweets that will push progressive and mainstream media types to other social networks.”

According to the book, members of Musk’s team, such as his business manager Jared Birchall, his lawyer Alex Spiro, and his brother Kimbal, sometimes tried to prevent Musk from sending text messages or tweets that could pose a legal or economic threat. Can. Some friends convinced him on one occasion to leave his phone in the hotel safe overnight, before Musk called hotel security to open the safe for him.

During Christmas in 2022 with his brother, Kimble warns Elon about how fast he is making enemies. “It’s like in high school, when you got beat up,” he said. Kimble stopped following Elon on Twitter after his brother tweeted about Fauci and other conspiracies. “Stop messing around with strange people-.”

Are RoboCar, an AI company, and a robot called Optimus available?

Musk is constantly moving forward on new engineering projects. As of 2021, Musk has been working on a “humanoid” robot called Optimus that walks on two legs instead of the four-legged robots coming from other laboratories. They unveiled an early version of the Optimus robot in September 2022. Musk told engineers that humanoid robots would “open up the economy to semi-infinite levels”, according to Isaacson, by doing tasks that humans find dangerous or repetitive.

Some of Musk’s top engineers are also working on a “robotaxis,” a driverless vehicle that looks a lot like Uber. Last summer, he spent hours every week designing a new factory in Texas to produce the next generation of Tesla cars that will look similar to Tesla’s Cybertruck.

Musk is also starting his own AI company called X.AI, which he told Isaacson will compete with Google, Microsoft and other companies that moved forward last year with public AI projects. Musk co-founded OpenAI with Sam Altman in 2015 and contributed $100 million to the nonprofit. He became angry when Altman turned the project around for profit. Musk also ended his friendship with Larry Page when the two disagreed on AI. According to the book, Musk believes he has a better vision for AI and humanity and thinks the data he has from Tesla and Twitter will be an asset for his next AI plans.

“Can you get a rocket into orbit or make the transition to electric vehicles without accepting all aspects of it?” Isaacson asks in the final chapter.


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