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Can daring and Elon Musk
change the world?

Daring is about taking risks to lead an undertaking that is regarded as not simply difficult but impossible. It requires the courage to surpass one’s limits while never hesitating to transgress conventions and break established rules. Inseparable from the spirit of the company, boldness is part of the DNA of entrepreneurs. And amongst the latter, Elon Musk is considered “the most daring man in the world”*…

Loose cannon syndrome

In an era dominated by the precautionary principle and a fear of failure, those who are truly bold like Elon Musk stand out. Their out-of-the-box theories turn them into mavericks who dare to dream of another world. The emblematic question “Do you think I’m insane?” is the introductory line to Elon Musk’s biography by journalist Ashlee Vance2. Admittedly, the business and success story of the creator of Paypal and boss of Tesla, amongst other enterprises, sends shivers up the spine of the most daring amongst us…

Daring and yet more daring…

Elon Musk’s résumé is enough to make sneaker-shod Silicon Valley tycoons pale. Summing it up in a few sentences, he was born in South Africa in 1971, came to Canada at the age of 17 to study, and continued his education in the United States in 1992, first at the University of Pennsylvania and then Stanford in California. At 24 years old, the fun began with the creation of his first start-up based on an online publishing software that he sold to Compaq four years later with a capital gain of 22 million dollars. That same year, he created an online bank which became Paypal in 2001 and that he resold to Ebay in 2002 for 1.5 billion dollars. The Musk rocket was in orbit and its ascension became stratospheric.

The Great Hunt

Not being the kind to rest on his laurels, in June 2002 he founded SpaceX, a space launcher manufacturer. The aim? Planet Mars, quite simply. Why Mars? In the event of environmental issues making Earth unlivable, rockets would be required to colonize other planets… In this regard, to make a contribution to the struggle against global warming and to promote sustainable energy, he
has also invested millions in Tesla, an electric car manufacturer and SolarCity, a startup specialized in solar panels and electric batteries. Never at a loss for ideas, in 2013 Elon Musk became involved in the Hyperloop project, a new means of transport. The solar energy capsule propelled at 1,200 km/h would place San Francisco just 35 minutes from Los Angeles. To take on the international aeronautical industry, the automotive sector and the big names in power requires daring… Driven by his vision of the world, he appears to fear nothing. A Martian at the head of assets estimated at well over 10 billion dollars.

SAVING the world?

Such is indeed the scope of his ambition, for as he says in the biography: “If we can resolve the question of sustainable energy and become a multi-planet species with an independent civilization on another planet in order to be able to manage the worst case scenarios, I think it would be a very good thing.” Elon Musk points at artificial intelligence as being amongst the many dangers threatening us as human beings. Sharing the idea with astrophysicist Stephen Hawking that robots can be a great threat to man, he created OpenAI with the support of other high net worth individuals.This international not-for-profit alliance with a billion-dollar budget is intended to promote artificial intelligence for the benefit of humanity. Daring is sometimes also a question of wisdom… by Anne-Marie Clerc *  Les Echos Week-end n°17 dated February 5th-6th 2016. **  Published in February 2015 in French, Editions Eyrolles.

Images


© W. Callan / Contour by Getty Images

Le fameux logo Tesla.
© Tesla.

Un prototype Dragon, destination Mars.
© SpaceX

La couverture de la biographie parue
en français chez les Éditions Eyrolles en 2015.
© B. Lowy. © Getty Images.
Studio Eyrolles © Editions Eyrolles.

Lanceur Falcon 9.
© SpaceX.

Visualisation en 3D de l’Hyperloop.
© HTT /JumpStartFund OMEGABYTE/3D.

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