In a wide-ranging interview streamed during last week’s TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada, Elon Musk characterized the companies that have made him a multibillionaire as “philanthropy” — and he wasn’t kidding.
“If you care about the reality of goodness instead of the perception of it, philanthropy is extremely difficult,” Musk told TED Talks head and unabashed fan Chris Anderson at the Tesla factory outside Austin, Texas. “SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, The Boring Co. are philanthropy. If you say philanthropy is love of humanity, they are philanthropy.”
Philanthropy means “love of humanity” in Greek. But Musk running companies making him the richest human in the world is not the common understanding of what motivates philanthropists.
Musk noted that Tesla is “accelerating sustainable energy. This is a love ... philan-thropy. SpaceX is trying to ensure the long-term survival of humanity with a multi-planet species. This is love of humanity. ... Boring Co. is trying to solve traffic, which is hell for most people,” he added.
Musk didn’t discuss how his intention to purchase Twitter for $43 billion could be construed as philanthropic.
Musk also touted his simple life, indicating that he’s virtually homeless and is rotating through friends’ “spare bedrooms.” He usually doesn’t vacation or own a yacht, but does use his private jet, he admitted.
Musk has also been busy having kids — seven of them — again noting he’s doing his bit to help save the planet.
“I’m trying to set a good example because the birth rate is so low that we’re facing civilizational collapse — unless we return to a sustainable level,” he said.
“Population collapse is one of the biggest threats to the future of human civilization, and that is what is going on right now,” Musk added, highlighting a key fear of his.
The world’s population is still increasing, but at a rate of about 1% annually, down from a peak of about 2.1% in the 1960s, and the cascading effects of the coronavirus pandemic on population growth are still being measured, according to The Hill.
As for Tesla, Musk insisted he’s driving around Austin in his car largely in Autopilot mode — despite increasing concerns about accidents linked to the technology. (He has derided the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is investigating Tesla crashes, as the “fun police.”)
“The car currently drives me around Austin most of the time with no interventions,” he boasted.
Check out Musk’s full interview in the video clip up top. He discusses his “philanthropies” beginning at 1:02:30. He touts his Autopilot success at 16:43.