Elon Musk: The Recode interview

Full podcast here.

  • How Elon decides what to Tweet: I tweet interesting things as they come to me with not much of a filter. I find it entertaining and I think other people might find it entertaining. It’s pretty random.

  • How Elon looks at Twitter: It feels like dipping into the flow of consciousness of society. Some people use their hair to express themselves. I use twitter. 

  • Elon’s regard for the press has dropped quite dramatically: The amount of untruthful stuff that is written is unbelievable. The front-page story in The Wall Street Journal about the FBI closing in? That is utterly false. The answer is for the press to be honest and truthful. To correct things when they are false. I suggest the press take it to heart and do better. There are good journalists and bad ones. Unfortunately, the feedback loop for good vs bad is inverted. The more salacious the headline, the more clicks they get. Then they are not a journalist. They are an ad salesman. 

  • Do you take criticism to heart correctly? Yes. How do you think rockets get to orbit? Not easily! Truth in engineering and science is extremely important to me. 

  • How do you assess your competition? I don’t really think that much about competitors. I just think about how do we make our cars as good as possible? How do we make sure we have the best engineering and manufacturing talent in the world? 

  • Quality as a distribution strategy: Tesla doesn’t do any advertising, paid endorsements, haggle for cars, or anything like that. We rely on the quality of the product to sell. In that case, it makes sense to put our budget into making the best possible cars.

  • Elon is not sure looking at competitors really helps: It’s like that old adage about running. If you start looking at the other runners it’s not good. You lose races like that.

  • The advantages of being a private company: We could execute better if we were private. Being public causes a lot of distraction. It tends to be a mood thermometer. The stock goes down and people are sad and feel under-compensated. The stock goes up and people think about what they can buy. Neither of these things are great. 

  • Elon’s observation about reality: I have to be careful about tempting fate because often the most ironic outcome is the most probable. 

  • You want to do projects that are inspiring and make people excited about the future: It’s high time that we went beyond Earth orbit again. It’s very exciting and inspiring. It gets the whole world fired up. When the first human stepped foot on the moon it was the most inspiring thing in history. 

  • Would you buy a newspaper? I don’t generally acquire things. I create companies. I don’t really acquire them. 

  • What do you think about Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin: I think Amazon is a great company. Jeff has done some amazing things. I think it’s great Jeff is spending lots of money on space [Jeff is selling about $1 billion worth of Amazon stock each year to fund Blue Origin] It’s remarkably hard getting to orbit but he has the resources to overcome those difficulties.

  • The opportunity for the Boring Company: There is a lot of room for improvement. The typical per mile cost for a Subway in the US is about $1 billion a mile. We have to massively improve the technology associated with digging tunnels. 

  • The engineering heads of various tunneling companies didn’t know what the true potential of tunneling is: The first question I’d ask was is your machine power-limited or thermally limited? This was an obvious question from a physics standpoint. None of them could answer that question. I thought this is not a good sign. 

  • Where Elon thinks there is an opportunity for future entrepreneurs: There is a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs in the construction industry. I think there is a lot of potential for disruption in construction.