A Q&A with Elon Musk | SXSW 2018

By: Tim Frank Andersen, Chief Digital Officer at Charlie Tango.

Sunday night it was suddenly announced that Elon Musk would give an extraordinary speech — not originally in the program.

And boom! Everybody at SXSW was about to jump in the air. Including me, who went up in what felt like the middle of the night to queue up to secure a ticket to what was basically announced as an hour of Q&A, where Elon would answer all the questions we had to him send via Sli.do.

So, is it fair with all that excitement or is it entirely out of proportion? Well, we are talking about a guy who is regarded as probably the most visionary business leader globally for the moment, standing behind not only Tesla and Solar City but also Space-X and now The Boring Company.

Especially Space-X has gained a lot of attention lately, because of Musk´s incredible marketing stunt of sending a mannequin doll called Spaceman sitting in Tesla into outer space and on a trajectory towards Mars, all the time while Playing David Bowie on the car radio.

Peter Svarre recently wrote an article about this, calling his tactics for Peacock Marketing. And you could argue that he is now also the greatest marketer globally due to this stunt.

So getting a chance to hear what he has to say in a pretty intimate setup is quite attractive for all us fanboys.

Mars — how can we help?

First questions and we dug directly into what might be his biggest challenge. Elon basically said that he was optimistic.

Space-X is in the process of building their spaceship codenamed BFR (Big Fucking Rocket) and the booster to do the first test flights in 2019, and until the route is established, there is not a lot anybody can do to help.

But afterward, there will be a huge need for all kinds of entrepreneurs:

“We gotta have great bars on Mars — Mars bars,” Elon Musk said.

He also said that it is going to be extremely hard, that the risk of dying while trying will be high, but that it will be incredible for the ones that survive.

He expects a direct democracy, and simple laws that everybody can read and understand — it should be easier to remove a bill than to create one.

The risk of AI

Another of Elon’s critical issues is that we understand the risk of AI.

“The cutting edge of AI scares the hell out of me and is already today capable of much more than most of you know. We are really talking about exponential progression here”, Musk said.

He gave the example of Google’s Alpha Zero algorithm, that can be taught any game by showing the rules and immediately beat the best in the world with a factor of 1 to 100.

He also said that due to AI he expects cars to be self-driving on all roads at the end of next year in a way that is 100–200% safer than having humans driving them.

According to Elon, digital superintelligence is far more dangerous than Nuclear warheads, and yet there is absolutely no regulation, for the time being, so we need to be very very careful.

“The invention of super intelligence needs to be symbiotic with the human existence.”

The world we’re leaving behind

Finally, the crowd asked Elon Musk this:

“What kind of world would you want to leave to the next generation?”

Elon has a lot of kids, so this was a very fair question and it very well summed up his main concerns:

“We should have made the transition to sustainable energy
We should have an established base on the Moon and Mars
We should have affordable interplanetary travel
The risk of AI should be under control
We should use technology to maximise our freedom of action”