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Shit Elon Says - Transcript - Elon Musk at MIT's Aero/Astro Centennial (part 3 of 6)

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[Question about Apollo-style political response.] Yeah, well that's why I think we should really be setting the goal as the creation of a self-sustaining civilization on Mars, not simply a mission to Mars because then we risk - yeah, it'd be awesome and cool and it'd be a new high altitude record and great pictures and stuff, but it would be - it's just not the thing that fundamentally changes the future of humanity. I should sort of explain, perhaps, the rationale for, ya know, why I think it's important to establish a self-sustaining colony on Mars. Some people are aware of that, but probably most people aren't and you hear all these rebuttals, like aren't there all these problems on Earth that we need to deal with, and shouldn't we focus on that, and the answer is yes, our primary focus should be the problems on Earth but I think that there should be some small amount that's given over to the establishment of a colony on Mars and making life multi-planetary. By a small amount, I mean some number less than 1% of our resources. So, it's not as important as, say, health care, but it's more important than let's say, cosmetics. I'm in favor of cosmetics, I like them, they're great, but ya know, lipstick or colony on Mars. People may have different opinions, I know. I think we should have that, because the future of humanity will fundamentally bifurcate along the lines of either a single planet species or a multi-planet species, and a multi-planet version of humanity's future is going to last a lot longer. We'll propagate civilization in the future far longer if we're a multi-planet species than if we're a single planet species. So it's like planetary redundancy, backing up the biosphere. We've got all of our eggs in one basket here. We should try to protect that basket with everything we can but there's some risks that are just extremely difficult to mitigate and some which we will ultimately not be able to mitigate. So, it just seems like the right thing to do, and then the next question is should we do it now, or should we wait for some point in the future, and I think the wise move is to do it now because the window of technology for this is open and it's the first time that window's been open in the 4.5 billion year history of Earth. That's a long time. I certainly hope that the window will be open forever, but it may also close. If you look at the history of technology of various civilizations - if you look at, say, ancient Egypt where they were able to build these incredible giant pyramids, and then they forgot how to build the pyramids and then they couldn't read hieroglyphics, or you look at Roman civilization, they were able to build these incredible aqueducts and roads and then they forgot how to do that. They had indoor plumbing, and they forgot how to do indoor plumbing. There's clearly been a cycle with technology. Hopefully, that's an upward sloping sine wave that continues on to be really great in the future, but maybe it doesn't. Maybe there's some bad thing that happens. So, for 1% of our resources we could buy life insurance for life, collectively, and I think that would be a good thing to do.

[Question about the Gigafactory.] The Gigafactory is like the least bad solution we could up with, honestly. I think it's actually pretty cool the way it's worked out, but we're just faced with a simple problem of: it we want to make electric cars we need enough batteries for the electric cars, and last year, all Lithium-Ion battery production combined was 30 GWhs, approximately. That's nothing, okay, or at least, it's nothing when you consider if you want to make half a million electric cars a year, that's how much you need. There are a hundred million new cars made every year. There are two billion gasoline or diesel cars on the road worldwide. So, just do the basic math, you don't just need one Gigafactory, you need like 200 Gigafactories, just for new car production and that means you're only going to replace the fleet at the existing rate which has it refreshed every 20 years. So yeah. Given that we want try to get to full capacity at a Fremont plant in California of a half million vehicles a year, we need a half million vehicles a year of batteries, and obviously we can't use all of the other factories in the world combined because people want cellphones and laptops and other things. Therefore we have to build this factory and we have a great partner in Panasonic. They're taking care of the cell formation part of it. There are actually many aspects to this, because you have anode, cathode, electrolyte, can, at the precursor level you've got raw materials coming in from the mines that feed into a variety of other companies like Simitar Mining and Atarchie and others, they do the precursor processing and then Panasonic takes the anode and cathode materials separately and put that into a cell and then it goes into a Tesla section which creates the module, which is all the electronics and the packaging and the conductors, the safety mechanisms and the cooling loops and then the modules go into the pack which has a lot of crash structure associated with it and then the pack goes in the car. Then, obviously, Tesla is the landlord of the whole thing as well. Anyway, short of doing that, there was no way to scale, so that's why we did it.

[Question about electric aircraft.] Sure, I love the idea of electric aircraft. Everything will go fully electric, except for rockets. Which is ironic. [You need improvements on the order of 10 to 100.] Wha? No. Wait, when you say 10 to 100, off what baseline? What do you mean? [Ion-Lithium.] Oh no. Definitely not. In my opinion at least, where we are right now is roughly for a cell which doesn't have lots of other drawbacks, which people always forget to mention when they talk about battery breakthroughs, there's many parameters that are important for a battery and hardly a week goes by when there's not some huge breakthrough, allegedly, in batteries but the bullshit factor is outrageous. But, for real cells, which actually work, and don't have some huge drawback, they're currently at about 300 Wh/kg, and to have a compelling aircraft, you only need about 400 Wh/kg, provided the percentage of cell on the aircraft is high. It doesn't need to be anywhere near as high as it is on a rocket, but if it's at sort of at the 70% level at 400 Wh/kg, you can do very decent range. If you move it up to the mid to high 70s, you can go transcontinental - not intercontinental, but sort of west coast to east coast. So, you need an efficient aircraft, but that's approximately, by my calculations, the numbers you need - which I think is an achievable number. Aircraft have all these unnecessary things like tails and rudders and elevators - not needed. Just gimbal.. anyway.. gimbal the electric fan. For some weird reason gimbaling motors is normal in rockets and not in aircraft. Why not? [Do you have specific plans?] I've been sort of toying with the design for an electric supersonic vertical take-off and landing electric aircraft for a while, I'd love to do it, but I think my mind would explode. It'd be like, brain's worn out, ya know. I'm pretty saturated working on electric cars and rockets.

[Question about MIT graduates.] Well, they're doing great. In fact, we want to hire a lot more people from MIT. Definitely, apply to SpaceX or apply to Tesla, and yell at me on Twitter if there's something wrong with our admissions process or something. I mean, it's not the most efficient way to get to people, but it is one way. I don't know if our recruiting and our process of hiring people is good. I think it's good but I'm not sure. But we want to hire lots of really smart engineers because that's how these problems get solved. [but it matters if someone has a good heart.] It does, absolutely. That's generally the hiring mistakes that I've made in the past, it's been, just as I said, it's been looking too much at their intellectual capability alone and not on how they affect those around them. What really matters is, for someone's contribution to a company, is how they are as an individual and how they affect others around them. You could say it's also analogous to a sports team - the best person on the team is not necessarily the one who scores the most goals. It could be the person who assists in the most goals. If there's one person on the team who just wants the ball all the time and just wants to kick it at the goal, that can actually be detrimental. So, it is important to weigh personality and just are they going to be a good person, will people like working with them, that sort of thing. It does make a difference.

[Audience question about NASA.] Well, NASA has been really helpful to SpaceX. Not just in terms of giving us contracts but also technically in a number of areas and a lot of the things that we've done at SpaceX have been dependent on things that NASA's done in the past. I think we're certainly incredibly grateful for everything NASA's done in the past and the ongoing support that we receive from NASA. I'm a huge fan of NASA. I think NASA's actually doing the right thing given all the constraints that they have. Within the context of being this large government entity that's getting pushed in all sorts of different directions and has a lot of limitations on what it can do, I've been pretty impressed by what NASA has done given all of those constraints.

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