What does Elon Musk really believe?
Many people are asking this question, especially as the tech and business mogul’s profile has risen in the wake of purchasing social media giant Twitter.
His role founding SpaceX, Tesla and many more ventures has established Musk as a thought leader, but does he have a coherent life philosophy and vision for humanity?
Let’s take a look at what makes Musk tick.
1) Musk is politically closest to being a libertarian
Musk has been associated with both left and right wing politics.
He’s most recently said he’s a supporter of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s expected to run for President in the Republican Party in 2024.
Politically, Musk is closest to being a libertarian.
He believes in minimal market intervention and as small a government as possible, considering this to be the ideal grounds for innovation, wealth and individual rights.
Musk has also demonstrated strong interest and support for free speech, arguing that almost any restrictions on speech apart from violent incitement are illegitimate.
2) Musk advocates for an ‘expansion’ of human consciousness
Musk is fascinated by human consciousness and the workings of the human brain.
His neuralink project aims to connect human brains directly with computers and open a new era in computing and interconnectivity.
From expanding and refining transport to testing the frontiers of space, Musk’s fundamental goal is to push the limits of our knowledge both internally and externally.
He sees the two as linked, believing that human consciousness and the ability to understand the outer cosmos are both intrinsically linked.
The more we understand why and how we think and perceive the more we will find deeper truths about the universe we live in, according to the South Africa-born entrepreneur.
“My driving philosophy is to expand the scope and scale of consciousness, that we may better understand the nature of the universe,” Musk noted in a recent interview.
3) Musk believes that short and simple beats complex
Despite his giant brain, Musk isn’t a fan of complex political and legal systems.
He considers shorter and simpler legislation and social structures to be better.
If made to start over somewhere like Mars, Musk said he’d prefer a direct democracy where citizens get a say in issues that concern them.
He generally disagrees with doom and gloom predictions about our current time as well, saying they are simply the product of privilege and a narrow view of history.
“Is there really some point in history where you’d rather be? And by the way, have you actually read history?” Musk asked in a recent interview.
“Because it wasn’t great.”
4) Musk is a strong supporter of free speech even if it’s hurtful or untrue
As I noted earlier, Musk considers free speech to be one of the most crucial values.
He is highly suspicious of governmental or corporate involvement in infringing or controlling speech and says this is one of the reasons he bought Twitter.
Recent release of the Twitter files have indeed exposed a wide pattern of corruption and information suppression on the part of Twitter employees.
Musk argues that even politically unpopular or controversial opinions need to be heard, although even he apparently has a limit, recently resuspending the rapper Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) for tweeting out an image of a Star of David with a swastika inside and saying this would be his future presidential campaign symbol.
“This is not love,” Musk chided Ye in leaked direct messages, going on to quote the Lord’s prayer to Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband.
5) Musk considers Jesus Christ a ‘wise teacher’
This brings up the religious beliefs of Musk.
He’s often noted that he’s never been “particularly” religious, although his exact beliefs are unclear.
Musk has toyed with the idea that we all live in a simulation and also notes that he went to Hebrew school growing up as well as Anglican Sunday school.
He’s also said, however, that he “generally” agrees with the principles of Christianity and respects its founder Jesus of Nazareth.
“I agree with the principles that Jesus advocated,” Musk has said.
“There’s some great wisdom in the teachings of Jesus, and I agree with those teachings.”
6) Musk does not believe in a personal God
Despite his belief in the wisdom of Jesus and validity in some religious principles, Musk does not believe in a personal God who intervenes in our lives or in history, according to past statements he’s made.
Although he’s expressed respect for theists and those who believe in an interested, involved Creator, Musk has stated his skepticism about a deity who concerns itself with the affairs of humankind.
However it’s a bit more complex than being an atheist, which Musk does not appear to be. In fact, Musk’s true beliefs appear to hew closer to deism.
As he said in an interview earlier this year, echoing the words of Albert Einstein, “I believe in the god of Spinoza.”
Baruch Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher who lived from 1632 to 1677 and believed in a Creator who was behind all the laws and movements of the cosmos but had no actual or personalized involvement or intervention in the lives of any created beings.
7) Musk hopes for humanity to transcend itself
Musk believes that humanity’s old ways of understanding and organizing society are outmoded.
He believes that his technological and philosophical innovations are part of what can help bring necessary change.
Humanity must somewhat transcend itself to become something smarter, stronger and more unified than it currently is, in Musk’s view.
His exact views on what that unification and strength would look like have not been fully disclosed, but it seems clear that Musk believes that intelligent and efficient use of technology will figure heavily in that, as well as potential colonization of other planets.
8) Musk hates bullies partly due to growing up in an abusive situation
Born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk grew up with an abusive dad who he lived with following his dad’s split from his mom.
He’s called his dad a “terrible” person and said he grew up lonely, unhappy and completely “miserable” in most ways.
He also says his dad frequently became physically violent towards him.
In addition, Musk was extensively bullied growing up and was reportedly seen as too “nerdy” and intellectual by his peers.
9) Musk considers underpopulation a key challenge of the future
Musk is 51 and has 10 children.
He’s pushed back against many common beliefs and theories including the concept that the world’s population is getting out of control and will destroy the environment and climate.
By contrast, Musk believes we can find fruitful and sustainable ways to live in harmony with our surroundings.
He also believes that the population is peaking and infertility is rising and claims that the concerns of the future will not be over-population but instead under-population.
He’s spoken about this quite frequently in various interviews, opening up on his beliefs concerning the mushrooming human population.
10) Musk is a dedicated follower of a philosophy called ‘longtermism’
Musk has personally said that a philosophy he strongly believes in is “longtermism.”
This philosophy is spelled out by the author William MacAskill and focuses on building a better future rather than focusing on short term goals.
The basic idea is that you must think beyond the immediate time scale you’re used to.
Conceptualize how decisions and actions might impact people and society many years down the road.
Musk believes that by remaining optimistic and grounding his ideas in investing in future people, he can create companies, technologies and ideas that will stand the test of time rather than just turn a quick profit.
The Musk conundrum
Even Musk’s strongest critics admit that the man is quite fascinating.
Already leaving South Africa as a teen to avoid military service in the apartheid government and moving to Canada, Musk married young and went on to achieve enormous success in academia before co-launching the predecessor to Paypal, x.com in 1999.
After eBay bought Paypal in 2002, Musk got very rich, very fast, racking up $175 million in share value.
This helped him fund Tesla, SpaceX and continue his dreams and enormous wealth up until today in becoming the world’s richest individual between 2020 and 2021.
Musk has a sharp sense of humor, and has said he has Asperger’s syndrome and is on the autism spectrum.
He’s made it clear that while he has grand plans for humanity, he’s also a bit of a basement troll.
The man continues to be a conundrum for both his critics and his fans, escaping easy labels and showing a consistent desire to remain ahead of the pack and break boundaries no matter how irreverent or surprising.
What’s next for Musk remains to be seen, but it’s clear that whatever he does it’s not going to be playing it safe and it’s going to change the world.