In its current state, humanity’s outlook is pretty bleak. As pollution grows and carbon emissions continue to rise, it is clear that the planet is heading down a path that is not ideal. Though our environmental ignorance may have gotten us into this situation, hopefully science can help to get us out of it. To combat this future, society is looking to science to try to fix things and provide us with viable options for survival. At the forefront of this lies Elon Musk. As someone always interested in innovation, Musk has consistently looked for the next big thing. People are searching for ways to avoid dealing with the consequences of humanity’s actions, and Musk thinks he has the answer. With his companies SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and Tesla Solar, Musk is hoping to provide humanity with multiple alternatives to our current future. He is constantly exploring different innovative ideas from colonizing space to revolutionizing how we think of solar energy. However, solving grandiose issues may not be achievable by just one person. While Elon Musk is trying to use science to help humanity escape the destructive decisions we have made, the task may be too much for one man to take on.
Elon Musk’s career has been a whirlwind of ups and downs. When he first stepped into the business world in 1995 and created his own company, Zip2, he was ousted as CEO a few years later. Following this he started PayPal, an internet payment company, which became extremely successful and led Musk to make a large amount of money and establish himself as a viable businessman. From there he started SpaceX, a rocket and space exploration company with goals of sustaining life on Mars. Over the next few years though, Musk saw 4 rockets fail to launch and explode at SpaceX and struggle to keep the company from going bankrupt. He also started Tesla Motors, a company dedicated to creating the first electric car. Tesla also had some difficulties at first when a Tesla model battery spontaneously combusted (French). As of today, Musk has successfully released multiple working Tesla car models, acquired Tesla Solar which aims to integrate affordable solar panels into the roofs of all americans, created a plan to colonize Mars with SpaceX, and even acquired a new business that implants electrodes into people’s brains. He is currently viewed as one of the great business moguls of this generation and is lauded for both his engineering prowess and his business expertise.
As a constant visionary and someone who is often compared to the likes of Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, Elon Musk seems like the perfect candidate to take on any innovative challenge. (Light). With his company SpaceX, Musk is looking to the stars and has grandiose ambitions to colonize Mars by 2022 (Woolf). This would give humans the option to leave the world they have known and finally explore a galaxy they have been dreaming about for years. On a more domestic note, Tesla Solar is working to innovate the way we look at renewable energy by developing solar roofing tiles that can camouflage onto the roof of a house (Solar Roof). Finally, Tesla Motors is working to develop sustainable electric powered cars to reduce carbon emissions and slow the process of global warming. While SpaceX is looking beyond our planet for humanity’s next step, both Tesla Solar and Tesla Motors are ambitiously tackling the pressing global problems of environmental decay and providing sustainable ways to reduce our carbon footprint and slow global warming. Through all of these companies, Musk is striving to push science to new limits and innovate in a way that humanity has not seen before.
Despite Musk’s ambitions, it is debatable whether or not these companies will be successful in the long run. His typical work week is 100 hours, and he often has his engineers follow closely behind with 80 hours of work per week (Light). He is often known to push his workers to the limits on a project, just to decide that he does not want to use it after it is done. This level of work is simply not sustainable, and one has to wonder how far Musk can push himself and his workers before they crack. However, this unsustainable ambition garners wide support. Despite Tesla projecting a loss of about 953 million dollars, its stock surged more than 50% in the past year (Light). And if Musk is projecting such huge losses for his businesses, will they even be around long enough to make a difference? People are investing in the ideas and hard work Musk is putting out there, not his success. When people start demanding to see results, it will be interesting to see whether or not these companies will deliver.
Despite Musk’s hard work, there have been multiple setbacks throughout his companies. Apart from the losses Tesla has faced, SpaceX has had their own disasters, with two spacecraft having exploded on the launchpad in 2015 and 2016 (Light). These events may have been technical difficulties, but it does cause one to wonder whether the innovation humanity is calling for can be achieved in the time we need it. If spaceships are exploding in 2016, how are they going to be helping us colonize Mars as soon as 2022? At Tesla Solar, a large potential constraint to its innovation is the cost. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to replace a roof is $7,061, with the high cost ceiling being at $30,000 (HomeAdvisor). Comparatively, for an average house of 2,467 sq. ft. and a Tesla Solar roof that is made up of 70% solar tiles, the homeowner would be paying $58,200 (Leasca). Regardless of the energy savings, it would be difficult to convince the average american to spend that kind of money on a new roof. Even with someone as enthusiastic as Elon Musk at the forefront of these innovations, it is hard to imagine that they will be affordable and safe enough to be effective.
Despite his best intentions, it is likely that Elon Musk will not be able to fix the problems of humanity. Businesses come and go, and even if one is successful, no one knows how long it will last or the real impact it will have. Musk could work twenty four hours, seven days a week for the rest of his life and still not stop global warming, end pollution, or even make that much of an impression on the world we live in. No matter how much money people invest in his companies or what new product he thinks up next, Elon Musk is not going to be able to save humanity. No one person is. The problems we are facing in the future will not be solved by a single entrepreneur, a single scientist, or any single person. In order to fix the problems we have created, we need to take a communal approach. We need to work together to tackle these issues rather than putting our faith into one single man. It is important to learn from Elon Musk’s ambition and hard work and apply it to our own lives. Through doing this, we can affect change as a society and work as a whole to solve the daunting environmental problems we are facing.
French, Sally. “The Many Failures of Elon Musk, Captured in One Giant Infographic.” MarketWatch, 24 May 2017, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-many-failures-of-elon-musk-captured-in-one-giant-infographic-2017-05-24. Accessed 25 May 2017.
“How Much Does a New Roof Cost to Install?” HomeAdvisor, http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/roofing/install-a-roof/. Accessed 25 May 2017.
Leasca, Stacey. “Here’s How Much Tesla’s Solar Roof Will Really Cost You.” Forbes, 16 May 2017, http://www.forbes.com/sites/sleasca/2017/05/16/tesla-solar-roof-cost/#63e74c107621. Accessed 25 May 2017.
Light, Larry. “Tesla, SpaceX, A.I., Mars and More: Is Elon Musk Spread Too Thin?” CBSNews, CBS Interactive, 16 May 2017, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/elon-musk-spread-thin-tesla-space-x-mars-artifical-intelligence/. Accessed 25 May 2017.
“Solar Roof.” Tesla, http://www.tesla.com/solarroof. Accessed 26 May 2017.
Woolf, Nick. “SpaceX Founder Elon Musk Plans to Get Humans to Mars in Six Years.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 Sept. 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/27/elon-musk-spacex-mars-colony. Accessed 25 May 2017.