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Elon Musk biography by Ashlee Vance

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by StephenM, May 25, 2015.

  1. StephenM

    StephenM Active Member

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    #1 StephenM, May 25, 2015
    Last edited: May 25, 2015
    I know that some discussion of this book was covered under the (as of now) 92 page general thread on Elon but I thought this biography deserved its own thread.

    There's a great amount of new material and I'm hoping to create a discussion of some highlights or new things that were discovered by this biography.

    In the NOTES section, no. 17:

    Othmer has lined up to be the lucky owner of the first Roadster II.
    Musk has developed an unconventional policy to determine the order in which cars are sold. When a new car is announced and its price is set, a race begins in which the first person to hand Musk a check gets the first car. With the Model S, Steve Jurvetson, a Tesla board member, had a check at the ready in his wallet and slid it across the table to Musk after spying details on the Model S in a packet of board meeting notes.

    Othmer caught a WIRED story about a planned second version of the Roadster and emailed Musk right away. "He said, 'Okay, I will sell it to you, but you have to pay two hundred thousand dollars right now.'" Othmer agreed, and Tesla had him come to the company's headquarters on a Sunday to sign some paperwork, acknowledging the price of the car and the fact that the company didn't quite know when it would arrive or what its specifications would be. "My guess is that it will be the fastest car on the road," Othmer said. "It'll be four-wheel drive. It's going to be insane. And I don't really think that will be the real price. I just don't think that Elon wanted me to buy it."


    Now I know this still means it's far off in the future, but it sounds like something pretty concrete if he took a $200k check from a friend and made him sign legal documents and such.
    The book was good, but even the appendix, notes, and credits section was worth looking over.
    Anyone have any other favorites?
     
  2. StephenM

    StephenM Active Member

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    Or, this excerpt from Chapter 11:

    Shortly after the release of the Hyperloop plans, Shervin Pishevar, an investor and friend of Musk's, brought the detailed specifications for the technology with him during a ninety-minute meeting with President Obama at the White House. "The president fell in love with the idea," Pishevar said. The president's staff studied the documents and arranged a one-on-one with Musk and Obama in April 2014. Since then, Pishevar, Kevin Brogan, and others, have formed a company called Hyperloop Technologies Inc. with the hopes of building the first leg of the Hyperloop between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

    I knew that he has met with Obama, but I didn't know how that came about or what was discussed. You can kind of understand why the president mentioned Tesla in the State of the Union address.
     
  3. tinm

    tinm 2013 S85 Owner

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    Nearly done with the book, and the impression I get is generally positive and that SpaceX is more important to Elon than Tesla Motors, in the sense of where is ambitions truly lie. It's clear to me having read this profile of Elon that he isn't kidding about resigning as CEO of Tesla Motors once the Model 3 comes out. I think he wants to devote his time to SpaceX, which has much more wild, crazy dreams of routine transport to and from Mars. That's going to take decades, and if he can do it in such a way that he's able to keep SpaceX private, all the better, compared to the crazy microscopic scrutiny Tesla is always under.
     
  4. BoerumHill

    BoerumHill Member

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    Dude is a mofo to work for was my general take.

    :tongue:

    The Mary Beth Brown story in the Epilogue is heartrending. I know he's not speaking to Vance now because of the inclusion of what Elon says is an inaccurate story about berating an employee for missing a company event for the birth of his child. Even if you take that one out, the CEO chewing out his management team at the Christmas party (with the spouses waiting outside) is pretty telling. If you derive a lot of psychic income from praise and recognition, then you really won't fit in at SpaceX or Tesla.

    I've read a ridiculous number of historical biographies but have always eschewed works on current figures. It was an OK book, easy quick read and entertaining, but I feel like it barely scratched the surface. On the one hand, I'm glad that Vance left out much of the PayPal drama and the family gave him very little on South Africa or the father - who Elon has vowed will never meet his five boys. The grandfather is a fascinating figure and no doubt was a huge influence on Elon's worldview; very insightful to read about his adventures as a pilot and traveller. But someone will have a much deeper story to tell in 20 or 30 years.

    Brilliant man, phenomenal string of successes. Still, he seems to be almost completely lacking in empathy or even being able to connect to people on a genuine level. He knows how to be charming and witty in public, but apparently first principles don't translate as well to interpersonal dynamics. But I guess we can give him a pass on the imperfections given he's doing more for humanity than almost anyone currently on the planet.
     
  5. tinm

    tinm 2013 S85 Owner

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    Some other thoughts generated from the experience of reading the book:

    • SpaceX. I was struck by Vance's portrayal of the damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead determination, grit, and energy that permeates the SpaceX culture. I have a relative who works there, in fact I think he's mentioned in a scene in the book (not by name, but other details match... I'm gonna ask him). What he tells me is that he has no life outside of work. There is SpaceX and there is sleep and then there is more SpaceX. Often 7 days a week. But he's like 22 and is building real hardware that has been to space, with his name etched on the circuit board. It is just unbelievably cool. The SpaceX culture is swell, and I admire Spacex a ton, but it could all come crashing down in an instant if they screw up on a manned mission. And they probably will. It's simple probability. Bad things happen on space missions; they're insanely dangerous. People will die going to Mars, trying to land on Mars, trying to launch from Mars to get home. People may die on the Dragon 2 missions to ISS. If it turns out it's because SpaceX cut corners, or used crappy equipment, or did something else stupid, because of their haste, they're going to be in a world of hurt.

    • Same with Tesla. I actually think the autopilot stuff is going to be a real problem. Tesla has to do it, the market is moving in that direction. I hate it, and I will be a confirmed SOB Luddite on autopilot as long as I can. But it's coming. The big problem is not the technology itself, it's people. I'm already noticing the shift in recent Model S buyers. Wealthy, but not early adopters anymore. In fact they're clueless about a lot of the technology, including Superchargers. I don't think people are ready for autopilot. I think people won't know how to behave in an autopilot car. Or a fully self-driving car. I think there are going to be all sorts of mishaps, many because people just are not used to it, and start trusting the car's computers too much and stop paying attention to what's going on, and the .000001% of the time that the computer screws up and doesn't recognize that baby carriage or whatever, the "driver" won't either because they're goofing around in Instagram.
     
  6. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    #7 ecarfan, Jun 25, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2015
    Sending people to the ISS is a challenge but with modern technology the likelihood of death is very low. If it happens on a Crew Dragon mission it won't destroy SpaceX, the company will learn from it and move on. Sending people to Mars is obviously far more difficult, and yes people could die, but that won't stop others from trying, and they will succeed. Humans have always died attempting to push the limits of exploration, but they keep exploring.

    Many car manufacturers are going to be offering some form of autopilot in a few years, not just Tesla. Yes there will be situations where the the cars computer does not take the ideal choice of action, but everyday around the world there are thousands of accidents because of human error and almost no one refuses to drive or be driven because people are imperfect. Autopilot in cars will happen and over time people will come to understand that it is superior to human piloting almost always. But we are about decade away from that realization.
     
  7. ggies07

    ggies07 Active Member

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    Virgin Galactic is a prime example of a space company where someone died (last year in fact) and they have not been shut down.
     
  8. Norseman

    Norseman Member

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    You said it:
    I finished the book today.
    Agree with all you said. (Too lazy to write a similar blurb myself, you said it all, well said Sir)

    1/2 hour after I read the book the rocked crashed and burned.
    Felt sorry for the Musk. He is not only business, but also passion.
    The book was okay and informative but not a great biography like some I have read on
    Jon Lennon and Ike Eisenhower and others. The author had some lines of brilliance; "The Model S made Detroit
    sober up." :)
    Good read, good info, but not a Master Piece.
     
  9. Cosmacelf

    Cosmacelf Active Member

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    I agree, not a masterpiece, not a piece of literature, and frankly, not even a very complete account of all his businesses. But it is by far the best thing we have at the moment, and even with the flaws, it is worthwhile and entertaining to read.
     
  10. Owner

    Owner Active Member

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    I agree with what has been said before on this thread. I think there just wasn't enough character development. It seemed like everyone he interviewed was too scared to tell him any details.

    My favorite highlights: Musk Biography Highlights | TESLA OWNER
     
  11. Ocelot

    Ocelot Member

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    Just about finished up this book, and agree with most of the previous comments. I find it organized poorly, written poorly and drags on in places. With that said it is worth the read, if anything to give you a bit more insight, but truly not a lot of insight. I question if Musk should of stuck to his first thoughts and not cooperated.
     
  12. Robert.

    Robert. Member

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    On 20 Aug 2015 somebody uploaded a 50 min long video to youtube of an interview with the author Ashlee Vance. Search for:

    Inside The Mind Of Elon Musk: My Interview With Ashlee Vance
     
  13. wdolson

    wdolson Active Member

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    Coming in late to this thread...

    There are three links on YouTube. Here is the most watched

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtNSe3HYL5U

    I haven't had a chance to view it yet.

    I just finished the audio book of this. I had to go down to my father in Morro Bay, CA over the weekend and listened to it in the car. Unfortunately the trip was done in a rental ICE car (a Nissan with horrible connectivity, there were no USB ports). I did drive past a truckload of brand new Teslas headed south on I-5.

    I found the book very interesting. I've always been fascinated with the way people tick and Elon is definitely an interesting person. Vance addressed the idea that Elon has Asperger's and his conclusion that he doesn't, he's just thinking so much faster than anyone else and is so driven to cram so much into his life he has no patience with anyone who can't keep up with him. I have known others like that. He's probably also somewhat scarred psychologically from his childhood and things in his life trigger old wounds which drives some of his behavior.

    I also think that clearly Elon is an Introvert in the Jungian/MBTI personality model. He needs alone time to recharge.

    Even before I got to the end of the book I was thinking this guy has all the talent of Steve Jobs with a vast grasp of Physics and Engineering on top of it. In all he is way beyond Steve Jobs in overall talent. Jobs was brilliant at coming up with what people want, but the downside risks were never that steep. Apple failed with the Lisa before coming out with the Macintosh and the company made it through. If the iPhone had failed, they would have survived as a smaller, humbler company on the Macintosh and iPod.

    The iPhone was revolutionary as portable phones go, but it still utilized the existing cell phone network infrastructure. From an infrastructure point of view, it was an evolutionary step. There is more data than voice on cellular networks thanks to smart phones, but while that has required some changes to infrastructure, it didn't require all new technologies to be introduced for support and the shift to more data was already happening anyway. Tesla cars are revolutionary both in the device as well as the infrastructure to support them. Doing both at once is a massive achievement. The logistics of that is mind boggling.

    SpaceX is introducing massive disruption in the aerospace industry. Just as Tesla is challenging everything anyone ever thought of as a car, SpaceX is challenging the entire infrastructure of the aerospace industry. A lot of people are thinking outside the traditional industries' way of thinking. Large organizations that have been around a while have a lot invested in the existing model of doing things and don't tolerate new ideas very well. When I was at Boeing, people talked all the time about The Boeing Way.

    Silicon Valley is built on the people who think outside the box and put something into action, but most of the industries were things that could be done with a lot of ideas and not that much in physical space. There were new electronic hardware inventions, but electronic hardware is easier to mass produce than something very complex like a car or a spacecraft. To produce an integrated circuit it takes a lot of R&D effort and many parts are fantastically complex today, but you only do the complex part once. You lay out the chip, then the production process cranks out millions of copies of it. It's only marginally more complex to produce a microprocessor than a more simple IC. To build a car, you can have computer driven robots crank out portions of it, but it requires a lot more people bolting things together than making ICs requires.

    Elon is taking on a couple of very labor and capital intensive industries. Building cars and aerospace require huge investments in tooling as well as a large labor force to put them all together. That makes the risks and the difficulty astronomically higher than most other start ups. And the amazing thing is both SpaceX and Tesla are not only surviving, but succeeding.

    The book did helped keep me awake on the road. Having listened to it over about two days, my mind is still sorting out the details.
     
  14. gg_got_a_tesla

    gg_got_a_tesla Model S: VIN P65513, Model 3 Res Holder

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    I listened to the audio book as well and agree with the observations above.

    However, Elon's harsh treatment of certain early, loyal employees of SpaceX, his first wife, Justine, and ultimately of his long time assistant, "MB" (Mary Beth Brown), left a bitter taste in the mouth.
     
  15. Sus

    Sus Member

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    I took the Mary Beth story with a grain of salt. We don't know what really happened, if there were other things in how she did her job that was not satisfactory, etc. The story in Vance's book was so sensational, likening her to Tony Stark's Pepper that it was hard for me to take it seriously.
     
  16. wdolson

    wdolson Active Member

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    People who are brilliant often have some pretty big character flaws too, nobody is perfect. I think he does tend to be tough to live with and work for. He is also probably one of the most brilliant industrialists in history. He's definitely one of the top industrialists alive today.

    I've known some pretty brilliant people. Many had some odd quirks that ran from amusing to incredibly annoying. One wanted to go into business with me, but the more I got to know him, the more I knew that was not going to happen. I was OK with him socially.

    I tend to take people as who they are, warts and charms and everything else. Everyone has flaws and even the people I'm most assiduously trying to avoid because they are too toxic have some good qualities too.
     
  17. Cosmacelf

    Cosmacelf Active Member

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    Mary Beth Brown got too big for her britches. Didn't she ask for a big raise? She saw herself as indispensable. Elon didn't.
     
  18. marchino

    marchino Member

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    That passage sounds like it could have been plagiarised from the Steve Jobs biography!
     

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