The popular Twitter parody account, Bored Elon Musk, shows us on an almost daily basis that wondering what the maverick inventor thinks about in his off-time can be a source of comic relief, as well as some pretty far-fetched science fiction fantasy. That being said, there are some really good ideas that can come from trying to think with the same ‘big idea, blue sky’ strokes of genius as the real-life Tony Stark- like Shazam for plants, a Roomba for killing bugs, or drones that can get other drones out of trees.
I’m a huge fan of Elon Musk and thought it would be great to summarize what the world would look like if Mr. Musk were elected President of the World. It’s very important to note that some of these are already real and the rest are what Elon Musk has stated in public interviews.
We’d all be getting to work in electric, driverless cars
While the rest of the world weighs in about Uber drivers versus traditional taxis and car manufacturers triple check the accuracy of their emissions reports, Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors Model X, released just a couple of weeks ago, is a fully electric seven-seater that can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 3.2 seconds, putting the ‘performance versus economy’ argument to bed.
But even this latest model in Tesla’s game-changing stable of vehicles is going to look a little dated by the time Elon’s done with the next step on the road to driverless vehicles — which is sooner than many might suspect.
Now all we need is for someone to automate road maintenance and to decide how we’re going to insure the sleek, new, driverless electric sedan in all of our driveways.
Our cars would get better overnight
One of the greatest features of the Tesla Model S and X is their advanced software functionality, which has replaced the archaic knobs and buttons of the traditional road car with a 17” touch screen that acts as the interface between driver and super-smart car.
Most of us are used to the idea that a car (unless it’s a collectible classic) starts depreciating the moment you drive it off the lot- it’s not a great investment. But when your car updates its parking, navigational and telematics software while it’s plugged in and charging in your garage, you actually wake up to a better car than the one you came home in.
Although I can’t help but feel that the interface could use a little work…
We’d be getting in and out of the car like billionaires
Like HBO’s Silicon Valley reminds us, you can’t walk the walk unless you can get out of the car in style first.
Thankfully, and predictably, Elon’s got us covered. Just take a look at these Back to the Future reminiscent ‘Falcon Wing’ doors- presented by the man himself. No more smacking cyclists, pedestrians or other drivers with your clunky, side-opening doors, and you can still pile a brood of kids into the backseat and go out for ice cream as easily as in a traditional minivan and look like a boss doing it.
We’d be able to commute from San Francisco to New York City in just 3.5 hours
Eventually. After all, even the current (pending) Hyperloop proposal from Musk’s SpaceX has a proximity constraint of about 900 miles, after which air travel becomes a little more feasible.
The Hyperloop, for those of you who don’t yet realize we’re living in the future, incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules (containing humans on their way to meetings) ride on an air cushion, driven by linear induction motors and air compressors. Kind of like those old-school pneumatic mail tubes- but filled with people.
So although coast-to-coast travel might still be years away, the latest open challenge from SpaceX — asking universities and startups to develop the best Hyperloop pod — could soon make the trip from New Jersey to New York, or San Francisco to Los Angeles, as simple as ‘hopping a Hyperloop’ between the two and saying, “Pod me up, Scotty!”
Of course, your Hyperloop pod operator will likely have heard that same joke about a million times at that point. And will likely hate you for repeating it. The more things change...
Our planes wouldn’t need runways
In a television interview with Steven Colbert, Musk hinted at adding electric, supersonic air travel to his repertoire of industry-changing innovations. What he proposes is essentially a Harrier jet on crack, capable of transporting passengers at supersonic speeds by using a lightweight lithium battery to power a massive fan that will lift the craft straight up into the air and then deliver it back safely to Earth at the end of the journey.
Where would we even get a battery that powerful and that light? Well, of course, Musk will probably make it himself at the Gigafactory he’s building out in Nevada.
A craft that takes off and lands vertically means that airports would need less space to house more aircraft (or duty-free shops, depending on the needs of their travelers) and the electric craft themselves would be emission-free and totally independent of the gallons of traditional fossil fuel that are currently needed for air travel.
So you don’t have to feel bad about doing that San Francisco to New York trip by air after all. Unless you insist on eating airline food.
We could drive through lakes like James Bond
This is what we love about Elon Musk. When he’s not trying to save the planet by reducing our dependence on irreplaceable fossil fuels, he’s doing cool stuff like buying the actual Lotus Esprit from the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, for an affordable £616,000.00 (that’s about $944, 195.56 American) and he totally intends to turn it into a fully functional submarine car.
The eternal tinkerer was quoted after the sale as saying, “I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform. What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real."
Elon, if you’re reading this, I’d like to put in my order early for a street-legal Batmobile.
We’d take our vacations on Mars... Maybe
They’d need to build a pretty cool theme park there before my family would want to go, but you get what I’m saying.
In this goosebump-eliciting article by Aeon Magazine, Musk talks about the need for humanity to seriously consider becoming a multi-planetary species in order to preserve ourselves should something... unfortunate befall our own home planet. In fact, he believes we should be actively pursuing establishing a colony of about 1 million brave settlers on the red planet. Well, now that we’ve found water on it we should at least be able to convince a few parched Californians to sign up for the one-way adventure.
But while we wait for ‘Mars World’ to get its first roller coaster ready, SpaceX — Musk’s majority-owned astronomical venture — has signed an agreement with NASA for its free-flying Dragon spacecraft to start delivering human cargo to the International Space Station based on their craft’s already-successful trips as a space-freighter. So we’ll at least get to ride around our planet before hitting up Mars, or as Musk speculates, “bicycling to Alpha Centauri in 150,000 years.”
We’d all be living off the grid
While we’re waiting for that big, burning ball of helium that we call the sun to go supernova and drive us off the planet, or out of this mortal coil, we can at least make the most of the energy it gives us to power our homes.
The Tesla Powerwall is a home battery that charges itself from solar panels, and can be used to power your home or provide power during outages by delivering a backup electricity supply. Because the battery stores solar power during peak sunny hours (which are also off-peak electricity use hours), individuals are able to access and benefit from the surplus of energy which would otherwise be sold back to the power company during the day and then purchased back in the evening.
So you can settle in for a popcorn-and-Netflix marathon virtuous in the knowledge that your solar battery is helping to reduce carbon emissions.
We won’t have to worry about cruel robotic overlords
Not while Uncle Elon has our back, at least. The greatest difference between Elon Musk and Robert Downy Jr.’s Tony Stark goes deeper than just facial hair. While the ‘Age of Ultron’ character doesn’t think twice about delegating to a staff complement of robots and entrusting them with their own autonomy, personalities and senses of humor, the man who inspired the portrayal of the charismatic inventor is a little more cautious. In fact, he likens developing artificial intelligence to summoning a demon- and that’s a direct quote.
“With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out.”
That said, Elon Musk, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and actor Ashton Kutcher are all high-profile investors in Vicarious, a company that aims to build a computer that can think like a person. Their creation will come complete with a neural network that works similarly to how your brain does to control your body… or, sometimes, doesn’t. The difference is, the machine won’t ever feel compelled to test its fine motor control after saying “Hold my beer. I saw this in a movie once.”
We’ll have to train our kids to do different jobs
At some point there’s going to be less call for taxi drivers and oil riggers and more call for solar battery maintenance workers, Hyperloop pod operators, and supersonic jet pilots.
Your kids are going to grow up in a very different world from the one you did. Technology is going to be integrated at every level of their upbringing, education, social lives, and careers, no matter whether they choose to be an engineer or an artist. They’ll have grown up with this technology, it’ll be native to them, intuitive, they will expect things from machines that we would never have thought to ask for.
In fact, we should really start with training our generation.
Great minds don’t think alike
Throughout history, the future has been shaped by brilliant minds who seem to not only be on a different page from the rest of us, but reading from a different book altogether. Archimedes, Edison, Einstein, Bell, Musk’s own inspiration, Tesla, and now Musk himself, have all contributed greatly to the collaborative development of modern science and technology.
Whoever ends up in charge of the planet- hopefully no one- we’re rather fond of democracy, one thing is clear: The rate of technological advancement is happening at such a rate, and some of the minds driving its acceleration are so ambitious, that the only constant is change.
I am Ashish Toshniwal, the CEO & Founder of Y Media Labs, a mobile interactive agency. I can’t say for sure what the future will look like under the influence of Elon Musk, but over at Y Media Labs we get really excited about helping our clients see what the futures of their businesses will look like - maybe we can help you too!