This Elon Musk interview from 1999 explains his success

When he first became a multi-millionaire, Elon Musk shared how his vision led to success.

  • Elon Musk saw that you could make money on the internet back in 1995, when most people didn't.
  • He explains that he's not interested in money as much as in starting companies.
  • Musk likes to pursue new ideas like a "new game."

How did Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur behind such game-changing tech ventures as SpaceX, Tesla Motors, The Boring Company, and Neuralink, achieve so much? A telling 1999 interview, taken when he recently became a multi-millionaire, provides a fascinating insight into his thinking and motivation.

The interview starts with Musk waiting to get the new million-dollar McLaren F1 that he just bought, as his then-fiancé Justine Wilson excitedly waits by his side.

Musk explains that the path to his success lies in how he perceived back in 1995 that there's money to be made online despite the fact that "most people thought the Internet was gonna be a fad." But the South African entrepreneur saw the future differently, selling his first computer program at the age of 12.

While younger, the 1999 Musk has noticeably less hair, as he shares that even having business foresight, his success didn't come overnight. It was just 3 years ago that he was sleeping on the floor and showering at the YMCA. Reflecting on his life's trajectory, now that he has significantly more "creature comforts," he coyly refers to it as "moments in my life".

Indeed, these "moments" included selling his online publishing company Zip2 a year earlier for $400 million. "That's just a large number of Ben Franklins," he points out.

"I can buy one of the islands in Bahamas and turn it into my personal fiefdom. I'm much more interested in trying to build and create a new company," says Musk.

As Musk and his fiancé celebrate the arrival of the McClaren, which Wilson calls "the perfect car for Silicon Valley," he explains his next endeavor - nothing less than the transformation of the banking industry. While he admits he doesn't fit the "traditional picture of a banker," he says he has little trouble raising $50 million dollars. This is in relation to a new online banking and mutual funds company he started called X.com, which would later become Paypal.

He is not shy about his vision for X.com, believing it could become a "multi-billion dollar bonanza". Why? Because it is pursuing "the biggest sector of the world's economy." And he believes in this idea so much, he put most of his money into it. He calls it "the new game".

Musk also claims that a "sense of satisfaction of having created the company that I sold" is another driving factor for him. And the amazing new "car sure is fun."

As for other future goals, 1999 Elon Musk was hoping to get on the cover of Rolling Stone – an objective he also eventually achieved.

Watch the full interview here:

Young Elon Musk featured in documentary about millionaires (1999)

Young Elon Musk featured in documentary about millionaires (1999)

Transporation will and should go electric. But the effects of gasoline on the environment, and the wars fought over oil, constitute a market externality that is unpriced. Because the market doest price that externality, the market won't address it. Here Musk explains why producing and consuming electricity sustainably has become such an important part of his life.

Elon Musk: Why I'm Betting on Solar

Elon Musk says that transporation will and should go electric. But the effects of gasoline on the environment, and the wars fought over oil, don't factor into the price of gasoline at the pump. Because the market doest price externalities like environmental damage and war, the market won't innovate to solve those issues. Here Musk explains why producing and consuming electricity sustainably has become such an important part of his life.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

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