Elon Musk interview reveals whether he prefers Nikola Tesla to Thomas Edison
In 2008, Elon Musk explained which of history's tech geniuses was his role model.
- In 2008, Elon Musk told an interviewer about his role models.
- His father had less of an influence than has been reported.
- Musk was a fan of both Edison and Tesla but preferred Edison.
Who was the greater genius — Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla? As the founder of Tesla Motors, you'd expect Elon Musk to be on the side of Tesla, but you wouldn't be fully right.
As he explains in a 2008 interview, Elon Musk saw both Edison and Tesla as role models. He read books about both and found both of the visionaries inspiring.
Edison (1847–1931), of course, was probably America's most illustrious inventor, being credited with important contributions such as the phonograph, an early motion picture camera, and a long-lasting light bulb. Overall, the impact of his ideas on how we generate electricity, make sound and film recordings, or communicate are hard to overestimate.
Edison, holder of 1,093 patents, is also credited with creating the world's first industrial-scale research laboratory.
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), who once worked for Edison, was often a rival of the more-famous inventor. While he died in relative obscurity and financial ruin, Tesla's reputation has grown over time to perhaps eclipse Edison's in the popular imagination. After all, Tesla came up with the alternative current — the electrical supply system that was adopted more widely worldwide than Edison's.
Tesla is also responsible for a variety of ahead-of-their-time inventions that have stoked the public's fancy. We are talking about wireless technology, including wireless transmission of electricity, early cellphones, self-driving and flying vehicles, as well as thought machines and death rays.
As you would expect, Elon Musk explains that he did name the car company Tesla after the inventor because it uses AC induction motors "which is an architecture Tesla developed." According to Musk, Tesla deserves "a little more play than he gets in current society."
But "on balance," says Musk, "I'm a bigger fan of Edison than Tesla." Why? Because "Edison brought his stuff to market and made those inventions accessible to the world." The shunned Serbian-Croatian inventor Tesla "didn't really do that," points out Musk.
Musk also names some other influences on his thinking – great "technologists" such as Apple's Steve Jobs and Microsoft's Bill Gates. Even Disney was a great "innovator," in Musk's eyes.
Interestingly, in the same interview Musk debunks another rumor. His father was often credited as being the inspiration behind the young Musk's interest in technology. But the SpaceX founder shares that his father was actually a "luddite". He was an engineer but not really a techie. In fact, Musk's dad refused to buy him a computer and thought such machines wouldn't amount to anything. Elon had to save up his allowance in order to buy his first computer.
Check out the full interview below – the question about role models comes in at 35:18:
Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.
- Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
- Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
- "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
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- There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
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Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.
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TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.
PAUL RATJE / Contributor
- This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
- UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
- TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.