Elon Musk: Man, Machine, Human?

He is the only human, who has started four billion dollar companies. And all of them in different industries, without prior knowledge, and still he became the “He who must not be named” for the incumbents, as soon as he enters the field. Paypal (digital payments), Tesla (electric vehicles), Solar City (solar energy) and SpaceX (space, rockets, and laser-beams).

He shows an incredible work ethic and demands the same from his employees, bordering to the inhumane. He can be found with a sleeping bag at the end of the production line in the Tesla factory in Fremont, BBQ-ing on the roof of the Gigafactory outside Reno, and of course at interviews and appearances.

And because his time is still not fully filled, he’s proposing nonchalantly his blueprints for the Hyperloop, founds a non-profit to assess and tackle the dangers of AI (OpenAI), and starts Neuralink,  a company working on integrating chip technology with brains.

That he also has five sons seems not to fit into the public narrative. Especially, knowing him mostly from his presentations and excellent use of Twitter. Musk may seem more as a machine rolling over everyone opposing him. And some even see him as the biggest con-artists of our lifetime, gambling with millions of investment money.

But categorizing him this way would be way to one-dimensional. A current interview in the Rolling Stone magazine shows Musk’s surprisingly human side. In almost disarming openness he ask the Rolling Stone reporter Neil Strauss about a suggestion for a date. With Strauss Musk is asking the right person, as former one landed an international bestseller with his book The Game – Penetrating The Secret Society Of Pickup Artists.

Those following Elon Musk know how emotional he can become. In an interview for CBS 60 Minutes he is close to tears when the reporter asks him about the criticism that SpaceX has faced from his childhood heroes and former astronauts.

In the Rolling Stone-interview he talks about his childhood with his father. After his mother, a model and dietician, separated from his father, an engineer, he grew up pretty much alone. At home was only the house keeper, whose major concern was that he behaves and doesn’t break stuff. he spent his time with reading and experiments. Building rockets, bombs, and stuff like that. He’s surprised himself that he still has all fingers.

As a ten-year-old he decided to move in with his father, because he pitied him. He didn’t have anyone. But Musk should regret this decision, because his father – who had a very high IQ – was very strict and had only a bad opinion of Elon, no matter what he did. He planned things that were pure evil against his son, according to Musk, without specifying this more in the interview.

At school being the nerd and smallest he was bullied for years. Until as a sixteen-year-old he put his books aside and started taking Karate-lessons. A growth push and his Karate helped him solve the bullying problem once and for all. With one hard punch at the nose he knocked out the biggest bully. Musk’s lesson from that was that you cannot appease a bully. They are looking for easy targets who are not fighting back. As soon as one victim fights back hard, the bully stops and turns away.

What he cannot do is being alone. With his first wife Justin Musk, a writer and musician, he fathered five sons. After the divorce he married the actress Talulah Riley, whom he divorced, remarried, and divorced again. With the actress Amber Heard, the former second wife of actor Johnny Depp, he split in the very moment, when the first Model 3 were presented and delivered to the first customers.

The interview in the Rolling Stone took place a few days after the event and Musk said that he cannot live alone. He needs a partner. “If I’m not in love, if I’m not with a long-term companion, I cannot be happy.

The really great interview unveils a surprising human side of Elon Musk, but also some interesting details about his plans with his companies and the motivations behind them. Man, machine, and especially human.

This article has also been published in German.

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