Curiosity
with Elon Musk
Filmed June 2008

Video Comments

Interactive Transcript

ELON MUSK:

I think, generally, their {other people's} thinking process is too bound by convention or analogy to prior experiences.  So it's very rare that people try to think of something on a first principles basis. They'll say, "We'll do that because it's always been done that way."  Or they'll not do it because, "Well, nobody has ever done that.  So it must not be good."  But that's just a ridiculous way to think.

I mean, you have to build up the reasoning from the ground up from first principles as in the phrase that's used in physics.  So you look at the fundamentals and construct your reasoning from that and then see if you have a conclusion that works or doesn't work.  And it may or may not be different from what people have done in the past.  It's harder to think that way, though.  Sorry.

INTERVIEWER:

Why is it so hard to think that way?  And how have you managed to?  I mean, obviously, you've thought the other way.  How have you broken that path?

ELON MUSK:

I don't know.  I've just always thought that way, I suppose.  I mean, I would always think about something and whether that thing was really true or not.  Could something else be true or is there a better conclusion that one could draw that's more probable? I don't know.  I was doing that when I was in elementary school.  And I would just question things.  Or, maybe, it's sort of built-in [to our nature] to question things.

INTERVIEWER:

I wanna go back to [the] nuts and bolts and PayPal.  Tell me about how Bill...

ELON MUSK:

It would infuriate my parents, by the way.

INTERVIEWER:

I'm sorry, say that again.

ELON MUSK:

It would infuriate my parents.

INTERVIEWER:

That you would think differently about things, or, what?

ELON MUSK:

That I wouldn't just believe them when they said something 'cause I'd ask them why.  And then I'd consider whether that response made sense given everything else I knew.

INTERVIEWER:

Now, you have, what, five kids?  Are any of them doing that back to you?

ELON MUSK:

Yes.  Well, one of them in particular just asks "why" a lot.  He's a master of the chained "why."

INTERVIEWER:

So that whole thing about, you know, you're gonna get where you are to drive you nuts, right, did they tell you that?  "We hope you get a kid just like you?"

ELON MUSK:

Yeah well, you know, inheritability of traits is much greater than I thought.  I mean, I'd assume that in the nature versus nurture, there's much more nurture.  But having had five kids, I think its much more nature.  I mean, what are you?  You're hardware and software, right?

So the difference between one person and the next must either be a hardware difference or a software difference.  And why are kids that may have the exact same background or same school, same everything, get those widely different capabilities.  Yet, they have the same input experiences.  Well, then it must be the hardware that's different.


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