By Irina Slav
He’s rumored to have toyed with creating a zombie apocalypse just to promote his new flamethrowers, to have suggested solidarity with a non-existent ‘Flat Earth Society’, and possibly even to be an alien trying to get back to Mars.
Elon Musk may be an impulsive mad scientist–not to mention an out-of-control Tweeter – but there’s no arguing that he’s a history-making, revolutionary visionary-extraordinaire who boasts one more title that those great minds who came before him often lacked: He’s also the ultimate entrepreneur.
And it’s always the entrepreneur who manages to bring science fiction to life.
From commercializing the electric vehicle to the Powerwall, Musk’s ideas have changed the way the world works.
So what’s next? You’d be surprised. These 8 insane ideas could end up challenging our notion of reality with the Elon Musk effect.
#1 Ultimate Extreme Tourism: Outer Space
Elon Musk is by no means the first to think about reusing rockets or even the first to try and do it. But his SpaceX is the first company that has managed to launch a rocket into space and then land it whole. The first time SpaceX successfully landed a rocket was back in 2016, and since then the company has been improving the process and technology. This basically means that Musk’s idea of space tourism with reusable rockets may not be as science fiction-y as it sounds. SpaceX is the closest to making this a reality than any other company.
#2 Electric Super Highways–Underground
Thanks to abundant media coverage, it sometimes seems that Elon Musk is nothing short of a fount of ideas, some weirder than others. The idea of tunnels running under congested cities and taking some of the traffic load sure sounded like one of the weirder ones. And yet, one tunnel is already a fact in California and another is being drilled in Nevada. True, they are far from the high-speed electric highways Musk envisages as the end result of his Boring Company project, but it’s a start and it might just work… as long as enough people buy electric cars—because the Boring Company tunnels are strictly EV.
#3 Mass Transit At Hundreds of Miles Per Hour
Musk came up with this idea of a superfast way of moving goods and people using magnetic fields in a vacuum back in 2013. Like his other ideas, it was fantastical and futuristic. Now, there are Hyperloop contests and a Hyperloop company—Virgin Hyperloop One—which, while not affiliated in any way with Elon Musk, plans to start building the first working prototype vacuum tube for the Hyperloop in India by the end of next year. According to the CEO, the pods transporting people and goods via the Hyperloop would achieve speeds of 670 mph.
#4 The Million-Mile Battery
Battery range is the Achilles heel of electric vehicles. Range constraints, along with price, are the main barriers to the adoption of EVs. And Tesla—or rather researchers working with Tesla—are working to eliminate that barrier. Just this month researchers said that they had made a battery cell dense enough for the battery to last as long as a million miles. This stunning announcement came several months after Elon Musk floated the possibility of a million-mile-battery, which many dismissed. But not so fast! Musk may have known something that the rest of us didn’t at the time. As to how practical, or rather cost-effective, these million-mile batteries are, we have yet to discover.
#5 Flying Cars
Back in 2014, in an interview with The Independent, Elon Musk said “We could definitely make a flying car – but that’s not the hard part. The hard part is, how do you make a flying car that’s super safe and quiet? Because if it’s a howler, you’re going to make people very unhappy.” Now, a Slovak company has developed an electric plane-car hybrid that it claims can operate both in the air and on the ground. And, since it’s all-electric, it will be quiet. Now all its maker has to solve are the critical weight considerations—and the price tag—which stands at more than a million dollars right now.
#6 Nuke Mars!
This tweet by Musk from August 16th may have had some of his newer fans or critics confused, but it’s actually related to an older and a lot more well-known idea of Musk’s: colonizing the Red Planet. To succeed in that, Musk has argued, we need to make the planet’s temperature higher and, apparently, the quickest and most efficient way to do that is by striking it with thermonuclear missiles. However, judging by research that says any Mars colony would be almost entirely dependent on imports from Earth for the first 100 years, one wonders if it’s worth it. Especially since following these first import-dependent years the colonists would have to subsist on crickets and lab meat. That said, we’re willing to give Musk the benefit of the doubt on this one, given his track record for bucking the trend when it comes to making the impossible possible.
#7 Internet for All
This idea isn’t actually such a weird one. A lot of people—politicians and businessmen alike—have been looking into ways to utilize outer space even better than we are utilizing it now. The idea of beaming the internet from space is one of these ways. To this end, Musk’s SpaceX has launched a Starlink project that envisages the launch of as many as 42,000 satellites into orbit. For context, that’s five times the number of all the satellites orbiting Earth right now. But that’s just one part of the project, and that alone is costly enough. Another is a million ground stations to receive the signal. For now, it looks unprofitable. But who knows what will happen in a decade?
There is little doubt this is the most controversial of Elon Musk’s ideas: linking the human brain with a computer as a way to ensure our survival in case general AI takes over the world. Now, we’re years—some say decades—away from general AI, the sort of AI we’ve seen in “I, Robot” and, well, “A.I.”. Others say we will never get there, and that’s not really bad.
However, Musk, like Bill Gates, is worried about AI. So in 2016 he set up a company called Neuralink to develop a brain-computer interface that will initially be used to help people with neural disorders, but will eventually enable a human’s “symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” The “eventual” part seems to be quite a long way away, according to neuroscientists. We’re okay with that delay.
It’s no coincidence Musk has such a cult-like following. His ideas sound far-fetched at the beginning, but when they begin to take shape it turns out they may actually be realistic.
Of course, there is a gap between “realistic” and “sensible” but in all honesty, who wouldn’t get at least a little bit excited about space travel, ultrahigh-speed pods and underground highways?
The world eagerly awaits Mr. Musk’s next crazy or brilliant—or both–idea.