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21st Century Renaissance Man: Elon Musk
Wednesday July 4, 2012
Tesla Chairman Elon Musk at Tesla Grand Opening in Menlo Park 19 July 2008 - Photo by Brian Solis
It has been a long time since the world has seen the likes of a renaissance, though the world has undergone numerous revolutions such as the Industrious Revolution leading to the Industrial Revolution, the Second Industrial Revolution part of which the Technological Revolution plays a major part.
Such revolutions are sparked by visionaries, great thinkers, artisans, scientists, and, technologists; Leonardo Da Vinci is one person that ticks all the boxes, a painter, designer, scientist, engineer inventor and even philosopher. The 17th - 18th Century English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, scientist even theologian and philosopher, Sir Isaac Newton also comes to mind, as does the greatest mind of the 20th Century, Albert Einstein; however, the world has not seen the likes of such gifted and inspiring people in a very long time.
Fast forward to the end of the 20th Century There have been people who have revolutionised the way we work live and socialise such as Apple Computers founder Steve Jobs, which paved the way for Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg the Facebook founder who has changed the way we socialise; though they pioneered individual innovations which evolved into other innovations in technology impacting society.
In the present day, the nearest the closest person we can compare to Leonardo Da Vinci is the entrepreneur Elon Musk. Entrepreneur is a misused term by many in the current day, but the mild-mannered Elon Musk has earned every right to call himself one; a better term would be Renaissance Man of the 21st Century.
Musk was born in Pretoria South Africa at the peak of apartheid, was business savvy even at the age of 12 when he designed his first software program, a game titled Blastar for the now very primitive Amiga computer, which he sold for $500 in 1983.
PayPal - 1999
1995 Musk enrolled at Stanford University in California to study Applied Physics and Materials Science only to drop out after two days in order to focus on his first main venture, Zip2, a community business guide search engine program locating businesses by zip codes which he sold for $305 million to Compaq in 1995. In 1999 he launched the venture X.COM which he renamed PayPal in 2001, an online payments program actively used by 100 million subscribers in 190 countries. In 2002 PayPal was bought by E-Bay for an unprecedented $1.5 billion which along with Zip2 were two of the biggest acquisitions in the technology sector.
Musk did not rest on his laurels; such men never do. With the money from the sale of Zip2 and PayPal he decided to enter into a new venture. As with most ardent technologists or Geeks as some would refer them, they are huge fans of Science and especially Science Fiction, to the point where they want to turn Science Fiction into Science Fact.
The 1960s Sci-Fi TV series Star Trek featured many fictional gadgets such as the Communicator possibly inspiring the mobile phone; fictional technologies like di-lithium crystals used for powering the Star Ship Enterprise are now science-fact where lithium batteries are now the common source of power for laptops, mobile phones and other devices.
One quote comes to mind by the American Businessman and Philanthropist W. Clement Stone: “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
Another quote that comes to mind is “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before”.
SpaceX - 2002
SpaceX was founded by Musk in 2002, obviously “a mission to boldly go where now man has gone before”. Space craft require massive amounts of energy to function in Space, not only for propulsion but for electronics systems to function, navigate communicate with Earth and transmit vast amounts of data millions of miles through space. For this Solar or Photovoltaic panels and cells are required to generate power in Space.
Nevertheless, after overcoming numerous technical and business hurdles, with all of his ventures and projects as well as fathering five boys and two divorces, Musk’s SpaceX venture achieved a significant milestone on the 31st of May 2012 when SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft completed a historic mission successfully, making Dragon the first commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station, an accomplishment only achieved by government space agencies with vast government resources and funding including USA’s NASA, The Soviet/Russian Federal Space Agency, ESA the European Space Agency and JAXA the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Musk recently stated that he aims to send a manned mission to the planet Mars within the next 20 years. Some may think he is over-ambitious and literally aiming for the stars, but Musk’s track-record speaks for itself as every task he has set himself he has achieved with flying colours. In addition to all his business and technological accomplishments he has managed to be a father of five boys, which can be more of a challenge than all of Musk’s business successes combined.
Tesla Motors - 2002
Obviously the controversial Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla was a major source of inspiration when choosing a name for Musk’s next venture, Tesla Motors. Tesla can be described as another Renaissance Man of both the 19th and 20th Century. His credentials include inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and futurist. Most modern inventions, technologies and devices owe their conception and inspiration to Tesla. Fields where Tesla made revolutionary advances in the creation and harnessing of electricity, the Radio, Remote controls and wireless technologies; all of which are the building blocks of Musk’s ventures. Tesla Motors
Efficient long-life storage of energy is critical for a space vehicle or any vehicle for that matter; so one could apply the same technologies to terrestrial vehicles.
Logically, this could have paved the way for Musk’s next venture, Tesla Motors which was founded in 2003, an innovative manufacturer of luxury electric cars. It took Tesla Motors millions of Dollars spent on research; Musk even had to tap into his personal funds, high profile court cases, betrayal by trusted associates, and six years to break into the aggressively competitive automotive sector. In 2009 after many adversities, Tesla Motors finally launched its first electric car, the Roadster Sport with a price tag of $112,500. Admittedly the first Roadster Sport was a luxury car with a price tag is high for the ordinary buyer, Tesla Motors have been working with other car manufacturers to provide their battery packs in family cars even commercial vehicles.
The United States is one of the most energy hungry nations in the World with 5% of the population using 45% of the World’s resources. Obviously there is an ethical angle to this venture, combating Global warming as well as free renewable energy resources from nature.
SolarCity - 2006
In the middle of numerous delays and problems with Tesla Motors, Elon Musk bravely took on another venture, SolarCity in 2006 where he is currently Chairman and his cousin Lyndon Rove is CEO. Running a business is never easy and can be a challenge with family members involved, however, SolarCity proved to be another resounding success for Elon Musk, with SolarCity now the biggest provider designer and installer of Solar Photovoltaic systems in the United States.
Energy and energy sources are the most critical matters of the 21st Century. Oil and Gas reserves are estimated as soon as the middle of middle of the 21st Century. Below is a table of when the World's natural energy resources are estimated to be depleted:
Oil in Barrels (1 Barrel of Oil = 158.987295 litres):
Total world reserves Jan. 1st 2009: 1,206,780,968,626 / 1.206 trillion Barrels
Total world reserves Jan. 1st 2009: 191,862,841,859,328 Litres / 191.8626 trillion Litres
World usage per second: 986 Barrels / 156,761.47 Litres
Estimated date of exhaustion: 16:36 Oct 22, 2047
Natural Gas in Cubic Metres:
Total world reserves Jan. 1st 2009: 174,436,171,550,404 / 174.436 trillion
World usage per second: 92,653
Estimated date of exhaustion: 07:19 Sep 12, 2068
Coal in Metric Tonnes:
Total World reserves Jan. 1st 2009: 841,086,192,000 / 841 billion
World usage per second: 203
Estimated date of exhaustion: 15:35 May 19, 2140
Uranium U-235 in Metric Tonnes:
Total world reserves Jan. 1st 2009: 18,096
World usage per second: 4.22220 grams
Estimated date of exhaustion: 19:56 Nov 28, 2144
Elon Musk: A Man of Ethics
Many people who have achieved 0.1% of Elon Musk’s successes live an arrogant exhibitionist lifestyle with a boasting a vulgar display of wealth. Despite all of Musk’s successes achieving the American Dream and in a country away from his native South Africa, he remains down to Earth with a sense of humility as well as a passion to accomplish more applying the principles and concepts that have made him successful. It can be said that the core concepts of Elon Musk’s innovations are convenience, efficiency and corporate social responsibility all of which benefit people, society, business, politics, and ultimately planet.
Elon Musk can be described as a Pioneer, Idealist, Visionary, Philanthropist, definitely an Entrepreneur in the truest sense unlike most of today’ self-proclaimed entrepreneurs and should be noted in history alongside great minds such as Archimedes, Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein. But one unrealised factor that best describes Elon Musk and his initiatives is ethics.
Related Links:
Elon Musk on Twitter @elonmusk
PayPal on Twitter @PayPal
SolarCity on Twitter @SolarCity
SpaceX on Twitter @SpaceX
Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors on Twitter @TeslaMotors
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"Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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