The Joe Rogan Experience #1470 – Elon Musk (I)

On May 07, 2020, three days after the birth of his son X, Elon Musk was Joe Rogan’s guest for the second time. This is the first part (minute 00:00 – 30:34) of the transcript of the two-hour podcast, in which you learn, among other things, what the child’s name is all about, why Elon Musk is selling off most of his private property, what exactly the neuralink entails, and why language as we know it is a very imperfect means of communication. To read the German translation, please click on the link.

Joe Rogan: (00:00) Welcome back.

Elon Musk: Here we go again.

Joe Rogan: Great to see you, and congratulations.

Elon Musk: Thank you.

Joe Rogan: You will never forget what is going on in the world when you think about when your child is born. You will know for the rest of this child’s life; you were born during a weird time.

Elon Musk: That’s for sure.

Joe Rogan: That is for sure. Probably the weirdest that I can remember.

Elon Musk: Yeah, and he was born on May the fourth.

Joe Rogan: That’s hilarious, too. May, the fourth, be with him.

Elon Musk: Yes, exactly.

Joe Rogan: It has to be.

Elon Musk: Hopefully. I sure hope so.

Joe Rogan: Perfect.

Elon Musk: Yes.

Joe Rogan: I mean, that was the perfect day for you. How do you say the name? Is it a placeholder?

Elon Musk: First of all, my partner is the one that actually mostly came up with the name.

Joe Rogan: Congratulations to her.

Elon Musk: Yeah. She’s great at names. I mean,  it’s just X, the letter X, and then the Æ is like pronounced ‘ash’. Yeah, and then A-XII is my contribution.

Joe Rogan: Oh, why A-XII?

Elon Musk: Archangel 12, the precursor to the SR-71. Coolest plane ever. True.

Joe Rogan: I agree with you. I don’t know. I’m not familiar with it. I know what the SR-71 is.

Elon Musk: The SR-71 came from a CIA program called Archangel. It’s the Archangel project.

Joe Rogan: Oh wow, what a dope-looking plane. Well, as a person who’s very much into aerial travel as you are, that’s perfect.

Elon Musk: It’s pretty great.

Joe Rogan: Yeah. Pretty great. Does it feel strange to have a child while this craziness is going? Does it feel like you’ve had children before? Is this any weirder?

Elon Musk: Actually, I think it’s better being older and having a kid. I appreciate it more. Yeah, babies are awesome.

Joe Rogan: They are pretty awesome.

Elon Musk: They’re awesome. Yeah.

Joe Rogan: When I didn’t have any of my own, I would see other people’s kids, and I didn’t not like them, but I wasn’t drawn to them. But now, when I see little people’s kids, I’m like, Oh, I think of them as like these little love packages.

Elon Musk: Yeah, little love bugs.

Joe Rogan: Yeah. It’s just you think of them differently when you see them come out and then grow and then eventually start talking to you, like your whole idea what a baby is, is very different.

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: Now, as you get older and get to appreciate it as a mature, fully formed adult, it must be really pretty wonderful.

Elon Musk: Yeah. Great. Wonderful. It’s great. But babies are awesome. Yeah, it’s great. Also, I’ve spent a lot of time on AI and neural nets and so you can sort of see the brain develop, which is … An AI neural net is trying to simulate what a brain does, basically. You can sort of see it learning very quickly. You know, it’s just wow.

Joe Rogan: You’re talking about the neural net; you’re not talking about an actual baby.

Elon Musk: I don’t talk about an actual baby.

Joe Rogan: But both of them.

Elon Musk: Yes. The word neural net comes from the brain. It’s like a net of neurons. Humans are the original gangster of the neural net.

Joe Rogan: That’s a great way to put it.

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: When you’re programming artificial intelligence where you’re working with artificial intelligence art, are they specifically trying to mimic the developmental process of a human brain?

Elon Musk: In a lot of ways. There’s some ways that are different. An analogy that’s often used is like we don’t make a submarine swim like a fish, but we take the principles of hydrodynamics and apply them to the submarine.

Joe Rogan: I’ve always wondered as a layperson, do you try to achieve the same results as the human brain but through different methods? Or do you try to copy the way a human brain achieves results?

Elon Musk: I mean, the essential elements of an AI neural net are really very similar to a human brain neural net. Yeah. It’s having the multiple layers of neurons and, you know, backpropagation. All these things are what your brain does. You have a layer of neurons that goes through a series of intermediate steps to ultimately cognition, and then it’ll reverse those steps and go back and forth and go all over the place. It’s interesting. Very interesting.

Joe Rogan: Yeah, I would imagine. The thought of programming something that is eventually going to be smarter than us that one day it’s going to be like: (05:00) “Why did you do it that way?” When artificial intelligence becomes sentient, they’re like: “Oh, you tried to mimic yourself. This is so much better process. Cut out all this nonsense.”

Elon Musk: Like I said, there are elements that are the same but just like an aircraft does not fly like a bird.

Joe Rogan: Right.

Elon Musk: It doesn’t flap its wings, but the wings, the way the wings work and generate lift is the same as a bird.

Joe Rogan: Now you’re in the middle of this strange time where you’re selling your houses. You say you don’t want any material possessions, and I’ve been seeing all that, and I’ve been really excited to talk to you about this. Because it’s an interesting thing to come from a guy like yourself. Like why are you doing that?

Elon Musk: I’m slightly sad about it, actually.

Joe Rogan: If you’re sad about it, why are you doing it?

Elon Musk: I think possessions kind of weigh you down, and they’re kind of an attack vector. They’ll say, “Hey, billionaire, you’ve got all this stuff.” Well, now I don’t have stuff now. What are you going to do?

Joe Rogan: Attack vector meaning like people targeted.

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: Interesting, yeah. But you’re obviously going to, so you’re going to rent a place?

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: Okay, and get rid of everything except clothes?

Elon Musk: No, I said almost everything, so it’s like…

Joe Rogan: Keep a couple of Teslas.

Elon Musk: Kind of have to, to test product and stuff. You know, there’s things that have sentimental value, for sure are keeping those. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? I mean, I’m fine.

Joe Rogan: Yeah, you can always buy more stuff if you don’t like it.

Elon Musk: I suppose so.

Joe Rogan: Yeah, I mean from the money that you sell all your stuff, you can buy new stuff. Do you feel like people define you by the fact that you’re wealthy and that they define you in a pejorative way?

Elon Musk: For sure. I mean not everyone, but for sure, in recent years, ‘billionaire’ has become pejorative like that’s a bad thing. Which I think doesn’t make a lot of sense in most cases. If you basically organized a company… How does this wealth arise? If you organize people in a better way to produce products and services that are better than what existed before, and you have some ownership in that company, then that essentially gives you the right to allocate more capital. There’s a conflation of consumption and capital allocation.

Take Warren Buffet, for example, and to be totally frank, I’m not his biggest fan, but you know, he does like have full allocation, and he reads a lot of annual reports of companies and all the accounting, and it’s pretty boring really. He’s trying to figure out does Coke or Pepsi deserve more capital?

I mean it’s kind of a boring job if you ask me. It’s still a thing that’s important to figure out. Like, which is a company deserving of more or less capital. Should that company grow or expand? Is it making products and services that are better than others or worse? If a company is making compelling products and services, it should get more capital, and if it’s not, it should get less or go out of business.

Joe Rogan: Well, there’s a big difference, too, between someone who’s making an incredible amount of money designing and engineering fantastic products versus someone who’s making an incredible amount of money by investing in companies or moving money around in the stock market or doing things along those lines. It’s a different thing and to put them all in the same category seems it’s very simple. As you pointed out, it’s an attack vector.

Elon Musk: Yeah, for sure. I do think, in the United States especially, there’s an over-allocation of talent in finance and law. Basically, too many smart people go into finance and law. This is both a compliment and a criticism. We should have, I think, fewer people doing law and fewer people doing finance and more people making stuff.

Joe Rogan: Well, that would certainly be better for all involved if they made better stuff.

Elon Musk: Yeah, absolutely. Manufacturing used to be highly valued in the United States, and these days it’s not. It’s often looked down upon, which I think is wrong.

Joe Rogan: Yeah. Well, I think that people are kind of learning that particularly (10:00) because of this whole pandemic and this relationship that we have with China, that there’s a lot of value in the making things and in the making things here.

Elon Musk: Yes. Somebody’s got to do the real work. You know, like, making a car, it’s an honest day’s living, that’s for sure. Making anything, really, or providing a valuable service like providing good entertainment, good information, these are all valuable things to do. Yeah, there should be more of it.

Joe Rogan: Did you have a moment where – is this something that this idea of getting rid of your material possessions – is it something that built up over time, or did you have a moment of realization where you realized that.

Elon Musk: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. You know, part of it is I have a bunch of houses, but I don’t spend a lot of time in most of them. That doesn’t seem like a good use of assets. Somebody could probably be enjoying those houses and get better use of them than me.

Joe Rogan: Don’t you have Gene Wilder’s house?

Elon Musk: I do.

Joe Rogan: That’s amazing.

Elon Musk: It’s awesome.

Joe Rogan: Wow.

Elon Musk: Yes. It’s exactly what you’d expect.

Joe Rogan: Did you request that the buyer not fuck it up?

Elon Musk: Yeah, that’s a requirement.

Joe Rogan: Oh, a requirement? That’s a good requirement.

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: In that case in that house.

Elon Musk: Yeah, it’ll probably sell for less, but still, I don’t care.

Joe Rogan: Oh, he’s a legend. He’d want his soul, he’d want his essence in the building.

Elon Musk: And it’s there.

Joe Rogan: Is it?

Elon Musk: It’s a real quirky house, yeah.

Joe Rogan: What makes you say it’s there? What do you get out of it?

Elon Musk: I mean, all the cabinets are like handmade, and they’re like odd shapes, and there’s like doors to nowhere and strange corridors and tunnels and odd paintings on the wall. Yeah.

Joe Rogan: Did you ever live in it?

Elon Musk: It’s very quirky. I did live in it briefly, yeah.

Joe Rogan: But why do you buy houses? If you own all these houses, do you just get bored and go ‘I think I’d like to have that’?

Elon Musk: Well, I had one house, and the Gene Wilder house is right across the road from me from my main house. It was going to get sold and then torn down and turned into, you know, be a big construction zone for three years. I was like, whoa, I think I’ll buy it and preserve the spirit of Gene Wilder and not have a giant construction zone.

Then I started having some privacy issues where people would just come to my house and start climbing over the walls and stuff. Then I bought some of the houses around my house, and then I thought at one point, you know, it’d be cool to build a house. I acquired some properties at the top of Somera Road, which has got a great view, and I was like, okay, well there’s a bunch of sort of small older houses, they’re going to get torn down, anyway. I was like, well, if I collect these little houses, then I can build something, I don’t know, artistic, like a dream house type of thing.

Joe Rogan: What’s a dream house for Elon Musk? Like some Tony Stark type shit?

Elon Musk: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. You got to have the dome that opens up with the stealth helicopter and that kind of thing.

Joe Rogan: Yeah.

Elon Musk: For sure.

Joe Rogan: Fuck yeah.

Elon Musk: Definitely. But then I was like, man, does it really make sense for me to spend time designing and building a house and I’d be real, you know, get a like OCD on the little details and the design, or should I be allocating that time to getting us to Mars? I should probably do the latter. Like what’s more important? Mars or a house? I’m like Mars. Okay.

Joe Rogan: Is that really how you think? Like, I’d be better off planning on a trip to Mars or getting people to Mars?

Elon Musk: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, you can only do so many things.

Joe Rogan: Right. Well, I don’t know how you do what you do anyway. I don’t understand how you can run The Boring Company, Tesla, SpaceX, all these different things you’re doing constantly. I don’t understand. I mean, you explained last time you were here how you sort of allocate your time and how hectic it is and insane. I still don’t… the productivity is baffling. It just doesn’t make sense how you can get so much done.

Elon Musk: Well, I think I do have high productivity, but even with that, there’s still some opportunity cost of time and allocating time to building (15:00) a house, even if it was a really great house, it still is not a good use of time relative to developing the rockets necessary to get us to Mars and helping solve sustainable energy. SpaceX and Tesla are by far the most amount of brain cycles. The Boring Company does not take… it’s like less than 1% of brain cycles. And then Neuralink, which is, I don’t know, maybe it’s like 5% and then…

Joe Rogan: 5%? That’s a good chunk.

Elon Musk: It’s a good chunk. Yeah.

Joe Rogan: We were talking about that last time, and you were trying to figure out when it was actually going to go live when it’s actually going to be available. Are you testing on people right now?

Elon Musk: No, we’re not testing on people yet, but I think it won’t be too long. I think we may be able to implant a neural link in less than a year in a person, I think.

Joe Rogan: When you do this, is there any tests that you have to do before you do something like this to see what percentage of people’s bodies are going to reject these things? Is there a potential for rejection?

Elon Musk: It’s a very low potential for rejection. I mean, you can think of it like people put in heart monitors and things for epileptic seizures and deep brain stimulation, obviously like artificial hips and knees and that kind of thing. The probability of… I mean, it’s well known what will cause rejection and what will not. It’s definitely harder when you’ve got something that is sort of reading and writing neurons that’s generating a current pulse and reading current pulses. That’s a little harder than, say, a passive device, but it’s still very doable. There are people who have primitive devices in their brains right now.

Joe Rogan: What kind of devices?

Elon Musk: Well, like deep brain stimulation provided for Parkinson’s, it has really changed people’s lives in a big way, which is kind of remarkable because it kind of like zaps your brain. It’s like kicking the TV type of thing. You think like, man, kicking the TV shouldn’t work.

Joe Rogan: It does sometimes. The old TVs.

Elon Musk: It did.

Joe Rogan: My grandpa used to slap the top.

Elon Musk: For sure. Yeah.

Joe Rogan: It would work sometimes.

Elon Musk: Yeah, so this deep brain stimulation implanted device is in the brain that has changed people’s lives for the better fundamentally.

Joe Rogan: Well, let’s talk about what you can talk about to what Neuralink is because the last time you were here, you really couldn’t discuss it. Then there was, I guess, a press release or something that sort of outlined…

Elon Musk: Oh yeah, sure.

Joe Rogan: Yeah, that had happened quite a bit after the last time you were here. What exactly is it? How do you do – what happens if someone ultimately does get a neural link installed? What will take place?

Elon Musk: Well, for version one of the device, it would be basically implanted in your skull. It would be flush with your skull, so you basically take out a chunk of skull, put the Neuralink device in there. You’d insert the electrode threads very carefully into the brain, and then you stitch it up, and you wouldn’t even know that somebody has it. It can interface basically anywhere in your brain. It could be something that helps cure, say, eyesight, like returns your eyesight even if you’ve lost your optic nerve type of thing.

Joe Rogan: Really?

Elon Musk: Yeah, absolutely. Hearing… – Pretty much anything that…- It could, in principle, fix almost anything that is wrong with the brain. It could restore limb functionality, so if you’ve got an interface into the motor cortex and then an implant that’s like a microcontroller and near muscle groups, you could then create sort of a neural shunt that restores somebody who is a quadriplegic to full functionality. Like, they can walk around and be normal.

Joe Rogan: Wow.

Elon Musk: Yeah, maybe slightly better.

Joe Rogan: Slightly better?

Elon Musk: Over time, yes.

Joe Rogan: You mean with future iterations?

Elon Musk: Like the, you know, ‘Six Million Dollar Man’. (20:00) Although these days, that doesn’t sound like much.

Joe Rogan: Right, that’s pretty cheap. ‘Six Billion Dollar Man’.

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: The hole would be small. How big would the hole be that you have to drill and then replace with this piece? It’s only one hole?

Elon Musk: Well, yeah, the device we’re working on right now is about, it’s about an inch in diameter. Your skull is pretty thick, by the way.

Joe Rogan: Mine is for sure.

Elon Musk: It might actually, literally. I mean, if you’re a big guy, your skull is actually fairly thick. A skull is like seven to 14 millimeters.

Joe Rogan: Mines probably a couple of inches.

Elon Musk: A half inch. Half inch thick skull. Yeah, that’s a fair bit of like… We’ve got quite a coconut going on here. It’s not like some eggshell.

Joe Rogan: Oh yeah, I believe you.

Elon Musk: Yeah, you basically implant the device.

Joe Rogan: It would be like a one inch square? One inch in diameter, so an inch circle?

Elon Musk: Yeah, think like a smartwatch or something like that.

Joe Rogan: Oh, okay.

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: Okay, so you take this one inch diameter like ice fishing, right? You ever go ice fishing?

Elon Musk: No, but I’d like to.

Joe Rogan: It’s great. It’s really fun. so you basically take an auger, and you drill through the surface of the ice, and you create a small hole, and you can dunk your line in there. This is like that. You’re ice fishing on the top of your skull, and then you cork it.

Elon Musk: Yeah, and you replace that, say, one inch diameter piece of skull with the Neuralink device, and that has a battery and a Bluetooth and an inductive charger. Then you also insert the electrodes. The electrodes are very carefully inserted with a robot that we developed. It’s very carefully putting in the electrodes and avoiding any veins or arteries, so it doesn’t create trauma.

Joe Rogan: Through this one inch diameter device, electrodes would be inserted, and they will find their way…

Elon Musk: Like tiny wires, basically.

Joe Rogan: And they’ll find their way to specific areas of the brain to stimulate?

Elon Musk: No, you literally put them where they’re supposed to go.

Joe Rogan: Oh, okay. How long will these wires be?

Elon Musk: I mean, they usually go in like, depending on where it is, like two or three millimeters.

Joe Rogan: They just find the spots?

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: Wow.

Elon Musk: Then you put the device in, and that replaces the little piece of skull that was taken out. Then you stitch up the hole, and it will just look like a little scar, and that’s it.

Joe Rogan: Would this be replaceable or reversible? Like if someone can’t take it anymore? “I’m too smart; I can’t take it.”

Elon Musk: Yeah, you can totally take it out.

Joe Rogan: Besides restoring limb function and eyesight and hearing, which are all amazing, is there any cognitive benefits that you anticipate from something like this?

Elon Musk: Yeah, I mean you could for sure…- I mean, basically it’s a generalized sort of thing for fixing any kind of brain injury in principle, or if you’ve got like severe epilepsy or something like that. It could just sort of stop the epilepsy from occurring. It could detect it in real-time and then fire a counter pulse and stop the epilepsy.

I mean, there’s a whole range of brain injuries. Like if people get a stroke, they could lose the ability to speak, and that could also be fixed. If you’ve got stroke damage or you lose, say, muscle control over part of your face or something like that. And then, when you get older, you tend to… – if you get like Alzheimer’s or something like that, then you lose memory, and this could help you with restoring your memory and that kind of thing.

Joe Rogan: Restoring memory… – and what is happening that’s allowing it to do that? Like the wires, these small wires are stimulating these areas of the brain. Is it that the areas of the brain are losing some sort of electrical force? What is happening?

Elon Musk: The thing is it’s like a bunch of circuits, and there’s some circuits that are broken, and we can fix those circuits. It’s a substitute for those circuits.

Joe Rogan: A specific frequency will go through this?

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: Is the process figuring out how much or how little has to be, (25:00) how much these areas of the brain have to be juiced up?

Elon Musk: Yeah. I mean, there’s still a lot of work to do. When I say we’ve got a shot at probably putting in a person within a year, that’s exactly what I mean. I think we have a chance of putting it into one and having them be healthy and restoring some functionality that they’ve lost.

Joe Rogan: The fear is that eventually, you’re going to have to cut the whole top of someone’s head off and put a new top with a whole bunch of wires if you want to get the real turbocharged version. The P100D of brain stimulation.

Elon Musk: I mean, ultimately, if you want to go with full AI symbiosis, you’ll probably want to do something like that.

Joe Rogan: Symbiosis is a scary word when it comes to AI.

Elon Musk: It’s optional.

Joe Rogan: I would hope so.

Elon Musk: Yeah.

Joe Rogan: It’s just, I mean, once you enjoy the Doctor Manhattan lifestyle, once you become a god seems very unlikely you’re going to want to go back to being stupid again. I mean, you literally could fundamentally change the way human beings interface with each other.

Elon Musk: Yes. You wouldn’t need to talk.

Joe Rogan: I’m so scared of that, but so excited about it at the same time. Is that weird?

Elon Musk: Yeah, I think this is one of the paths to think like what are… Like AI is getting better and better. Now let’s assume it’s sort of like a benign AI scenario. Even in a benign scenario, we’re kind of left behind. We’re not along for the ride. We’re just too dumb.

Joe Rogan: Right.

Elon Musk: How do you go along for the ride? It’s, like, if you can’t beat them, join them. We’re already a cyborg to some degree, right? Because you’ve got your phone, you’ve got your laptop, your electronic devices. Today, if you don’t bring your phone along, it’s like you have missing limb syndrome. It feels like something’s really missing. We’re already partly a cyborg or an AI symbiote, essentially.

It’s just that the data rate to the electronics is slow. Especially output, like you’re just going with your thumbs. I mean, like, what’s your data rate? Optimistically, a hundred bits per second. That’s being generous. Now the computer can communicate at a hundred terabytes. Certainly, you know, gigabits are trivial at this point.

Basically, your computer could do things a million times faster. At a certain point, it’s like talking to a tree. Okay? This is boring. You talk to a tree – it’s not very entertaining. If you can solve the data rate issue, especially output, but input, too, then you can improve the symbiosis that is already occurring between man and machine.

Joe Rogan: So, you can improve it – when you said you won’t have to talk to each other anymore. We used to joke around about that. I’ve joked around about that a million times in this podcast that one day in the future, there’s going to come a time where you can read each other’s minds. You’ll be able to interface with each other in some sort of a nonverbal, non-physical way where you will transfer data back and forth to each other without having to actually use your mouth to make noises.

Elon Musk: Exactly, so when you… Like what happens when you, let’s say you’ve got some complex idea that you’re trying to convey to somebody else, and how do you do that? Well, your brain spends a lot of effort compressing a complex concept into words, and there’s a lot of loss, information loss that occurs when compressing a complex concept into words. Then you say those words, and those words are then interpreted, then they’re decompressed by the person who is listening. They will, at best, get a very incomplete understanding of what you’re trying to convey. It’s very difficult to convey a complex concept with precision because you’ve got compression, decompression, (30:00) you may not even have heard all the words correctly and so communication is difficult. What we have here is a failure to communicate. Cool Hand Luke.

Joe Rogan: Yes. Great movie.

Elon Musk: Yeah, great one.

Joe Rogan: There’s an interpretation factor, too. Like you can choose to interpret certain series of words in different ways, and they’re dependent upon tone, dependent upon social cues, even facial expressions, sarcasm. There’s a lot of variables.

Elon Musk: Sarcasm is difficult. (30:34)

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