Elon Musk thought about these five things when he was in college and AI is one of them


Elon Musk is one of the most popular names in the tech industry today. Running various businesses, Musk is often making news for one venture or another. The Tesla and X (earlier called Twitter) chief is among the top 5 richest people in the world and has often topped the list as well. Snippets from Musk’s early life and career often make their way on the internet, which give us a glimpse about who he was before becoming the billionaire entrepreneur that he is today.

In an interview that dates back to 2016, Musk listed the five things that he thought about the most when he was a college student. The Tesla boss was in conversation with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman at the time. It is to be noted that during that time, Musk was still a part of OpenAI and the startup was working on AI.

Circling back to the five things that Musk was talking about, he said that he thought about “making life multi-planetary, accelerating the transition to sustainable energy, the Internet, genetics, and AI. These visionary ideas, conceived during his college years, laid the foundation for his future endeavours.

He then revealed how he never expected to be involved in all of these areas and his journey began with a focus on electrification of cars, particularly through advanced ultracapacitors. As an intern, he delved into research, aiming to revolutionise energy storage for electric vehicles. However, his trajectory shifted when he decided to pursue graduate studies at Stanford University.

Initially intent on furthering his work in energy storage, Musk opted to defer his academic pursuits. Sensing the moment for technological advancement, he pivoted towards founding an Internet company in 1995. “There comes a time when certain technologies reach a critical point,” Musk explained, highlighting his decision to seize the moment rather than merely observe from academia. “I didn’t want to do a PhD at Stanford and watch it all happen. And I wasn’t entirely certain that the technology I’d been working on would actually succeed. You can get a doctorate on many things that ultimately do not have a practical bearing on the world. I really was just trying to be useful. That’s the optimisation. It’s like what can I do that would actually be useful,” he had said during the interview.

While Musk was a part of OpenAI when this particular interview featuring him and Altman was published on Y Combinator’s YouTube channel, the situation today is quite different. Musk is no longer a part of OpenAI (he left in 2018) and was recently making headlines for his fight with the OpenAI CEO.

For the unversed, Musk sued Altman’s OpenAI last month and accused the company of breaching its contract and indulging in unfair business practices. In the lawsuit, Musk said that OpenAI’s focus on maximising profits for Microsoft, instead of benefiting humanity, goes against the company’s original mission. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Altman was seen sharing an old conversation between him and Musk on X, in which the OpenAI CEO could be seen backing Musk when many were against Tesla in 2019.

A couple of days later, it was reported that OpenAI had responded to the lawsuit and had “refuted all claims of Musk.” Intensifying the battle, OpenAI released a blog post that contained Musk’s old emails to the company’s founders in which he could be seen backing the for-profit arm idea of OpenAI, and suggesting merging the company with Tesla.

Published By:

Divyanshi Sharma

Published On:

Apr 9, 2024


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