How Tesla will help save the world (and fix a broken capitalist system)
This article is a followup to another CleanTechnica article: Tesla’s Secret Weapon. The title of this one contains an asterisk, because a more accurate (but too long) title would be “How Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company Will Help Save the World and Reform Capitalism in the Process.” Apologies if the title is clickbaity or bombastic. This article actually began with a very simple question in my mind: “Could Tesla* end up reforming capitalism?”
I think so.
First, let me address what will inevitably end up in the comments below. I am sure someone will write something to the effect of: “The author is a fanboy who is worships Elon Musk too much.” Obviously, I disagree. Tesla* is more than a company (or its CEO); it is movement. A movement that by and large has failed politically to create significant climate change policy, but will do whatever it takes to create a sustainable world.
And, of course, Tesla* cannot do it on it’s own, and there are numerous other entities and individuals who will have a large (maybe larger) role to play. However, Tesla* for many has become the de facto inspirational leader.
Human civilization is on the verge of a new epoch. When I take a step back and retreat from all the drama of this world, I often think there has not been a better time to be alive. Of course, perspective changes from individual to individual, and I do not mean to discount the suffering and massive challenges that still exist. However, if I just imagined that I was an alien who traveled the cosmos and was now observing Earth, I would be immensely fascinated by the current development of human civilization.
For 4.3 billion years, Earth has existed, and human consciousness has existed for roughly 200,000 years. Our intelligence has given us capabilities to destroy human civilization, but it also gives us opportunities to save it.
So much is going to change in such a short time. Despite the myriad of challenges our civilization faces, much of the time, I feel hopeful. But is hope really warranted?
Yes, indeed it is!
For self-preservation, we have to hope. For a brighter future, we have to hope.
Please excuse my refrain from exploring all that is wrong with the world in this article. I write and speak about such issues far too often as it is, and I think it is human nature to do so. Our survival as species has depended upon being on the lookout for bad news. However, for the remainder of this article, let’s dare to think what is possible. Just imagine you have a worry dial on the side of your head. Go ahead, grasp it, and turn it down. As it turns, envision that it simultaneously increases your open-mindedness, curiosity, and imagination. Make it so …
Before we move into the future, let’s go back into history. Before there were corporations, there were charters. A charter is a legal document that grants rights to an organization to pursue goals. In most cases, the goal is economic. Charters were first given by kings but now they are in theory granted by the people.
Today, in theory, the people grant corporations their rights to exist because they serve a public good. Should a corporation fail to offer the public a valid reason for its continued existence, it could have its rights to exist revoked. Obviously, powerful corporations have hijacked our governments, and numerous corporations should have long ago had their right to exist revoked.
Another solution for unruly corporations is to have government oversight. I am still in favor of appropriate government regulation. I am not making some “invisible hand will solve everything” argument. I am in no way saying the government of the people should abdicate their responsibility. I am merely stating a realization that we have other methods to get corporations to improve their behavior.
As stated before, Tesla is much more than a company. Tesla is helping to lead an emergent mass movement. It is a collection of interconnected, intelligent, wise, ethical, dutiful, loyal, courageous, humorous, fun-loving, strong, enlightened, futuristic, and scientific minded stakeholders with just the right amount of crazy to believe a better world is possible. Well, them and a few people who simply want to own the best cars ever made on earth.
We seek a way out of the systems that are no longer working, even if those systems once brought us a long way in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, we demand their evolution. We want safe, sustainable transportation and energy. Moreover, we desire abundance for all.
We are tired of products of planned obsolescence. We are tired of being brainwashed by advertisements. We do not want our hard efforts to primarily benefit the oligarchy. I contend Tesla is a spearhead of a mass movement that is changing corporate capitalism. It will not change the world with brute force or guile, but instead with innovation and diligent, transparent perseverance.
Tesla stands on the shoulders of giants. Obviously, it stands on the shoulders of Nikola Tesla and many other scientists and innovators. One of the giants I would like to also mention is Microsoft, and the subsequent Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Microsoft has been considered a monopoly, and perhaps rightly so. I fully get it and understand if you despise Microsoft for its stranglehold on the market. But I implore you to not let that prejudice you about where I am going in this article. The main financial benefactors of Microsoft’s rise have been Bill and Melinda Gates.
An oversimplified view of Bill Gates is as a computer geek who wanted to be a billionaire so freaking bad. When he achieved that success, married a brilliant woman, and had three children, his goals and motivations changed drastically. Bill and Melinda Gates started their foundation and pledged to give away 99% of their wealth.
Moreover, they determined to give away their wealth in a scientific and systematic way to ensure they did the most possible good. Additionally, they challenged their fellow billionaires and multimillionaires to give away the majority of their wealth. Thus, the giving pledge was born, and to date 157 individuals have signed it. So far, $650 billion has been pledged.
These philanthropists coordinate and learn from each other how to best make use of large though still limited funds. In fact, some of them have just decided to give all their money to The Gates Foundation, such as Warren Buffet. These philanthropists have had numerous successes and made many mistakes to learn from.
Coming back to Tesla, Elon Musk has also signed the giving pledge, promising to donate the vast majority of his wealth in an effort to insure humanity survives. But Musk is taking what Gates does to the next level, because he is building wealth for his philanthropy while at the same time creating products that will save lives and civilization itself.
Gates, Musk, and others have caused a paradigm shift for future billionaires. The goal is no longer to become a billionaire, wall yourself away from the masses, and set up a dynasty. It is to achieve success, set your children up for an unspoiled/meaningful life, and give (or invest) everything else into systematically creating solutions the world actually needs.
What happens if Tesla successfully leads the transition to self-driving electric taxis and in the process becomes one of the most valuable companies to ever exist? What happens if they help provide much of the battery storage solution (and some solar) that we need to go 100% renewable for energy? What happens if Musk takes all the money he makes from Tesla* and donates it to put a permanent human civilization on Mars? What happens if The Boring Company helps make megacities fantastic places to live and helps to create sustainable, affordable buildings?
Well — to some substantial degree — I think capitalism and the modern corporation in the long run will end up drastically reformed.
I am not implying every corporation, all at once, is going to join together in a kumbaya moment. I simply think many new and even some old corporations will end up becoming far more ethical in their dealings. Those that fall short may go extinct. This higher level of ethics will be required to be competitive. Partially (minimally) because that is what some customers demand, but more importantly because a higher level of ethics combined with a meaningful mission will be required to attract, motivate, and retain the greatest innovators (workers).
In a previous article, Tesla’s Secret Weapon, it was stated the Tesla does not advertise. Instead it puts all those resources into making the best possible product, and lets the product speak for itself.
Tesla’s goal is to make self-driving electric taxis that last a million miles. Tesla’s future business model differs greatly from current automobile companies. These companies make vehicles with planned obsolescence in mind, which have significant costs to maintain and repair. Eventually, self-driving vehicles could reduce deaths by 90% or more. They will create trillions of dollars of disposable income as people give up their cars for extremely affordable, safe, and enjoyable rides in self-driving taxis (and hopefully those rides more often than not will be shared by multiple passengers).
Another Tesla goal is to make solar power products and batteries so efficient and so affordable that we can transition to 100% renewable energy in time to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. It is going to be close, but every year it seems more and more doable.
Tesla allows other companies to use Tesla’s patents, provided the other companies return the favor by sharing their patents. While major auto manufacturers have yet to accept the offer, at least one new company in China has. In certain industries, there is a promising trend of increased open-sourcing. When Tesla succeeds and traditional auto manufactures start to face bankruptcy, open-sourcing has a chance to become more mainstream.
Additionally, Tesla does not have a slew of lobbyists fighting progress and environmental action. For the most part, it relies on its customers and its fans to spread the truth about Tesla. The truth is that Tesla’s primary goal is to save the environment and save lives by creating the safest products and services possible. It is your job to spread that truth in a positive, constructive way. Oh, and do not worry about the haters, we only need a few million early adopters until the transition is unstoppable.
The Boring Company (TBC)
TBC aims to provide megacities with up to 30 levels or more of underground tunnels which will provide rapid, sustainable, and safe transportation. In doing so, TBC will allow megacities to thrive. With the world’s population headed somewhere between 9 to 11 billion people, most of us will have to live in megacities if we aim to have a sustainable civilization.
TBC will not just provide us with safe, rapid transportation; it will also provide renewable building material. Finely ground earth is a by-product of boring tunnels, and it can easily to be turned into LEGO-like compressed earth blocks. Earth turns to gold in the hands of the wise! Buildings made from these sustainable bricks will provide incredible insulation, and they could last centuries. They will meet all fire and earthquake regulations.
Eventually, the bricks will be constructed entirely with renewable energy and then shipped by electric semi trucks. To top it off, these buildings will be extremely affordable to build, to power, and to maintain over their long lives. Affordable housing will mean people can work less, produce less, and consume less, but volunteer more.
Tesla and TBC are beyond cool, but SpaceX is beyond this world. The ultimate goal of SpaceX is to make humans a multi-planetary species, and it has several other more immediate goals which are stepping stones to that ultimate goal. To the masses, this goal may seem peculiar. However, to those more scientifically minded, it is merely recognizing a very simple truth.
In the long run, the risk of humans destroying this planet or just modern civilization through nuclear war, climate change, or some other catastrophe is virtually certain. Of course, there are numerous other civilization-collapsing natural disasters possible as well — from super volcanoes to massive solar flares.
As such, SpaceX is determined to make humans multi-planetary, before civilization goes extinct or falls into another Dark Age. The latter is the more likely and relevant today, so let’s talk about that. Critics of Spacex’s plans to make humans multi-planetary point out that fixing Earth would be far easier than geoengineering Mars, Venus, etc. However, they are not fully understanding the urgency of why we must do both!
Einstein once said, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” That is the answer why we must go now. The window to go could be closed at any time. Yes, we can save all of humankind’s achievements in multiple locations. However, there is no guarantee a scientific community capable of making use of those records will continue to exist.
We cannot risk losing consciousness. The end of consciousness will most likely not occur because of a single event, but by multiple events spread out over a long timespan. It took 4.3 billion years for consciousness to evolve on Earth, its creation is a miracle and must be safeguarded.
If you are not convinced by the urgency of protecting consciousness, there is another strong argument to make life multi-planetary. Billions of children have dreamt what it would be like to be an astronaut when they were very young. The fascination of becoming an astronaut lasts a short while, but then sadly a few years later nearly all realize the nearly impossible odds of being chosen to be an astronaut.
Well, not anymore — SpaceX has completely changed the game. Many children born today who possess average intelligence and extreme dedication have a realistic chance of becoming an astronaut. The motivation this creates to study math, science, technology, etc., cannot be overstated. Many who set out to become an astronaut will divert their path, but society will reap massive benefits from their education.
Ask any science teacher, and they will tell you teaching about astronomy and aliens especially is pure joy. The students are so curious and motivated to learn. There is almost no end to the questions they generate. It is a few weeks of heaven for the whole classroom.
It is because of Elon Musk’s childhood fascination that SpaceX exists. It is a common argument that we should spend money helping the poor instead of going to outer space. Though well-meaning, this is severely failed logic. As evidence, in the near future, SpaceX will have 5,000 low-orbit satellites which will provide affordable, reliable, and high-speed internet capable of reaching every person on earth.
This internet can deliver open-sourced educational platforms that have the potential to provide nearly every person an opportunity to become more educated. All of this will exist because thousands of young children dared to imagine traveling to another planet, studied their ass off, and then joined SpaceX.
Right now, numerous future innovators, scientists, and entrepreneurs are paying close attention to the playbook Musk’s companies are laying out. Not all, but enough will endeavor to create or join corporations, startups, and other organizations that share these goals and values. When Musk’s companies succeeds in their goals, I think (eventually) companies that do not use at least a portion of this playbook will struggle to succeed. Of course, companies could always pretend to use it. However, transparency is ever-increasing and more and more customers are aware of the lies.
I have always assumed it would take grassroots action to force the government to create the necessary rules to make the world a decent place. I have not given up on grassroots causes to improve governments, nor do I advocate anyone else should do so. The only assertion that I am making is that there is more than one path to the mountaintop.
Universal Basic Income (UBI)
Automation is continually accelerating. Accordingly, Musk and many others are stating universal basic income will soon be necessary. To Musk, it is self-evident universal basic income is required. UBI will not be a panacea — it is an imperfect solution like all human inventions (money, markets, banks, governments, laws, schools, social customs, etc.). We will have to create an improved culture and educational system based on self-inquiry for UBI to succeed. Finding meaning in life will become challenging. Personally, I will be keen to enjoy nature, friends, and lifelong learning.
Musk’s frank assertion that UBI (or something like it) must eventually be instituted carries weight among the enlightened. When the companies he started reach their long-term goals, let’s hope the powers that will be will actually listen. In the 1930s, FDR and the new deal saved capitalism from devouring itself. Oligarchic corruption (of both political parties) has severely watered down those reforms and what was intended to come after them. By sheer physical necessity, capitalism will have to be reformed to be sustainable and provide a greater equality of opportunity.
Tesla, TBC, and SpaceX remind us to not give up. To find a way. All our individual actions add up. So, whether you want to fight for a carbon tax, join a community solar project, start a backyard garden, or anything else which is meaningful, get out there and do it. Do not let anyone tell you your actions do not make a difference. They do. It is the active people who really change the world for the better.
To make the world sustainable and peaceful, I do not believe we have rush out there to convince the majority of people to become sustainable. We just have to keep the snowball rolling. Solar, wind, batteries, smart technology, self-driving taxis/shuttles, hyperloops, AI, etc., can solve so many issues. I am not saying everyone has to be a techno-optimist like me. We can and should have a diversity of tactics. We will need a movement that advocates sustainable consumption. However, for that movement to ultimately succeed, it needs the tools that Tesla, SpaceX, and TBC are evolving.