Why Does Elon Musk Work So Hard?

There's no time left.

Elon said recently in a Joe Rogan interview that it’s normal for him to work until 1am.

All things being equal, which they aren’t at all, a male born in South Africa in 1971 has a life expectancy of 54. If you plot out days since birth as little squares and black out the ones that are gone, with a year per line, you get the following:

So there’s about 4.5 years left to achieve more things.

(If you want to make one of these visualizations yourself, you can modify the code here).

Things get significantly better if you were born in the United States and this is probably a better model. Life expectancy rises to 67.39:

This leaves 6,468 days left or 17.72 years.

But, Mars approaches Earth every ~2 years:

Which means there’s about 8 potential transits left.

If we assume we can send 2 starships at the next transit and double from there then there will be flights {2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256} which sum to 510 total voyages in the next ~17 years. That means within that timeframe we needs to be producing ~5 starships a week, which is something like two orders of magnitude faster than they’re produced today. They’ll be launching every day or two.

These estimates are reasonable but perhaps low.

The model builds in the assumption that efforts will cease when Elon passes away. This possibility seems entirely reasonable given the last two major space programs basically stopped for lack of interest.

Therefore we need to scale the program and there appear to be two basic ways to do that:

  • Moar Elons: Bezos and Blue Origin will probably contribute within the timeframes we discussed.

  • Moar/Bigger starships: If we add Blue Origin and assume China will do something, we can probably get to ~4x and assume ~2,000 missions with the next couple of decades.

To get to ~10x or ~100x we need another leap. A much bigger starship or a space elevator. Perhaps a lot more automation.

Therefore, the reason he works so hard is that there’s really very little time left. It must be frustrating waiting for the FAA to sign off on things, as those delays will multiply out over the next 8 transit windows. If the little delays add up to a two-year delay, it essentially halves the number of possible missions.

Given that we’ve theoretically been able to make starships for a long time, this means our only real way out is moar Elons. How to do that?

I propose AutoCapital. Auto in the Greek sense, meaning themselves, but also in the sense of automatic: We find a way to give money to anyone willing to risk their life savings (so long as those savings are non-trivial, I suppose) at least at par with the investment capital. Much like how Musk bet everything on Christmas Eve, 2008.