The future according to Elon Musk and the Pope

Ava Chisling
June 19, 2017

Elon Musk is always in the news. Whether he is on the White House advisory council or leaving the WH advisory council; whether he’s pronouncing his fear that AI will take over our brains or sending rockets into space and back, no one makes the headlines like he does… well, almost no one. Today we turn to TED Talks to hear what Musk has to say about the future. And we compare his future view to that of Pope’s via his own TED Talk, given at roughly the same time. Because, hey, why not?

Elon Musk

Asked why he is so boring, Musk responds by saying he is building a tunnel under LA, which tells you two things about Musk straight away: Unlike other large companies that are looking to the skies for their future, with delivery drones, etc, Musk is looking deep underground for his. In fact, Musk says, “You can go much further down than you can up,” which I am not sure is entirely true because, you know, outer space and all that. And it tells us that Musk answers questions he wasn’t asked. I used to do that with my law school exams, but I digress.

The TED Talk moderator reminds Musk that most folks envision flying cars and not drilling cars in our future to which Musk responds that he loves rockets, but then spends a full nine minutes talking about his tunnels.

Musk’s second view of the future is autopilot, something that has landed him in trouble before. “Essentially, November or December of this year, we should be able to go all the way from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey.”

Musk envisions a driverless Uber-like fleet. “So there will be a shared autonomy fleet where you buy your car and you can choose to use that car exclusively; you can choose to have it be used only by friends and family, only by other drivers who are rated five star, [or] you can choose to share it sometimes but not other times. That’s 100 percent what will occur. It’s just a question of when.”

He also sees solar roofs and Gigafactories in our future. “A solar glass roof will be less than the cost of a normal roof plus the cost of electricity. If you were to fast-forward to say 15 years from now, it will be unusual to have a roof that does not have solar. I think we’ll announce locations for somewhere between two and four Gigafactories later this year. Yeah, probably four.”

And Musk believes we will shortly climb aboard rockets like his and head into space. “I’m hopeful it’s sort of an eight- to 10-year time frame. Aspirationally, that’s our target. Our internal targets are more aggressive…”

The Pope

The future according to the pope

The Pope is not unsympathetic to mankind’s quest to occupy other planets but his vision of the future is naturally about more than conquest. “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient world, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples, and countries.”

The Pope also sees a place for corporations in how our future is shaped but reiterates that WE are in fact most important in shaping what heads our way. “The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’ We all need each other. How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion.”

He sums up his view of the future this way: “In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity. And I know that TED gathers many creative minds. Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The ‘you’ is always a real presence, a person to take care of.”

Nobody really knows what our future holds but it seems like if you combine the visions of revolutionary thinkers like Musk and spiritual leaders like Pope Francis, you get a sense that our future is best served by new fun things, yes, but also an understanding that how we use and consume these things is up to us. We are proud to say that at ROSS, we understand and believe that with advanced technology also comes responsibility.

Ava Chisling

Ava is an award-winning lawyer and editor who counsels creative types, writes about pop culture/tech+law and sometimes creates ad campaigns. She is Quebec counsel for Momentum Law.