Power Players

3 predictions for the future, according to billionaire tech titan Elon Musk

Tesla founder Elon Musk speaks at the unveiling event by "The Boring Company" for the test tunnel of a proposed underground transportation network across Los Angeles County, in Hawthorne, California, December 18, 2018.
Robyn Beck | Pool | Reuters

"I think it's important to have a future that is inspiring and appealing. I just think there have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Like, why do you want to live? What's the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future?" so says billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk in his 2017 TED talk.

For Musk, that means building a reality where humans live on multiple planets. "And if we're not out there, if the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multiplanet species, I find that it's incredibly depressing if that's not the future that we're going to have," Musk says.

And when Musk thinks about the future, he does so like an engineer — practically, carefully and with a flow chart of probable outcomes.

"I look at the future from the standpoint of probabilities. It's like a branching stream of probabilities, and there are actions that we can take that affect those probabilities or that accelerate one thing or slow down another thing," he says.

Indeed, with his electric car company Tesla, his spacecraft company SpaceX and his tunneling venture The Boring Company, the tech entrepreneur is says he's helping shape the future.

As everyone looks toward 2019, here are three predictions for the future from the entrepreneur.

In 7 to 10 years, the first humans will colonize Mars

In November, Musk said it will be seven to 10 years until the first group of humans colonize Mars.

In the same Twitter conversation, he said he imagines it will be "engineers, artists and creatives of all kinds" who will go to Mars first.

The SpaceX founder and CEO said there is a "70 percent" chance that he himself will go to Mars, and that his space company "recently made a number of breakthroughs that I am just really fired up about," he told Axios in November.

It will be incredibly risky for those who go first to Mars, Musk said.

"It's gonna be hard, there's a good chance of death, going in a little can through deep space, you might land successfully, once you land successfully you'll be working non-stop to build the base — so not much time for leisure — and once you get there, even after all this, there's a very harsh environment, so there's a good chance you'll die there. We think you can come back but we're not sure," Musk told Axios.

SpaceX aims to get an unmanned cargo rocket to Mars in 2024, according to Musk. "Hopefully, there are people on board. But I think there's a pretty good chance of at least having an unmanned craft go to Mars. I think we will try to do this," Musk told Kara Swisher in October.

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We asked people in NYC Elon Musk's favorite interview question

You will be able to connect your brain to computers in 10 years

As if Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company weren't enough to keep Musk busy, he also has a company, Neuralink, that is "developing ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers," as the company's website explains.

"The long-term aspiration with Neuralink would be to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence…to achieve a sort of democratization of intelligence, such that it is not monopolistically held in a purely digital form by governments and large corporations," Musk told Axios in November.

That will be done by connecting computer electrodes to neurons in your brain — "a chip and a bunch of tiny wires" that will be "implanted in your skull," Musk said.

"I believe this can be done. ... It's probably on the order of a decade," he said.

If the idea of your intelligence being enhanced by computers seems wild, Musk says it's starting now: "And by the way, you kind of have this already in a weird way: You have a digital tertiary layer in the form of your phone, your computers, your watch. You basically have these computing devices that form a tertiary layer on your cognition already," Musk said, according to Axios.

Tesla's 'cyberpunk' pickup truck prototype could be here in 2019

Musk has been pulling an insane schedule, working as many as 120 hours in a week, to get the Model 3 Tesla production ramped up, but he's already touting new products.

"I'm dying to make a pickup truck so bad … we might have a prototype to unveil next year," he tweeted in December.

Musk has been relatively vague about the specifics of the truck — "Well I can't talk about the details," he told Swisher — but he was unabashed in expressing his own excitement.

"We've got the pickup truck, which — actually, I'm personally most excited about the pickup truck," Musk told Swisher in October. "It's gonna be like a really futuristic like cyberpunk, 'Blade Runner' pickup truck."

A sketch of a Tesla pickup truck concept, revealed at the firm's Semi truck and Roadster event in Hawthorne, California on November 16, 2017.
Tesla

He continued: "It's gonna be awesome, it's gonna be amazing. … This will be heart-stopping. It stops my heart. It's like, oh, it's great."

The Tesla boss says he isn't particularly confident that there will be a large number of people who want to buy the first, ultra-futuristic version of the truck he has been dreaming about. If his design is not popular, then Tesla will make a more traditional truck body, he says.

"It's like I really wanted something that's like super-futuristic cyberpunk. Which, if it doesn't ... if I'm weirdly like ... if there's only a small number of people that like that truck, I guess we'll make a more conventional truck in the future. But it's the thing that I am personally most fired up about. It's gonna have a lot of titanium," Musk told Swisher.

See also:

Elon Musk: 'Robots will be able to do everything better than us'

Ahead of Elon Musk, this self-made millionaire already launched a company to merge your brain with computers

Elon Musk: This is why I push myself to the brink

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Billionaire Elon Musk responds to unhappy Tesla customer
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