Elon Musk’s Legendary Commencement Speech

[ Applause ] – I’d, like to thank you for leaving crazy person out of the description, so I thought I try to think what is the most useful thing that I could, but what could I say like that, could actually helpful or useful to You in the future – and I thought perhaps to tell the story of how I sort of came to be here.

How did some of these things happen and – and maybe there’s – some lessons there, because I often find myself wondering how did this happen? So when I was young, I I didn’t really know what I was going to do.

We’re, not when I got older people kept asking me and and but then eventually I thought that the idea of inventing things would be. Would be really cool and the reason I thought that was because I read a quote from Odyssey clock, which said that a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic and and that’s.

Really true, if you think, if you go back say 300 years, the things that we take for granted today would be you’d, be burned at the stake, for you know, being able to fly that’s, crazy, being able to see Over long distances being able to communicate having effectively with the internet a a group, mind of sorts and having access to all the world’s, information instantly from almost anywhere in the earth.

This is the stuff that that really would be magic. That would be considered magic in times past. In fact, I think it actually goes beyond that, because there are many things that we take for granted today, that weren’t even imagined in times past they weren’t even in the realm of magic.

So it actually goes goes beyond that, so I thought well, you know if, if I can do some of those things, basically, if I can advanced technology, then that that’s like magic and I would be really cool and the the I was at Sort of a slight existential crisis, because I was trying to figure out what does it all mean like what’s, the purpose of things, and I came to the conclusion that if we can advance the the knowledge of the world, if we can do Things that expand the scope and and scale of consciousness, then we’re, better able to ask the right questions and become more enlightened and and that’s, really the only way forward.

So so it’s. Like I studied physics and business because I figured in order to do a lot of these things, you need to know how the universe works and you need to know how how the economy works, and you also need to built, bring a lot of people together to Work with you to create something because it’s very difficult to do something as as an individual if it’s, if it’s, a significant technology, so I originally came out to California to try to figure out how To improve the energy density of electric vehicles, basically to try to figure out if there was an advanced capacitor that could serve as an alternative to batteries, and that was in 95 and that’s.

Also, when the internet started to happen and – and I thought well, I can either pursue this tech. This technology, where success, maybe may not be one of the possible outcomes which is always tricky or participate in the Internet and and be part of it.

So I decided to drop out now as you. Unfortunately, we’re past graduation, so I can’t, be accused of recommending that to you, and so it’s. A did some internet stuff. You know put a few things here and there, what one of which was PayPal, and I think maybe it’s – helpful.

To say, one of the things that was important than in the creation of PayPal was whispers kind of how it started, because initially the initial thought was with PayPal was to create an agglomeration of financial services.

So if you have one place where all your financial services needs would be seamlessly integrated and and work smoothly, and then we had like a little feature, which was to do email payments and whenever we’d, show that show the system off to someone Would show the hard part, which was the the agglomeration of financial services, which was quite difficult to put together? Nobody was interested, then we’d, show people email payments, which was actually quite easy, and everybody was interested so that this is, I think it’s, important to take feedback from your environment.

You know it’s, it you want to be as closed-loop as possible, and so we focused on email payments and really try to make that work and and that’s. What really got things to take off, but if we hadn’t, if we hadn’t responded to what people said then we probably would not have been successful.

So it’s, important to look for things like that and and focus on them when, when you, when you see them – and you’re correct your your prior assumptions and then the going from PayPal, I thought well, what are some of The the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity.

It really wasn’t from the perspective of what what’s, the rank or did best way to to make money which, which is which is okay. But it was really what I think is going to most affect the future humanity, so the I think the biggest terrestrial problem we’ve got is sustainable energy, but the production and consumption of energy in a sustainable manner.

If we don’t solve that this century is the century, where we’re in deep trouble and then the other one being the extension of life beyond Earth to make life multiplanetary. So that’s, that that’s, that’s, the basis for that the latter is the basis force for SpaceX and the former is the basis for Tesla and SolarCity, and and when I started SpaceX, I initially I thought That well is there’s.

No way one could possibly start a rocket company. I wasn’t that crazy, but but then I thought well, what is a way to increase NASA’s budget? That was actually my initial goal. So I thought well, if we do a low-cost mission to Mars and the COPE Amazo aces, which would land seeds with with dehydrate, would receive some dehydrated nutrient gel and you hydrate them upon landing.

And then you’d. Have this great sort of money, shot of green plants on a red background and the the public tends to respond to presidents and superlatives, and this would be the first life on Mars, the farthest that life’s ever traveled.

As far as we know, and – and I thought well – that that would get people really excited and and and therefore increase with NASA’s budget. So so, obviously the financial outcome from such a mission would probably be zero, so anything better than that was on the upside, and so I actually went to.

I went to Russia three times to look at buying a refurbished ICBM, because that was the best deal and I can tell you. It was very weird going there in 2000, late 2001 2002, going to the Russian rocket forces and saying I’d like to buy two of your biggest rockets.

But you can keep the nuke that’s a lot more and this. That was 10 years ago. I guess so they they, I think they they thought. I was crazy, but but I did have money so that was that was okay and after making several trips to to Russia.

I came to conclusion that that actually, my initial impression was was wrong about because my initial thought was well that that there’s, not enough, will to explore and expand beyond Earth and have a Mars base, and that kind of thing.

But I can’t Christian, that that that was wrong. In fact, there’s, plenty of will, particularly in the United States, because the United States is a nation of explorers. The people who came here from from other parts of the world.

I think the United States really a just a distillation of the spirit of human exploration. So but but if people think it’s impossible then or it’s going to completely break the federal budget, then they’re.

Not going to do it so after my third trip I said okay well, what we really need to do here is try to solve the space transport problem and and started SpaceX, and this list was against the advice of pretty much everyone.

I talked to what one friend made me sit down and watch a bunch of videos of rockets blowing up. Let me tell you he wasn’t far wrong. I think there was. It was tough going there in the beginning, because I’d, never built anything physical.

I mean I’d, both like little model rockets as a kid and that kind of thing, but I never had a company that built in any physical said, have to figure out how to how to do all these things and and bring together the Right team of people and and and so we we did all that and and then failed three times it was tough, tough going because thinking about a rocket is that the passing grade is a hundred percent and you don’t, get to actually test The rocket in the real environment that is going to be in so, I think, to the best analogy for for rocket engineering.

Is it’s like if you want to create a really pump complicated, but a software you can’t run the software as an integrated whole and you can’t run it on the computer. It’s intended to run on, but the first time you put it all together and write it on that computer.

It must run with no bugs that’s, that’s, basically the essence of it. So we missed the mark there that the first launch I was picking up butts of rocket near the new launch scientist, but sad and but we learned with with each success of flight and and were able to with eventually with the fourth flight in 2008 reach orbit And that was also with the last bit of money that we had, so they thank goodness that that happened it.

I think this thing’s both times to charm, so that’s. We got the Falcon, went orbit and then began to scale that up to to the Falcon 9, which is about an order of magnitude, more thrust. It’s, a around a million pounds of thrust and we managed to get that to orbit and then developed Dragon spacecraft, which recently was able to dock and return to Earth from the space station.

That was thanks. I was a white knuckled event, so yeah it’s. A huge relief still can’t quite believe it actually happened, but but there’s, a lot more. That must happen beyond this. In order for humanity to become a spacefaring civilization and ultimately, a multi-planet species, and that’s, something I think it’s.

It’s, it’s, vitally important, and – and I hope that that some of you will participate in that either at SpaceX or at other companies, because it’s. Just really one of the most important things for the preservation and extension of consciousness, and it’s worth noting.

As I’m sure, people are aware that the earth has been around for four billion years and civilization, at least in terms of having writing has been around for ten thousand years and that’s being generous.

So it’s, it’s. Really it’s, sort of a tenuous existence that that civilization and and consciousness as we know it is there’s been on earth and I think I’m. Actually, I’m, actually fairly optimistic about the future of Earth.

So I don’t want to. I’d, want to sort of people to have the wrong impression that I think we’re all about to die. I think I think well, I think things will most likely be okay for a look for a long time on earth, but not not for sure but most likely, but even if it’s, if it’s, sort of 99 % likely One, a 1 % chance it’s.

Still it’s, still worth spending a fair bit of effort to ensure that we have. We’ve, backed up the biosphere in a planetary redundancy. If you will and – and so I think, I think it’s really really quite important, and in order to that there’s, a breakthrough that needs to occur, which is to create a rapidly and completely reusable transport system to Mars, which Which is one of those things that’s right on the borderline of of impossible, but that that’s? Sort of the thing that we’re.

We’re, going to try to achieve there with with with SpaceX and then on the on the on the Tesla front. The goal with Tesla was really to try to show that what what electric cars can do, because people had the wrong impression.

We had to change people’s perception of an electric vehicle because they used to think of it as something that was slow and ugly and had low range can like a golf, cart and whoop. So that’s. Why we created the Tesla Roadster to show that you can be fast, attractive and and long range and it’s.

Amazing. How? Even though you can show that something works on paper, you know, and the calculations are very clear until you actually have the physical object and they can, they can drive it. It doesn’t really sink in for people, and so that that I think is, is something worth noting.

If you’re going to create a company, the first thing you should try to do is create a working prototype. Your everything everything looks great on PowerPoint. You can make anything work on PowerPoint, but if you have an actual demonstration article, even if it’s in primitive form, that’s, much much more effective for convincing people.

So so we made the Tesla Roadster, and now we’re coming out soon, with the Model S which is a four-door sedan, because after we made the Tesla Roadster people said, oh sure, sure we always knew you could make a car like that.

It’s, an expensive car and it’s, low volume and it’s, small and all that. But you can make a real car like okay, fine! You’re gonna make that two, so that that’s coming out soon and yeah, so that that’s, that that’s.

That’s! The I think, the the word where things are and and and hopefully that there are some lessons to be to be drawn there, but I I think the overarching point I want to make is that you guys are the magicians of the 21st century.

You know don’t like anything hold you back. Imagination, is the limit and go out there and create some magic. Thank you. [ Applause ]. I’d, like to thank you for leaving crazy person out of the description, so I thought I try to think what is the most useful thing that I could.

What could I say like that could actually helpful or useful to you in the future, and I thought perhaps tell the story of how I sort of came to be here. How did some of these things happen and – and maybe there’s – some lessons there, because I often find myself wondering how did this happen? So when I was young, I I I didn’t really know what I was going to do.

We’re, not when I got older people kept asking me and and but but then eventually I thought the idea of inventing things would be would be really cool and the reason I thought that was because I read a quote from Odyssey clock, which Said that a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic and and that’s really true, if you think, if you go back say 300 years, the things that we take for granted today would be you’d, be burned at the stake For you know being able to fly that’s, crazy, being able to see over long distances being able to communicate having effectively with the internet a a group, mind of sorts and having access to all the world’s.

Information instantly from almost anywhere in the earth. This is the stuff that that really would be magic. It would be considered magic in times past. In fact, I think it actually goes beyond that, because there are many things that we take for granted today, that weren’t even imagined in times past they weren’t even in the realm of magic.

So it actually goes goes beyond that, so I thought well, you know if, if I can do some of those things, basically, if I can advanced technology, then that that’s like magic and I would be really cool and the the I always had Sort of a slight existential crisis, because I was trying to figure out what does it all mean like what’s, the purpose of things, and I came to the conclusion that if we can advance the the knowledge of the world, if we can do Things that expand the scope and and scale of consciousness, then we’re, better able to ask the right questions and become more enlightened and and that’s, really the only way forward.

So so it’s. Like I studied physics and business because I figured in order to do a lot of these things, you need to know how the universe works and you need to know how how the economy works, and you also need to built, bring a lot of people together to Work with you to create something because it’s very difficult to do something as as an individual if it’s, if it’s, a significant technology, so I originally came out to California to try to figure out how To improve the energy density of electric vehicles, basically to try to figure out if there was an advanced capacitor that I could serve as an alternative to batteries, and that was in 95 and that’s.

Also, when the internet started to happen and – and it I I thought well, I can either pursue this tech. This technology, where success may be, may not be one of the possible outcomes which is always tricky or participate in the internet and and be part of it.

So I decided to drop out now is the you. Unfortunately, we’re past graduation, so I can’t, be accused of recommending that to you and so did some internet stuff. You know they ‘ Ve. Put a few things here and there, what one of which is PayPal, and I think, maybe it’s – helpful.

To say, one of the things that was important than in the creation of PayPal was whiskey was kind of how it started, because initially, the initial thought was with PayPal was to create an agglomeration of financial services.

So if you have one place where all your financial services needs would be seamlessly integrated and and work smoothly, and then we had like a little feature, which was through email payments and whenever we’d, show that show the system off to someone would Show the hard part, which was the the agglomeration of financial services, which was quite difficult to

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