If you where wondering if Elon Musk sleeps at all, he answers that question in the 'Ask Me Anything' crowdsourced interview that he did last night on popular community site Reddit. Because Musk had a reusable SpaceX rocket launch planned this morning - which ended up being aborted because of a problem detected in the steering mechanism of the rocket's upper stage - most of the questions that he answered had to do with that, but there were also other interesting questions and answers (the whole discussion had over 10,000 comments within hours!).
Here are a few highlights:
Q: I’m a teacher, and I always wonder what I can do to help my students achieve big things. What’s something your teachers did for you while you were in school that helped to encourage your ideas and thinking? Or, if they didn't, what's something they could have done better? thanks!
A: The best teacher I ever had was my elementary school principal. Our math teacher quit for some reason and he decided to sub in himself for math and accelerate the syllabus by a year.
We had to work like the house was on fire for the first half of the lesson and do extra homework, but then we got to hear stories of when he was a soldier in WWII. If you didn't do the work, you didn't get to hear the stories. Everybody did the work.
Q: Hi Elon. A friend of mine is all paranoid about the computer singularity, and used your name as a source of his paranoia. Don't you think it could all be a bunch of hype?
A: The timeframe is not immediate, but we should be concerned. There needs to be a lot more work on AI safety. And, with all due respect to the Roomba dude, that is not a concern.
Q: Hi Elon, I'm already saving up for my Model 3. Can you share anything about the Model 3 that we don't already know?
A: It won't look like other cars [what a tease! -Ed.]
Q: How do you learn so much so fast? Lots of people read books and talk to other smart people, but you've taken it to a whole new level.
It seems you have an extremely proficient understanding of aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, all various subdisciplines (avionics, power electronics, structural engineering, propulsion, energy storage, AI) ETC ETC nearly all things technical.
I know you've read a lot of books and you hire a lot of smart people and soak up what they know, but you have to acknowledge you seem to have found a way to pack more knowledge into your head than nearly anyone else alive. Do you have any advice on learning? How are you so good at it?
A: I do kinda feel like my head is full! My context switching penalty is high and my process isolation is not what it used to be.
Frankly, though, I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying.
One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.
Q: How much do you sleep per night, on average?
A: I actually measured this with my phone! Almost exactly 6 hours on average.
Q: You seem to have had to deal with a tremendous amount of adversity in a few of your ventures. Do you have any advice for those dealing with seemingly insurmountable adversity?
A: There is a great quote by Churchill: "If you're going through hell, keep going."
Q: Would you ever consider becoming a politician?
It's not the first time that Musk does a Q&A with Reddit. A few years ago he did a video one that you can see here.