Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs—a real-life Tony Stark—and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new “makers.”

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’s life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk—one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history—is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.

Thorough and insightful, Elon Musk brings to life a technology industry that is rapidly and dramatically changing by examining the life of one of its most powerful and influential titans.

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

For over three decades, Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his classic The Age of Spiritual Machines, he argued that computers would soon rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now he examines the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine, in which the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our creations.

Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics

Selections from Science and Sanity represents Alfred Korzybski’s authorized abridgement of his magnum opus, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. This second edition, published in response to the recent Korzybski revival, adds new introductory material and a revised index, providing an accessible introduction to Korzybski’s arguments concerning the need for a non-Aristotelian approach to knowledge, thought, perception, and language, to coincide with our non-Newtonian physics and non-Euclidean geometries, to Korzybski’s practical philosophy, applied psychology, pragmatics of human communication, and educational program. Selections from Science and Sanity serves as an excellent introduction to general semantics as a system intended to aid the individual’s adjustment to reality, enhance intellectual and creative activities, and alleviate the many social ills that have plagued humanity throughout our history.

Looking Backward: 2000–1887

First published in 1888, Looking Backward was one of the most popular novels of its day. Translated into more than 20 languages, its utopian fantasy influenced such thinkers as John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen, Eugene V. Debs, and Norman Thomas. Writing from a 19th century perspective and poignantly critical of his own time, Bellamy advanced a remarkable vision of the future, including such daring predictions as the existence of radio, television, motion pictures, credit cards, and covered pedestrian malls.

On the surface, the novel is the story of time-traveler Julian West, a young Bostonian who is put into a hypnotic sleep in the late 19th century, and awakens in the year 2000 in a socialist utopia. In conversations with the doctor who awakened him, he discovers a brilliantly realized vision of an ideal future, one that seemed unthinkable in his own century. Crime, war, personal animosity, and want are nonexistent. Equality of the sexes is a fact of life. In short, a messianic state of brotherly love is in effect.
Entertaining, stimulating, and thought-provoking, Looking Backward, with its ingenious plot and appealing socialism, is a provocative study of human society as it is and as it might be.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

In Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart present an integration of design and science that provides enduring benefits for society from safe materials, water and energy in circular economies and eliminates the concept of waste.

The book puts forward a design framework characterized by three principles derived from nature:

Everything is a resource for something else. In nature, the “waste” of one system becomes food for another. Everything can be designed to be disassembled and safely returned to the soil as biological nutrients, or re-utilized as high quality materials for new products as technical nutrients without contamination.

Use clean and renewable energy. Living things thrive on the energy of current solar income. Similarly, human constructs can utilize clean and renewable energy in many forms—such as solar, wind, geothermal, gravitational energy and other energy systems being developed today—thereby capitalizing on these abundant resources while supporting human and environmental health.

Celebrate diversity. Around the world, geology, hydrology, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling, adapted to locale, yield an astonishing diversity of natural and cultural life. Designs that respond to the challenges and opportunities offered by each place fit elegantly and effectively into their own niches.

Rather than seeking to minimize the harm we inflict, Cradle to Cradle reframes design as a positive, regenerative force—one that creates footprints to delight in, not lament. This paradigm shift reveals opportunities to improve quality, increase value and spur innovation. It inspires us to constantly seek improvement in our designs, and to share our discoveries with others.

The Engineers and the Price System

Veblen proposed a soviet of engineers in one chapter in “The Engineers and the Price System.” Veblen believed that engineers, not workers, would overthrow capitalism. He had a penchant for socialism and believed that technological developments would eventually lead toward a socialistic organization of economic affairs. However, his views on socialism and the nature of the evolutionary process of economics differed sharply from that of Karl Marx; while Marx saw socialism as the ultimate goal for civilization and saw the working class as the group that would establish it, Veblen saw socialism as one intermediate phase in an ongoing evolutionary process in society that would be brought about by the natural decay of the business enterprise system and by the inventiveness of engineers. A classic work.

Designing the Future

A Future by Design

Are you prepared to design the future?

Although many of us feel we can prepare for our future by thinking, acting, and learning using present methods and values, nothing is farther from the truth – especially in today’s rapidly changing world. A newborn child enters a world not of his or her own making. Each succeeding generation inherits the values, accomplishments, hopes, successes, and failings of previous generations. And they inherit the results of the decisions made by those generations.

For the hundreds of thousands of years of human existence when technologies were simple or non-existent, this may have had little impact on human life and the earth that sustains it. Each generation of hunters and gatherers, then plowmen and pioneers, passed on tools to the next generation to help them survive. Change from one generation to the next was slow and hardly noticeable. In those days there was little understanding of science and how things worked, and explanations were not scientific.

This is no longer the case in today’s high-tech world where a change that affects millions may happen in a matter of seconds. A child born today inherits a world vastly different from that of its parent’s generation, let alone that from centuries ago. Previous generations left a legacy of, exploitation, occupation, and irrelevant values that present great challenges, but also opportunities to the people of today.

The application of scientific principles, for better or worse, accounts for every single advance that has improved people’s lives. Important documents and proclamations have been issued granting rights and privileges to members of societies, but at the heart of human progress – or destruction – is the rock-solid foundation of science.

For generations past it was impossible to direct the future much beyond the present moment, and forecasts of the future were based on non- scientific methods. Prophets and sages presented visions of the future based on dreams, hallucinations, religious fervor, divination of animal parts, crystal balls, etc. Some may even have been accurate, but this was more because of luck than because of any direct channel to the supernatural.

Now satellites circle the globe beaming down information in fractions of a second about everything that impacts our lives. This information is very valuable for projecting weather patterns, high and low points, geological hot and cold spots, where people live, and the warming of the planet. This has given us, for the first time, the ability to monitor the health of the planet, which many scientists see as in serious, if not critical, condition.

In a single day, trillions of bits of scientific data zip through cyberspace at light-speed, making a high-tech civilization possible. While physical science and technology silently direct much of the action, millions of people around the globe still practice pseudo-science, using fortune- tellers, seers, and philosophers for their daily direction. Many world leaders regularly consult psychics, mediums, and astrologers for guidance in decisions that determine the fate of millions.

Present human activity and its consequences does not have to be shaped by the needs and values of our ancestors. In fact, it must not be. For instance, armed conflict between nations is still seen by many as the only way to settle differences. It is especially promoted by those who profit handsomely from the sale of armaments. This is now totally unacceptable and dangerous because of war’s extreme human and environmental costs.

A militant viewpoint is obsolete once we view the world as a whole interrelated system with all its people as one family. Managing accelerating changes in technology and managing ourselves require new outlooks and approaches. This is now both necessary and possible because of technological change.

These lessons are designed to challenge the reader to direct the future; not just one’s own, but that of society

Kevin Kelly | 12 Inevitable Tech Forces That Will Shape Our Future | SXSW Interactive 2016

In a few years we’ll have artificial intelligence that can accomplish professional human tasks. There is nothing we can do to stop this. In addition our lives will be totally 100% tracked by ourselves and others. This too is inevitable. Indeed much of what will happen in the next 30 years is inevitable, driven by technological trends which are already in motion, and are impossible to halt without halting civilization. Some of what is coming may seem scary, like ubiquitous tracking, or robots replacing humans. Others innovations seem more desirable, such as an on-demand economy, and virtual reality in the home. And some that is coming like network crime and anonymous hacking will be society’s new scourges. Yet both the desirable good and the undesirable bad of these emerging technologies all obey the same formation principles.

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