Mohammad Al Gergawi in a conversation with Elon Musk during WGS17

What a challenge! To talk to one of the most,
in my opinion, in life, we've seen,
within this part of the world, great people, like Al-Khawarizmi
who invented algorithm. Globally, Newton. Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Albert Einstein and Elon Musk. See, you are in rush, You want to go to places
that nobody has been. You are re-inventing a certain industry, from the rocket industry with SpaceX
to the car industry with Tesla. What's your life mission?
Why do you do whatever you do? Sure, first of all, thank you for having me. It's an honor to be here. And I'm having a really great time
with my kids in Dubai. It's really been fantastic.
I really encourage anyone who hasn't been to visit,
what a great city! Thank you. And, in terms of the motivations, I used to like this sort of… kind of a long version of the explanation
but… essentially, when I was a kid I was
wondering, what's the meaning of life? Like, why are we here?
What is it all about? And I came to the conclusion
that what really matters is trying to understand the right questions
to ask.

And the more that we can increase the scope
and scale of human consciousness, the better we're able to ask
these questions. And… So, I think there are certain things
that are necessary to ensure that the future is good. And… some of those things are
in the long term having long term sustainable transport
and sustainable energy generation. And to be a space exploring civilization. And for humanity to be out there
among the stars. And be a multi-planetary species. I think that being a multi-planetary species
and being out there among the stars is important for the long term
survival of humanity. And, that's one reason,
kind of like life insurance for life collectively.
Life as we know it. But then the part that I find personally
most motivating is that it creates a sense of adventure, and it makes people excited about the future. If you consider two futures, one where
we are forever confined to Earth until eventually something terrible happens.

Or another future where we are out there
on many planets, maybe even going beyond the solar system. I think that space invasion
is incredibly exciting and inspiring. And there need to be reasons to get up
in the morning. You know, life can't just be about
solving problems. Otherwise, what's the point? There's got to be things
that people find inspiring, and make life worth living. So, what is life for you? I mean, you look at our life,
and I heard you before speaking. Is it a dream? Is it real?
Is it a million deal? What is life for Elon Musk? I find that as I get older
I find that question to be maybe more and more confusing
or troubling or uncertain.

Particularly when you see the advancement
of something like video games. You know, 40 years ago, you had video games,
the most advanced video game would be like Pong, when you had two rectangles
and a dot. And you're like batting it back and forth. – I played it.
– Yeah, me too, exactly. – Us all.
– It sort of dates you a little bit. Yeah, we both played the same game. And that was like a pretty fun game
at the time.

But now, you can see a video game that's
photo-realistic, almost photo-realistic, and millions of people
playing simultaneously. And, and you see where things are going
with virtual reality. And augmented reality
and… if you extrapolate that out into the future
with any rate of progress at all, like keeping 0.1% of something
like that a year, then eventually those games will be
indistinguishable from reality. They'll be so realistic you won't be able
to tell the difference between that game and reality as we know it. And then, it seems like, well, how do we know that that didn't happen
in the past? And that we're not in one
of those games ourselves? Interesting. Interesting. I mean, it could be. Everything is possible in life. I mean there's… Yeah, particularly like things tend to be
accelerating to something. Isn't it? I mean, if we look at our life, it seems in the past 100 years
life has been accelerating quite fast. – Yeah.
– In the past 20 years. – It's getting faster and faster.
– Is it more slow? So, my question is really,
how will life be 20, 30, 50 years from now? Our education, our transport.
How do you see it? Well, I think this is one of those things
that are quite difficult to predict.

When you think of, say, the first controlled
power flight was in 1903 with the Wright Brothers. And then, 66 years later
we put the first people on the moon. I mean, if you asked people,
say, in 1900, what are the odds of landing on the moon
they would've said that's ridiculous. If you try to talk to them
about the internet they wouldn't know
what the heck you're even… What are you talking about?
Like, this sounds so crazy. But today, with a hundred-dollar device
you can video-conference with anyone in the world.

On the other side of the world,
and if you have a Wi-Fi connection, it's basically free. You're free to have an instant visual
communication with anyone, or even with millions of people. You know, with social media you can
communicate to millions of people simultaneously. So, and you can google something
and ask any question. It's like an oracle of wisdom, that you can ask almost any questions
and get an instant response.

It would be incredibly difficult to predict
these things in the past. Even the relatively recent past. So, I think the one thing that we can be
quite certain of is that any predictions we make today
for what the future will be like in 50 years will be wrong That's for sure.
I think directionally, I can tell you what I hope the future has,
as opposed to maybe what it will be.

This may just be wishful thinking. I mean I hope we are out there on Mars
and maybe beyond Mars, Jupiter. I hope we're traveling frequently
throughout the solar system, perhaps preparing for missions
to nearby star systems. I think all of that is possible in 50 years. And I think it's going to be
very exciting to do that. And, I think we'll see autonomy
and artificial intelligence advance tremendously.

Like that's actually quite near term. My guess is in probably 10 years, it will be very unusual for cars to be built
that are not fully autonomous. – 10 years.
– 10 years from now? Yeah. I think almost all cars built
will be able of full autonomy in about 10 years. As it is, the Tesla cars that are made today, have the sensor system necessary
for full autonomy. And we think probably enough compute
power to be safer than a person. So, it's mostly just the question
of developing the software and uploading the software. And if it turns out that
more compute power is needed, we can easily upgrade the computer. And, so that's all Teslas built
since October last year. And other manufacturers will follow
and do the same thing. So, getting in a car will be like
getting in an elevator. You just tell it where you want to go
and it takes you there with extreme levels of safety.

And that will be normal,
that will just be normal. Like, for elevators,
they used to be elevator operators. You get in, there will be a guy
moving a lever. Now, you just get in, you press the button
and that's taken for granted. So, autonomy will be wide-spread. I think one of the most troubling questions
is artificial intelligence.

And I don't mean narrow AI, like, vehicle autonomy I would put
in the narrow AI class. It's narrowly trying to achieve
a certain function. But deep artificial intelligence, or what is sometimes called
artificial general intelligence, where you can have AI that is much smarter
than the smartest human on Earth. This, I think, is a dangerous situation. Why is it dangerous?
I mean, there are two views, one view is that artificial intelligence
will help humanity, and there's another
school of thought that artificial intelligence
is a threat to humanity. – Why is that?
– I think it's both. You know, it's like… one way to think of it is imagine
we're going to be visited… imagine you're very confident
that we're going to be visited by super intelligent aliens, in let's say 10 years or 20 years
at the most.

– Super intelligent.
– So, you think within 20 years… – Yeah…
– we'll have aliens on Earth? Well, digital super intelligence
will be like an alien. – It will be like an alien.
– Yeah. But my question is, do you think there is other intelligent life
outside the Earth? It seems probable. I think this is one of the great questions
in physics and philosophy, is, where are the aliens? Maybe they are among us, I don't know. Some people think I'm an alien. Not true. – Not true.
– But maybe we are aliens. Maybe we aliens. I mean,
if you look at this part of the world. Yeah. They believe that human beings
are not from Earth, they came from somewhere else. Eve and Adam came from somewhere else
to Earth. So, in a way, human beings
are aliens to this land. Do you think we'll make contact with aliens
within the next 50 years? Well, that's a really tough one to say. If there are
super intelligent aliens out there, they're probably already observing us.

That would seem quite likely
and we're not smart enough to realize it. But I can do some back
of the envelope calculations and… any advanced alien civilization
that is at all interested in populating the galaxy, even without exceeding the speed of light, even if you're only moving at, say,
10 or 20 per cent of the speed of light, you could populate the entire galaxy
in let's say 10 million years. Maybe 20 million years max. This is nothing in the grand scheme
of things. Once you said you wanted to die on Mars.
Why? To be clear, I don't want to die on Mars. It's like, if…
we're all going to die someday, and if you're going to pick
some place to die, then why not Mars? You know, if you're born on Earth,
why not die on Mars? Seems like may be quite exciting. But, I think given the choice between dying
on Earth and dying on Mars, I'd say, yeah, sure, I'll die on Mars.

But it's not some kind of Mars death wish. And if I do die on Mars, I just don't want
to go on impact. Let's come back to Earth, actually. You tweeted that you are building
a tunnel under Washington D.C. Why? What is it? – It's a secret plot.
– Okay. – Just between us.
– Nobody helps you? Yeah, exactly, let's keep that a secret. I think this is going to sound a little… I mean, it seems like so much
trivial or silly, but…

I've been saying this for many years now
but I think that the solution to urban congestion
is a network of tunnels under cities. And when I say that I don't mean
a 2-D plan of tunnels, I mean tunnels that go many levels deep. So, you can always go deeper
than you can go up. Like, the deepest mines are deeper
than the tallest buildings. So, you can have a network of tunnels
that is 20, 30, 40, 50 levels, as many levels as you want, really.

And so, given that, you can overcome
the congestion situation in any city in the world. The challenge is how do you build tunnels
quickly and at low cost and with high safety? So, if tunnel technology can be improved
to the point where you can build tunnels fast, cheap and safe, then that would completely get rid
of any traffic situations in the cities. And so, that's why I think
it's an important technology. And, Washington D.C., L.A
and most of the major American cities, most major cities in the world suffer
from severe traffic issues. And it's mostly because you've
got these buildings which are, these tall buildings that are 3-D and you
have a road network that is one level. And then, people generally want to go
in and out of these buildings at the exact same time. So, then, you get the traffic jam. Let's come back to… your year in Dubai. The first time I met you it was
the 4th of June 2015, at your office in SpaceX.

And, I asked you would you have a presence
in UAE? And your answer was: I'm busy with China. Maybe not in the near future,
and almost a year and a half later, we are here, seems time goes quite fast. Why now? I think actually things are going
really well in China. So, we have some initial challenges
figuring out charging and service infrastructure
and various other things, but now it's actually going really well,
and… so the timing seems to be good
to really make a significant debut in this region,
starting in Dubai. In your opinion, what is the new
disturbing thing that will come next in technology?
What's next in technology? – What's next in technology?
– That will disturb the way we live, the way we think,
the way we do business. Well, the most near to impact
from a technological standpoint is autonomous cars, like fully
self-driving cars. I'd say that's going to happen
much faster than people realize. so, and that's… it's going to be a great convenience
to be in an autonomous car, but there are many people
whose job is to drive.


So, if… in fact I think it might be
the single largest employer of people is driving in various forms. And so, then we need to figure out
new rules for what do these people do. But it will all be very disruptive
and very quick. I should characterize what I mean
by quick. Because there are… Quick means different things
to different people. There are about two billion vehicles
in the world. Approaching in fact 2.5 billion cars
and trucks in the world. The total new vehicle production capacity
is about a hundred million. Which makes sense,
because the life of a car or truck before it's finally scraped
is about 20-25 years. So, so the point at which we see
full autonomy appear will not be the point at which
there is massive societal upheaval, because it will take a long time
to make enough autonomous vehicles to disrupt employment. So, that disruption I'm talking about
will take place over about 20 years. Still, 20 years is a short period of time
to have I think something like 12 to 15 per cent of the world force
be unemployed.

Thank you. This is the largest global government summit
we have over 139 governments here. If you want to advise government officials
to be ready for the future, what three pieces of advice
can you give them? Well, I think the first bit of advice
is to really play close attention to… the development of artificial intelligence. I think this is, we need to be just
be very careful in…

How we adopt artificial intelligence, and to make sure that researchers
don't get carried away, because sometimes what happens
is that scientists can get so engrossed in their work, they don't necessarily realize the
ramifications of what they're doing. So, I think it's important for public safety
that we… you know, governments keep a close eye
on artificial intelligence and make sure that it does not represent
a danger to the public. Let's see, secondly I would say we do need to think about transport
in general. And, there's the movement towards
electric vehicles, sustainable transport, I think that's going to be good
for many reasons, but again, not something that happens immediately,
that's going to happen slower than the self-driving vehicles. Because that's probably something
that happens over 30 or 40 years.

The transition to electric vehicles. So, thinking about that in context… the demand for electricity
will increase dramatically. So, currently, in terms of total
energy usage in the world, it's about 1/3, about 1/3 transport,
about 1/3 heating. So, over time that will transition
to almost all… not all, but predominantly electricity, which means that the demand
for electricity will probably triple. So, it's going to be very important
to think about how do you make so much more electricity And… It seems they'll have an easy job,
that's it, there are no more challenges for them. No, well, I think maybe… these things do play into each other
a little bit, but what to do about mass unemployment? This is going to be a massive
social challenge. And I think ultimately will have to have
some kind of universal basic income I don't think we're going to have a choice. – Universal basic income.
– Universal basic income. I think it's going to be necessary. So, it means that unemployed people
will be paid across the globe.

– Yeah.
– Because there are no jobs. Machines, robots are taking over. There will be fewer and fewer jobs
that a robot cannot do better. That's simply… And I want to be clear, these are not
things that I wish would happen. These are simply things that I think
probably will happen. And so, if my assessment is correct
and they probably will happen, then we need to say what are we going
to do about it. And I think some kind of universal basic
income is going to be necessary. Now, the output of goods and services
will be extremely high.

So, with automation, there will come abundance. There will be… almost everything
will get very cheap. The… So… I think the biggest…
I think we'll just end up doing a universal basic income.
It's going to be necessary. The harder challenge,
much harder challenge, is how do people then have meaning? Like a lot of people they derive
their meaning from their employment, so, if you don't have…
if you're not needed, if there's not a need for your labor,
how do you…

What's the meaning?
Do you have meaning? Do you feel useless? That's a much harder problem
to deal with. And then how do we ensure that the future
is going to be the future that we want? That we so like. You know, I mean do think
that there's a potential path here which is, I'm really getting into science fiction
or sort of advanced science stuff.

But, having some sort of merger
with biological intelligence, and machine intelligence. To some degree, we are already
a cyborg. You think of like the digital tools
that you have, your phone and your computer,
the applications that you have. Like the fact that as I mentioned earlier
you can ask a question and instantly get an answer
from Google or from other things.

And, and so you already have
a digital touchery layer. I say touchery because you can think
of the limbic system, kind of the animal brain or the primal brain
and then the cortex, kind of the thinking, planning
part of the brain, and then your digital self
as a third layer. So, you already have that,
and I think if somebody dies, their digital ghost is still around. All of their e-mails and the pictures
that they posted and their social media. That still lives, even if they died. So, over time I think we'll probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence
and digital intelligence. And it's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between
your brain and your digital…

The digital extension of yourself. Particularly output,
and, if anything is getting worse, you know, we used to have keyboards
that we used a lot, now we do most of our input
through our thumbs, on a phone. And, that's just very slow. A computer can communicate at a trillion
bits per second, but your thumb can maybe do
maybe 10 bits per second or a hundred if you're being generous. So, some high bandwidth interface
to the brain I think will be something that helps
achieve symbiosis, between human and machine intelligence
and maybe solves the control problem
and the usefulness problem. I'm getting pretty esoteric here,
I don't know is this is… It's close, we got it. Always you think out of the box. Your ideas are so huge. You want to go to space,
you decided to go to space, you did it. You decided that you wanted
to land your rocket back, – you failed, 7 times, 8 times?
– Yeah, something like that.

– Then it landed.
– 4 times that I care to count. How do you come with these ideas? Sometimes they are pushing
the human limit. You are always pushing
the human limit, why? Well, I… I think about what technology solution
is necessary in order to achieve that particular goal, and then try to make as much progress
in that direction as possible. So, in the case of space flight,
the critical breakthrough that's necessary in space flight, is rapid incomplete reusability of rockets. Just as we have for air crafts. You can imagine that if an air craft
was a single use, almost no one would fly.

Because you can buy like, say,
747 might be… 250 million Dollars, 300 million Dollars,
something like that. You need two of them
for a round trip. But nobody is going to pay millions
of Dollars for a ticket to fly. To do air travel. So, but because you can re-use
the air craft tens of thousands of times, the… Air travel becomes much more affordable. And, the same is true of rockets.
Our rocket costs… 60 million Dollars, roughly. So, a capital cost if it can be used once
in 60 million Dollars. But if the capital cost if it can be used
a thousand times is 60 thousand Dollars. So, then if you can carry a lot of people
for a flight, then you can get the cost of space flight
to be something not far from the cost of air flight. So, it's truly fundamental, because earth gravity is quite deep. Earth has a fairly high gravity.

The difficulty of making a rocket reusable is much greater than the difficulty
of making an air craft reusable. That's why a fully reusable rocket
hasn't been developed that far. But if you use the most advanced materials, the most advanced design techniques, and you get everything just right, then I'm confident that you can do
a fully reusable rocket. Fortunately, if Earth gravity
was even 10 per cent stronger, I would say it wouldn't be impossible. You need a team around you
to deliver a lot of ideas. How do you choose your team?
Based on what? Well, I suppose honestly that it tends to be
a gut feeling more than anything else. So, when I interview somebody, the main questions are always
the same. What do you ask? I say: Tell me the story of your life. And, the decisions that you made
along the way and why you made them. And then, and also tell me about some of the most
difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.

And, that question I think is very important,
because… the people that really solved the problem, they know exactly how they solved it. They know the little details. And the people that pretended
to solve the problem, they can maybe go one level
and then they get stuck. So, what was your biggest challenge
in life? Biggest challenge in life? – No challenge?
– Well, no, there's a lot of them.

I'm trying to sort which is the worst. I think just thinking
about how to spend time. One of the biggest challenges I think
is making sure you have a corrective feedback loop, and then maintaining that corrective
feedback loop over time, even when people won't to tell you
exactly what you want to hear. – That's very difficult.
– Yes. Time is over.
I'll ask you just one last question. If you allow me. In the World Government Summit
we have so many people from…
so many young people actually from across the Globe.

If you have an advice to them, young people globally
who want to be like Elon Musk. What's your advice to them? I think that probably
they shouldn't want to be. – You?
– I think it sounds better than it is. Okay. Yeah, it's not as much fun being me
as you'd think. – I don't know.
– You don't think so? It could be worse, for sure. But it's… I'm not sure I want to be me. Okay. But… You know, I think my advice is if you want
to make progress in things, I think that the best analytical framework for, I'll say
in the future is physics. I'd recommend studying
the thinking process around physics. Like, not just the equations,
the equations are certainly very helpful, but the way of thinking in physics,
it's the best framework for understanding things
that are counter–intuitive. And, you know, always take the position
that you are to some degree wrong, and your goal is to be
less wrong over time. One of the biggest mistakes people
generally make and I'm guilty of it too is wishful thinking.

You know, like you want something
to be true, even if it isn't true. And so you ignore the things that… You ignore the real truth,
because of what you want to be true. This is a very difficult trap to avoid. And like I said, it's certainly one that
I find myself in, having problems with. But, if you just take that approach of that
you're always to some degree wrong and your goal is to be less wrong. And solicit critical feedback,
particularly from friends. Like, friends, if somebody loves you
they want the best for you. They don't want to tell you
the bad things. So, you have to ask them
and say: I do really want to know. And then they will tell you. Thank you very much. It's been… It's great for the World Government Summit
to have a legend, who's creating the future
for humanity, to share his thoughts, his ideas,
his visions, challenges, and his hope for life.
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me..

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