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Elon Musk presenting Tesla's fully autonomous future.

Elon Musk is the wealthiest person in human history because he changed how we send money and drive cars. He’s set his sights on taking humans to Mars and just bought Twitter, one of the world’s most powerful platforms for the exchange of ideas.

He’s loved by some, hated by others and, for the most part, a mystery to all. How can someone develop such an incredibly broad, positive vision for humanity while at the same time being able to reduce himself to a Twitter troll?


Three months ago, Musk gave a little insight into his inner world and what drives his decision-making. On August 1, he retweeted a plug for “What We Owe the Future,” a book by the Scottish philosopher and ethicist William MacAskill. “Worth reading. This is a close match for my philosophy,” Musk captioned the retweet.

MacAskill’s book is a call for the embrace of a philosophy known as “longtermism,” which he defines as "the idea that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time." He argues that we can make the future better in two ways, "by averting permanent catastrophes, thereby ensuring civilisation's survival; or by changing civilisation's trajectory to make it better while it lasts ... Broadly, ensuring survival increases the quantity of future life; trajectory changes increase its quality.”


The philosophy strives for the common good by focusing on the long-term goal of humanity’s survival. But long-term good may sometimes come at the expense of the short-term. “Because, the theory goes, giving a poor person a blanket isn’t likely to be as useful for the future of humanity as building a rocket to Mars,” investigative journalist Dave Troy writes on Medium.

Musk’s development of the Tesla fits right into the longtermer view of the world. “The fundamental goodness of Tesla … so like the ‘why’ of Tesla, the relevance, what’s the point of Tesla, comes down to two things: acceleration of sustainable energy and autonomy,” Musk said.

"The acceleration of sustainable energy is fundamental because this is the next potential risk for humanity,” Musk added. “So obviously, that is, by far and away, the most important thing.”

To achieve this goal, Musk had a long-term master plan that was an extremely rare thing in the auto industry. It was more akin to John F. Kennedy’s call to go to the moon than the auto industry's usual vision, which is boxed in by quarter-to-quarter thinking.

Musk’s work to drive to normalize space travel and eventually colonize the moon and Mars fits nicely into the longtermism theory as well. Musk has called interplanetary travel and colonization “life insurance” for the human species. While some focus on the medium-range goal of reducing the planet’s temperature, Musk is focusing on a possible future that may never come to fruition. However, aside from climate change, we may face other cataclysmic events that make Earth unfit for human life such as a meteor or ice age.

So why did Musk buy Twitter? Troy believes that the acquisition fits perfectly into the longtermer worldview.

“The goals are more ideological in nature,” Troy writes. “Musk and his backers believe that the global geopolitical arena was being warped by too much ‘woke’ ideology and censorship, and wanted to fix that by first restoring voices that had previously been silenced—and then implementing technical and algorithmic solutions that allow each user to get the experience they want.”

It appears as though Musk believes that the more regressive forms of progressive ideology work to stifle the spread of ideas and opening up the platform to all voices, regardless of how vile they may be, serves the ultimate goal of broadening human potential. Again, he's sacrificing the short-term problems that stem from hate speech in favor of the potential for good ideas to emerge from the platform without being squelched.

Musk also alludes to longtermism with his stated mission to “extend the light of consciousness.” If Musk believes that humans are the only truly conscious beings in the universe, our demise would effectively extinguish the universe’s knowledge of itself. The universe would be nothing more than the proverbial tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it.

The thought of the world’s richest, and potentially most powerful, man making world-altering decisions with no rhyme or reason is a scary proposition. It’s woefully inadequate to simply label Musk a visionary or a troll. But if he’s driven by a moral imperative, then we can get a better handle on the objectives behind his work and make sense of him accordingly.

The problem is, given his focus on results that won’t be apparent for generations, will we ever truly understand what he’s about?

Did you know the very first Porsche ever designed was electric?

Ferdinand Porsche might have founded his famous car company in 1948, but he designed his very first car all the way back in 1898, when he was just 22 years old.


Imagine this chassis with two racks of seats on top and you'll see Porsche's vision. Image from Porsche.

Officially the 1898 Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton, Porsche's first car is more affectionately known as the P1. Incredibly, it didn't need a single drop of gas — the P1 was powered by a small electric motor.

Yep, that's right. It was an electric car.

So yeah, electric cars are actually super old. Like, as old as cars themselves.

An electric car in England, 1896. Photo from Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The first practical electric car was invented in 1884, back when we as humans were still, you know, figuring out what the heck a car was.

In fact, by 1900, more than a third of all vehicles on the road were electric. (Gas-powered cars made up just 22%, and the rest were steam-powered.)

Just like today's electric cars, the electric cars of a century ago had some major advantages over early gas-powered vehicles.

Early gas cars were clunky, loud, and dirty. Worse, drivers had to physically wrestle with the car to get it to move — every gear shift or hand-cranked start-up involved essentially arm-wrestling an ornery, hateful robot.

Thomas Edison posing with an electric car, 1895. Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images.

Electric cars, on the other hand, were easy to start, easy to drive, and quiet. They weren't exactly fast or long-range vehicles (they only went about 20 miles an hour), but this wasn't a problem in cities, where cars were primarily used. Plus the roads outside the city were pretty bad, and no one wanted to drive out there anyway.

These early electric cars had some major fans, too. The famous entrepreneur Thomas Edison backed electric cars, and even Henry Ford explored them as an option.

If electric cars had so many great benefits, why didn't they catch on? What went wrong?

Today, Texas is known for its gigantic crude oil production — but back around the turn of the century, we were just really starting to drill, baby, drill. Then, on Jan. 10, 1901, the Lucas No. 1 well in Spindletop blew its top, dramatically ushering in an era of cheap, readily available gasoline for America.

The Spindletop gusher, Jan. 10, 1901. Photo from John Trost/Wikimedia Commons.

In 1908, Henry Ford dealt a second blow to electric cars when he unveiled the gas-powered Ford Model T.

Largely thanks to Ford's use of an assembly line, the Model T was much cheaper than any other cars out there, costing only about a third as much as a comparable electric car.

A later model of the super-cheap Model T, the Model T Couplet, way back in 1914. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Plus, with the advent of the highway system, people wanted fast, cheap, powerful cars that they could use anywhere.

It's hard to imagine now, but at the time we also just didn't have the infrastructure to support electric cars. Today, you can get electricity pretty much anywhere. Before 1910, however, a lot of urban homes weren't wired for electricity, meaning people couldn't charge their cars at home. And electric cars certainly weren't an option for anyone living in a rural area where electricity wasn't even a thing.

Weirdly, sexism may have also played a role in the success of gas-guzzlers.

Electric cars were cleaner and easier to operate, and were therefore often marketed specifically toward women — gaining a reputation as being a woman's car.

I wish I were joking. Image from Rmherman/Wikimedia Commons.

This may have scared men away from purchasing them, driving them to buy gasoline-powered cars and, ugh, history, really?

Anyway, between weird marketing stigmatization, the low cost of crude oil, the much more affordable Model T, and the introduction of the highway system, by the 1930s, electric cars were pretty much gone.

Today, though, the advantages to electric cars are largely the same — and a lot of the disadvantages are a thing of the past.

Electric cars of today are still cleaner and quieter than gasoline-powered vehicles, and we're quickly solving a lot of the issues like cost and driving range.

Electric cars have historically been more expensive, but both Tesla and Chevy have announced they'll be producing electric cars in the actually-kind-of-affordable $30,000 range. Plus we've learned that while gasoline has been cheap, our exuberance for burning it and other fossil fuels has been writing the entire planet a massive bill — to the tune of over $1.9 trillion a year by 2100.

That just leaves infrastructure for charging electric cars, which, it turns out, has been growing up right under our noses.

We're still lacking a lot of the infrastructure we'll need to make electric cars truly ubiquitous, but it's slowly starting to appear.

A Tesla Supercharger in Fremont, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Tesla has been building a gigantic network of Superchargers, and ChargePoint claims to have more than 28,000 chargers ready for public use. Many non-car-related businesses like Walgreens are starting to provide charging stations in order to entice customers as well.

There are even services that let people with charging points at their homes rent them out to other electric car owners. One company, Fisker, even had an idea for a hybrid car that could charge via solar panels on the roof, meaning even needing to find a charging station may one day be a thing of the past.

To bring this story full circle, guess who's getting back into the electric car game?

That's right: Porsche.

A rendering of the Porsche Mission E concept car. Image from Porsche.

118 years after Ferdinand Porsche designed the P1, Porsche announced an electric car of its own: the Mission E. Originally just a concept car, Porsche has finally decided to put it into production.

Electric cars aren't a new fad — they're intimately tied to the very history of automobiles.

While there are some things they'll never do quite as well as gas-powered cars — like revving your engine before a big race — it's awesome to see that we might finally be entering an era where gas and electric cars are sharing the road again.

Last night, Tesla Motors' CEO Elon Musk unveiled their newest electric car — the Model 3. And the world went wild.

As of this writing, Tesla's already taken nearly 200,000 preorders in just 24 hours.




That's ridiculous, and they've even had to limit it to two cars per person. But why have so many people signed up for this awesome, emissions-free, world-saving car?

Well, for one, it's incredibly sexy.

From an ecological viewpoint, electric cars are really cool. The use batteries and electric motors instead of fossil fuels, which means they don't create carbon dioxide or airborne pollutants. But for a long time, they weren't the coolest-looking things on the road.

However, if your idea of green technology is something that looks like a glorified golf cart, this will blow your mind.


Image courtesy of Tesla Motors.

The car just looks awesome. And it comes with a lot of cool features too: the center console is a 15" computer screen that sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, the whole roof and rear windshield are a single sheet of glass, and it's got autopilot.

Autopilot!

But the big thing isn't just the look — it's the price tag too.

One of the huge drivers of Tesla's ridiculous first-day sales is definitely the price.

The base version of the Model 3 will sell for about $35,000, and Musk estimates that the average Model 3 will run about $42,000. Subtract from that the tax credit (up to $7,500) you might be eligible for from the government for buying an electric car and the total's really not bad, especially for a car this cool.

Image courtesy of Tesla Motors.

One of the big hurdles that a lot of green technology, like electric cars, has had to overcome is getting the price down to where regular people can actually afford it. Unfortunately, a lot of these earth-saving technologies have kind of been just for the 1%. Tesla's previous dream car, the Model S, started closer to $60-70,000, for example.

But this ... man — $35,000. I'm not rich, but I could afford that.

And Tesla's not the only company making a push for affordable green technology. The Chevy Bolt, another electric car due to debut next year, will also be in the I-don't-own-a-private-jet price range.

These preorder sales numbers prove something awesome — people really, reeeeally want green technology. You just have to give it to them.

Image courtesy of Tesla Motors.

This isn't a niche market. This isn't a trend. This is something people want and are passionate about. And it feels awesome to see companies dedicated to making Earth-saving, fossil-fuel-addiction-breaking technology really accessible to everyone.

Tesla's sales figures show that a green future isn't just possible, it's undeniable.

Watch Tesla's Model 3 unveiling:

1 obvious and 4 not-so-obvious reasons your next car should be electric.

Yes, they cut back on carbon dioxide. But why else are electric cars finally getting the attention they deserve?

If you're not one of the roughly 85% of Americans over age 16 with a driver's license, you've still probably ridden in a car or bus in the past week.

And even more importantly, you're probably pretty familiar with the impact automobiles have on our environment. The EPA estimates that the average passenger car emits nearly 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. For trucks and SUVs, that number goes up to over 13,500 pounds.

But what does a pound of carbon dioxide even mean? Well, the Natural Resources Defense Council put it nicely. "Filling a balloon with one pound of CO2 would swell the balloon to about the size of one of those rubber exercise balls that have become so popular lately. The balloon would be about two and a half feet across.


Now imagine 10,000 of those balloons in one place. And that's just from one single car.

Clearly, we have an issue here.

But here's something you don't know: something pretty interesting has been happening in the car world behind the scenes to fix this issue.

A lot of it involves Elon Musk going full-on Tony Stark, with giant robot arms and high-speed test drives and everything. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

The electric car movement has grown by leaps and bounds.

Cars aren't really cars anymore. Sure, they're still meant for driving, but the machinery is making way for batteries. The hardware is moving over for software. The line between "car show" and "electronics show" is blurring.

And while we know that these computerized electric cars are the key to a more environmentally friendly future, it's always felt like some far-off technology that may or may not ever be ready for public consumption.

For some, going electric is just too expensive. For others, they worry the performance just isn't there yet.

But times, and cars, they are a changin'. Fast.

Here are four great reasons to make your next car electric.

1. It's step one to Planeteer initiation.

OK, so you probably won't actually get a ring that combines with other powers to summon a blue, muscly flying man whose sole purpose is saving the world.

The power is YOURS! GIF from "Captain Planet and the Planeteers."

But reducing fuel consumption is a major step toward limiting CO2 emissions, which means you're doing more to stop pollution from getting out of hand. And you know Captain Planet would totally make you an honorary planeteer for that.

Of course, all cars still require power to go. Even if you're not emitting carbon dioxide from your tailpipe, the electricity you use to charge an electric car releases some harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But the U.S. Department of Energy shows us that it's half the CO2 a gas-powered SUV would emit.

Not too shabby, eh?

2. Electric power is downright powerful.

You've probably heard of this guy Elon Musk, and his car company Tesla Motors. They've done what Toyota failed to do with the Prius and made the electric car straight-up sexy, and they made people want to buy them.

But they also made these things damn fast.

Grab onto what you can because the G forces from these cars will, without a doubt, send you flying. Check out the "insane mode" reaction videos on YouTube.

Fun fact: At 28 years old, Elon Musk made his first big break in Silicon Valley with the sale of PayPal, and he bought himself a McLaren F1. It was, at the time, the fastest car in the world, with a 0-60 mph acceleration time of just 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 240 mph.

With the Tesla Model S, Musk wanted to match the F1's 0-60 mph time, and when Tesla launched the P85D — a performance variant of the Model S sporting a 85 kWh battery— they did.

And now there's the Tesla P90D and its absurd Ludicrous mode, which can do the 0-60 mph sprint in 2.8 seconds. So, yes, an electric car is now faster than a supercar and can beat a Ferrari or a McLaren in a drag race.

3. Those tax breaks are phenomenal.

How does an extra $7,500 in your pocket sound? Come tax season, that's exactly what you'll have if you choose to go green with your car. There's a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500 if you buy a plug-in hybrid or electric car.

Sweet, sweet cash. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images.

With some used models, that's enough to knock almost a quarter of the prices off the purchase amount. Add that to the amount you'll save in monthly gas costs, and with the right buy, your car could pay for itself within three to four years.

4. Your options are growing every year.

For the past 100 years or so, electric cars were about as popular as I was in middle school. There weren't often many choices on the market, much like my options for dates to the seventh grade formal.

But my, oh my, how times have changed! I'm getting married, and electric cars are the belle of the automotive ball. At the North American International Auto Show, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, and Chevrolet all introduced electric or hybrid vehicles, while another new electric concept, the Faraday Future FFZero1, attracted crowds and press at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The FFZero1 electric vehicle concept, or, a real life version of the batmobile. Rendering courtesy of Faraday Future.

Even the luxury manufacturers are getting in on this game. Porsche is launching their Mission E electric vehicle by 2020, with 700 million euros and 1,000 new jobs invested in the project. Lamborghini is creating the Asterion. Koenigsegg has created the Regera.

Porsche's Mission E, a sleek and awesome look at the future of Porsche's design. Rendering courtesy of Porsche.

For the first time in nearly 100 years, the entire automotive industry is investing in the development of electric technology. Frankly, it's pretty freakin' awesome.

5. Maintaining electric cars is a breeze.

There's no engine. That means there's no oil to check, no pressure systems to get thrown out of whack, no fan belts that can come loose, no cylinders that need replacing, and no coolant that needs topping off. At long last, no more "check engine" light that won't turn off, even though you religiously bring your car in for its 5,000-mile checkups.

In Tesla's business model, when their cars need an update, they can simply send out a wireless software update. It's like you're driving a big phone on wheels, and most updates can happen overnight, while your car is charging and you're sleeping.

Tune-ups here and there will always be necessary, but they'll be fewer and farther between. Photo by Fred Dufour/Getty Images.

Of course, that doesn't mean that regular maintenance is a thing of the past. You still have tires that need air and rotating and axles that need proper care and attention. There's still paint and a body that needs protection and an interior that can be damaged.

But they're things that can be much more easily managed by someone who hasn't spent a lot of time hanging out around a body shop.

When you're looking for your next car, consider the one that'll keep the earth happy.

But also consider the one that'll keep you and your budget happy, in the short and long run.

Photo by Bryan Mitchell/Stringer for Getty Images.

There's little doubt around the world that humanity, as a whole, needs to move to sustainable technology. But without the votes of consumers, it is going to take a much longer time.

Whether we like them or not, cars aren't going anywhere. But the types of cars we choose for ourselves count as our loudest vote to one of the world's largest industries.