Jan 25, 2024

Elon Interview Transcripts | Ben Shapiro interviews Elon Musk

Ben Shapiro interviews Elon Musk


Ben Shapiro: Well, it's good to see you. Cheers. You too. There you go. Yeah. Lovely country of Poland. Yeah, exactly. Didn't expect to meet a nice girl like you here. Here we are in Poland. Greatest bros together. Exactly. So, I want to ask you about what feels like a giant war on the meritocracy, on achievement, You're the richest person in the world. You've started three of the biggest companies in history. Non-sovereign. Not counting sovereign. And who would? And who would? Let's just say I'm not richer than Putin. I'm not starting. 

I'm not starting war-rich. Exactly, exactly. Fewer assassinations, high levels of wealth, all good. So why do you think right now there is such a war, and it seems like on all sides of the political aisle, against people who achieve, against people who are smart. It feels like right now innovators are under attack. And again, it doesn't seem like that's super political. It seems like people on the right and people on the left have this giant theory that the economy, that whoever succeeds in the economy must necessarily be rigging it, that innovators are somehow screwing the little guy. What do you make of that? Where's that coming from?

Elon Musk: Well, I mean, I think some of this is really just communism rebranded, you know, just with different marketing. The free market or capitalism is meritocracy. May the best product or service win, and the best product or service will be made by the team that works the hardest, is the most talented, and that is what results in great products and services in a capitalist economy. I always blows my mind when I discover that kids coming out of college in America who had things very easy take communism actually seriously. It blows my mind. I thought it was a joke. In fact, I was on X, FKA Twitter. I was joking about the ridiculousness of taking that seriously anymore. And then a whole bunch of people attacked me. They were like, of course it's serious. I'm like, what? Are you guys crazy? Just dust off your copy of Das Kapital?  What, are you kidding me? I'm like, how many times has that experiment been run with terrible consequences? And generally, for any given political philosophy, you have to say, which side has to build the wall to keep people in? That's the bad side. It's not subtle. It wasn't West Berlin that built the wall.

Ben Shapiro: There's like a giant myth-making project that's taken place where if you are successful, they now have to rewrite history about you. So you've gotten the, you were apparently an emerald scion. You were brought uber wealthy. Please show me where this mine is.

Elon Musk: I'd like to see a picture of this mine. If everyone can dig this mine up, I'd love to see it. First of all, the entire emerald industry is like worth a pittance.  And I've never even seen this mine. It's some like random story that my dad made up, basically. But my dad, who has many talents, I want to be clear. He is an extremely talented engineer, electrical and mechanical engineer, and a very talented artist. I mean, he could draw everything from, like, in the style of Rembrandt to watercolors to sketches, anything. He could sketch this room and then, say, do a caricature of anyone, and he'll do a caricature that matches their personality. Might be the best real-time artist I've ever seen. So he's got a lot of talents, but unfortunately, he has a few screws loose. Fast, don't we all? And he actually went bankrupt in the 90s. So my brother and I have been supporting him financially for the last 25 years.  And we've inherited nothing from him. So there's no anything. I arrived in Canada with just over $2,000 in Canadian traveler's checks, back when that was a thing, and one bag full of my clothes and a backpack full of books. Those were my entire possessions. That's how I started. Nothing more.

Ben Shapiro: And so why do you think people insist on rewriting the history, making it that you're an heir? I mean, I get some of the same thing on a minor level, right? I grew up rich. Well, I'm still alive, so I can't be an heir. Right.

Elon Musk: To err is human, they say. They err on the heir.

Ben Shapiro: But there is something that's weird happening out there. You know, you... you innovate and you make new things.  And there is a drive to hem in that innovation. I was recently talking with a pretty major political figure in the United States who's not of the left. And he was suggesting, for example, that we need to outlaw automated driving. He's going to put truckers out of work. Because if we don't outlaw the new technologies, this kind of ludd-itism, then people are going to be out of work. It's going to destroy the society. And what we really have to focus on are the people who are going to be left behind by the technology. What do you make of that?

Elon Musk: Well, first of all, I think, ultimately, if you have digital superintelligence, I'm not sure there's a job for anyone. So the whole AI discussion is a question in and of itself. I do think in a positive AI future that there will be no shortage of goods and services. So it won't be universal basic income, it'll be universal high income. Now that all sounds good, but in terms of the book Mad Search for Meaning, Well, to the degree that you're defined by your career, you may have trouble finding meaning in life. So that's more the challenge that, you know, if one is to have an existential crisis, it's like, well, how can I do anything useful if the computer can do everything better than me? That would really be the challenge. Now, maybe that'll be fine. Maybe you just play, you know, watch incredible movies, play video games, and do water sports, and... The computer just does everything else. I guess that's the benign scenario. Have you read Iain Banks?

Ben Shapiro: No.

Elon Musk: I highly recommend Iain Banks' The Culture Books. It's probably the best semi-utopian future of AI, where the computers are far smarter than humans, but they take care of the humans. They care about the humans being happy.

Ben Shapiro: In that future, I mean, I think one of the things you've talked about is the fact that the West is completely under-reproducing, not due to you personally. You've been very productive. I have four kids, so we're both ahead of the curve. But that would be presumably‚ÄĒ Well, I'll talk to my wife. But that would be one of the places presumably where people will have to put their efforts. And what's interesting is that the people who are putting their efforts in those directions tend to be, by and large, more religiously oriented.¬†We're seeing the scientific humanist community has very few kids, and religious people have many, many kids, right?

Elon Musk: The atheists are breathing themselves out. I talked to Richard Dawkins, you know, the... Yeah. Yeah. Who wrote The Selfish Gene, Blind Watchmaker and whatnot, and coined the term meme, I believe. And I said, well, you know, so how many kids do you have, Richard? Oh, one. Okay. So you're going to have one kid. Great. Yes, the birth rate tends to correlate with the degree to which someone is religious, the degree to which they have the least amount of education, and basically the poorer someone is, the less educated someone is, and the more religious they are, the more kids they will have. Those are objective correlates. 

Ben Shapiro: So I'm going to make the case to you on a religious level that the only one of those things that is possible to have in the West and not get rid of all the glories of the West is a belief in in a higher power or in a religious belief of some sort, because you can be rich and, I mean, I'm doing pretty well, I've got four kids. You can't be like a nihilist or something. Right, exactly. Nihilism doesn't tend toward anything. And I know that you've thought a lot about that sort of stuff, and how do you get out of that, sort of the nihilist box, and find what to do?

Elon Musk: Well, my religion, for lack of a better word, is one of curiosity, where we want to expand the scope of scale consciousness on Earth and beyond Earth, and ultimately to other star systems. And in order to do that, we need to increase the number of conscious beings, and we need to advance technology such that we can have a self-sustaining city on Mars, ultimately populate the whole solar system, and then go beyond our solar system to other star systems. And therefore, we need more humans. Pretty simple.

Ben Shapiro: So, I mean, that's an amazingly different goal than what we've had for the past.

Elon Musk: Yeah, well, I propose this as a new philosophy. Yeah. Well, not new, but maybe niche. But niche, but hopefully getting a bit bigger. So, you know, with that philosophy in mind, the purpose of that philosophy is that the more we expand the scope and scale of consciousness, the more we are able to understand the reality that we live in, the nature of the universe and to answer the questions that we have, and perhaps more importantly, to know what questions we are not asking. As Douglas Adams would say in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the answer is the easy part, the question is the hard part. You know, answer's 42, what's the question? So I think that's a pretty optimistic, positive philosophy. Also has a lot of room for other beliefs, if you want to add them to that, but the fundamental tenets of my belief structure are expand the scale of consciousness. I mean, more people. I guess more computers, too, to the degree that they are conscious. And we want to pass through one of the great filters that, you know, you've only got the Fermi paradox and the great filters. 

Ben Shapiro: No.

Elon Musk: Okay, so Enrico Fermi, great. amazing physicist, posed a very simple question. He said, where are the aliens? Because we've seen no sign of them. Now, a lot of people think they've seen signs of aliens. I have seen no evidence whatsoever of aliens. So it's a troubling question. Why not? So one of the answers, perhaps the most likely answer, is that we're it, that the tiny candle of consciousness that constitutes humanity is all that there is in this vast darkness. And I think we should assume that that is the case until we actually have firm evidence to the contrary. And moreover, human consciousness only arose after four and a half billion years. It took a long time. And if it had taken even 10% longer, it probably would not have evolved because the sun is expanding. As the sun expands, it'll start heating Earth and the oceans will evaporate. We'll become more like Venus, inhospitable to life. So I think we may have achieved consciousness or consciousness that's capable of developing technology just in time. I find it remarkable that we are at this point in history where we are able for the first time to go beyond Earth, to send people. We sent people to the Moon in the early 70s, but not gone back. But with the Starship rocket that SpaceX is developing, we've had two test flights. We'll have many more this year. That vehicle is designed to make life multi-planetary. It's the first vehicle that is capable of doing that, a permanent base on the Moon and a city on Mars. I think we want to get that done as soon as possible. The window of opportunity to make life multi-planetary and secure the future of consciousness may be open for a long time or it may be open for a short time. I think it would be wise to not assume that it will be open for a long time. Act now. Act now to make life multi-planetary.

Ben Shapiro: One of the things that's fascinating about what you're saying is that it assumes an innate level of belief and in love for human beings.

Elon Musk: Yes. I love humanity.

Ben Shapiro: So why? I mean, it's a weird question, but I mean, really, kind of why? I mean, we're not that great. I mean, we have amazing capabilities. Well, we're pretty great. We can be angels. We can be devils, obviously. We have the capacity for all of the things in between. What do you think makes, aside from just the qualities that theoretically could be duplicated by AI in the very near future, what makes human beings unique and worthwhile?

Elon Musk: I'll tell you something that I think... that maybe resonates is like, I think actually everyone loves humanity. Now, they may not love everyone in humanity, but you say, how many people want to be in solitary confinement? How many people want to live alone in a forest by themselves? Almost no human beings want to do that. So actually, in reality, all humans love humanity and want to be part of humanity. With the rare exception of someone who's got severe psychological issues. So that's why solitary confinement is considered a terrible punishment in prison. Because even though other prisoners are probably not the finest examples of humans, you still want to hang out with them. So I think it's a natural thing. As long as kids aren't taught to hate other people, I think the natural inclination is to love humanity.

Ben Shapiro: So I want to go back to some of the business conversation, then I want to go back to the SpaceX of it. When it comes to business, what do you see as sort of the biggest obstacles to not only the success of your companies, but to success generally? Because there seems to be this idea abroad that people can't duplicate the path, that basically it used to be that people like you could succeed, but now it's totally finished and now you can't get ahead. 

Elon Musk: In America? Nothing's changed in that regard as far as memoir. There are new companies being formed all the time in the U.S.

Ben Shapiro: What do you see as the obstacles to companies being successful increasingly in the West, if there are obstacles to that?

Elon Musk: Well, I think excess regulation. You know, taxes do ratchet up every year, making it a little harder every year as taxes ratchet up. But the regulatory creep is, I think, a massive danger. So laws and regulations are immortal. But the regulators and the lawmakers make new rules and regulations and laws and regulations every year. And so every year, you've got this sort of another layer of laws and regulations. It starts getting to the point where everything's legal. You can't get anything done. You say, well, how did they deal with it in the past? The way they dealt with it in the past, there'd be a war. And the war would wash away the old rules and regulations. We literally would take a war to change things. Like Napoleon establishing the Napoleonic Code that overrode the old law systems of the lords and peasants. For all the bad that Napoleon did, I think, did more good, actually. So the evidence is in that I think maybe a third or a half of all countries on Earth still run on the Napoleonic code. And I would prefer to have some cleanup process for laws and regulations that doesn't require war. That'd be nice. And I think that's something we need to institute, like basically garbage collection for laws and regulations. 

Ben Shapiro: One of the things that has been suggested is a book called The Sovereign Individual written in the late 90s that basically suggested that we are entering the era of avoidance, that people are going to be able to be sovereigns. You talked about sovereign authority. You're not king of something, but you are the head of your companies. And so in the future, people will just be able to move money around, locate to where the regulations are the friendliest. And so the United States right now thinks that we have the advantage because we historically have. But that doesn't mean that that's how it's going to go in the future. You're seeing more and more companies, for example, to Singapore or going elsewhere just to move away from those regulations. So avoidance, which wasn't a strategy in 17th century France, where are you going to go exactly, is now a very real set of possibilities for a lot of entrepreneurs.

Elon Musk: Yeah. Well, and regulation in the US varies by state as well. California is the most regulated state. So increasingly, people seek to do things outside of California or outside of New York. Those are the two most heavily regulated states.

Ben Shapiro: So given all those things, Do you think that there's going to be a backlash to regulation in America, or do you think that the West is sort of, America being a stand-in for that, sliding into this morass of regulation based on, honestly, it looks like, to a certain extent, jealousy. It looks like trying to tear down success in the name of fairness, as opposed to...

Elon Musk: I mean, it's two different things. There's regulations which are intended to serve the public good. You know, rules against one thing or another. Like the car industry gets, you know, has lots of rules in how to make a car. I mean, there'll be like piles of books in this room to cover just the U.S. regulations for what is required to build a car. Those are, at least ostensibly, they're aimed for safety. But, you know, in terms of other regulations, yeah, I think generally... We want to be averse to any regulation that is anti-meritocratic. The point of fighting racism, sexism, and whatnot was not to replace it with another form of racism and sexism, but it was rather to get rid of racism and get rid of sexism, not change it to another form. And DEI is fundamentally racist and sexist.

Ben Shapiro: So I want to get back to the space conversation, because that's fascinating. And I was telling you before we started this, my son is like the biggest SpaceX fan that's possible to be, because what you're doing is inspiring on a truly galactic level. So when we talk about getting to Mars, how realistic do you think that is? There's a book that just came out, it was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, talking about all of the various obstacles to human beings actually living on Mars. We live in a pretty propitious place. I mean, the world is a pretty wonderful planet.

Elon Musk: Yeah. It's all suited to us.

Ben Shapiro: Yeah, exactly. So what are the biggest obstacles? And what do you think the timeline is in terms of having a robust presence on other planets? 

Elon Musk: Well, we're hoping to have the first humans on the moon in less than five years. Mars, maybe a little longer than five years. I'd be surprised if we don't have humans on Mars within 10 years. Yeah. And then we're going to aim to have a lot of humans and build a city on Mars and a base on the moon.

Ben Shapiro: How do we mobilize that many resources there that quickly? That's a lot of resources necessary. It's not like you can draw from the environment. A lot of resources.

Elon Musk: Now, I should say, in order to pass the Fermi Great Culture of being a multi-planet species, the second planet has to be self-sustaining. So The acid test being that if the resupply ships from Earth stop coming for any reason whatsoever, it could be mundane or serious, will Mars die out or not? So basically Mars has to be completely self-sufficient in order to pass the Fermi great filter. The particular great filter I'm talking about is if something calamitous happens to one planet, is humanity gone or not?

Ben Shapiro: And how long will it take for that to be self-sustaining? When you say, you know, in 10 years people will be on Mars. I think it's like 40-ish years. So one of the things I think that captures the imagination about what you're doing is that you're speaking in ambitious terms that people have not spoken in the West for solidly half a century.

Elon Musk: Yeah, I suppose so.

Ben Shapiro: I mean, really, it's an amazing thing. I guess I say it so often I forget that. I mean, you say this stuff because it's you all the time. But the reality is that the last time people were talking about, within a decade we're going to have a man on the moon was JFK talking at the beginning of the 1960s. And it's been full on half a century since anybody talked like this. And I think people find it shocking. And I think maybe we should look at the other side of that, so both sides. One, what makes you different? And two, why do you think that dream went away? Why do you think it was that for half a century after we put a man on the moon, we just kind of receded back into whatever the hell was else going on?

Elon Musk: Yeah, that's a long story. But the follow-up to the Saturn V was the space shuttle. The space shuttle could only go to low Earth orbit. And the aspiration was to make it reusable. But they unfortunately did not succeed in that goal. The space shuttle was so difficult to refurb that it ended up costing as much as the Saturn V. And then the primary structure of the space shuttle the Space Shuttle Orbiter System, that big orange tank, it's actually the primary airframe, because it takes the load from the orbiter, the sort of airplane-looking thing, and the side boosters. So you lose that every time. The side boosters land in the ocean, and they're solid rocket boosters, so that, you know, they have to get back to the factory to get solid propellant loaded in. Cut a long story short, the cost per flight of the shuttle as a Saturn V expendable. But the shuttle had about a quarter of the payload to orbit and could not reach the Moon. So, you know, so noble ideas at the start, but ultimately it was not a good design. And then the shuttle retired, obviously, and then we had nothing. That curve, that is not a good curve, going from the Moon to low Earth orbit to nothing. That does not extrapolate to being a multi-planet species. So that's why I started SpaceX, is to try to reverse that trend and get us back on to doing exciting things in space again. You know, things that make people excited to get up in the morning and say, yes, humanity's going to do some amazing thing in space. 

Ben Shapiro: And one of the things that's so impressive about SpaceX is not just the aspiration, but the fact that it's a successful business and that you realize very early on that it's not enough to have the aspiration. I mean, it was a government that put a person on the moon. That's not the same thing as actually being able to build, you said self-sustaining with regard to life on Mars, but a self-sustaining business that actually has the capacity and a profit-driven model to do something like that, to project.

Elon Musk: Yeah, I mean, to be clear, at the start of SpaceX, I gave us a less than 10% chance of success. I thought we'd probably die. But, you know, I think if something's important enough, it's worth doing, even if you think it's going to fail. And we almost did fail. The first three launches of our small rocket failed. Only the fourth one succeeded. And if that fourth one had failed, we would be dead. So it was close. At this point, you know, knock on wood, SpaceX is quite prosperous. SpaceX did about 80% of all payload to orbit last year of Earth. China did about 12%, and the rest of the world did 8%. So in this year, if things go well, SpaceX will do 90% of all payload to Earth. And then as Starship really takes off, SpaceX will be doing, at least based on what other companies are currently doing, which is around 300, 400 tons to orbit, SpaceX, ultimately, will be doing several hundred thousand tons to orbit, maybe a million tons to orbit. 

Ben Shapiro: It's amazing. And what you mentioned there, that it's a sort of skin-of-the-teeth thing, I mean, that's been true in a lot of companies that you've worked with. I mean, that was true in Tesla also, that it was a real skin-of-the-teeth thing. Yeah. And so maybe you can talk a little bit about what does that feel like? I mean, as a CEO, and you're a professional CEO, do you enjoy the risk? Do you enjoy that stress level?

Elon Musk: Well, I don't seek risk for risk's sake. Tesla had many close calls with death. The natural state of a car company in America is dead. I mean, the only two car companies that have not gone bankrupt are Ford and Tesla. GM and Chrysler went bankrupt in 2009. There have been hundreds of car bankruptcies before. So it's one of those things where, like I said, the natural state of a car company is dead. So you have to keep pulling rabbits out of a hat to not be dead.

Ben Shapiro: Do you think that your personality is suited to that, and that's why you're successful at this? Do you think that's unique to the companies you pick, that you're pulling rabbits out of hats? Or is it that every company is pulling rabbits out of hats?

Elon Musk: I pull so many rabbits out of hats, it's like an arc of rabbits flying through the air. I mean, I'm good at solving technology problems. And rockets and cars are both technology problems. I have a very strong team that work with me. And yeah, so far so good.

Ben Shapiro: Now on to X, which is its own set of issues and difficulties. You come in, and for many of us, it was like you're coming in to save free speech. And it was, I think, really a signal moment because it is very clear that there is a censorious hand that's been placed on all of these tech companies. And you came in and you said, we're going to open this place up. And you definitely did. And the blowback has been absolutely wild, really tremendous, and pretty clearly coincident with the amount of mainstream media hatred of you. You went from being Golden Boy, Time Magazine, Newsweek, We All Love You, Everyone Loves Elon, SNL. Now if SNL had you on, there might be a riot in the street because apparently by opening up free speech, you've...

Elon Musk: I think there's a small section of the elite media that hate me. But if I walk down the street, people are real super friendly. I think the average citizen is a fan or certainly doesn't hate me. I mean, I am the most followed account, most interactive account in social media by far. So I think technically there's people on Instagram with more followers, but in terms of interactions, I'm the most interacted with social media account on Earth. I think I recently passed 169 million followers. So can 169 million people be wrong?

Ben Shapiro: : I know we'll find out in the next election cycle. But when you feel that, do you think that that was a reaction to the fact that you were basically saying the thing you're not supposed to say, which is that the sources of information that people are receiving are, in fact, siphoned off and censored? 

Elon Musk: Yeah, exactly. It was actually amazing to me how much the legacy media you know, walks in lockstep. You know, there's like, nobody breaks ranks. And now we have X that breaks ranks and doesn't just go with whatever the approved narrative is. I think for many in the public, they don't quite realize just how much deception is really going on with the media. The biggest deception is the choice of narrative because the media can say, They can write a story about this or write a story about that. And only a few stories can go on the front page. So you're deciding essentially what people should pay attention to. So instead of it being something that, you know, what people pay attention to being what people actually care about, it's actually what a handful of editors care about. They're telling the people what to pay attention to. So the deception by choice of narrative is a big thing. So that's why I really want the narratives to bubble up organically from the people in the case of the X system, which they do. And people should be allowed to say things that are within the law. If the law isn't good enough, then great, we'll talk to your elected representative and have him pass law to change that. But otherwise, we need to stick to, hold true to the Constitution and the laws and allow people to say things, even if we don't like what they say. In fact, that's obviously the true test for free speech is that someone says something you don't like, because otherwise it's obviously not free speech. People trash me all the time on the X platform. I'm like, whatever. Just trash me on the X platform, not somewhere else.

Ben Shapiro: So what do you think is the biggest untold narrative, the thing that the media have been missing for years and years or suppressing for years and years?

Elon Musk: Well, there's a few things, but... You know, I generally try to say, like, to increase the so-called Overton window of what can be discussed and what is okay to discuss without being ostracized. Certainly, attacking DEI was, you know, would have been ostracized before, and not anymore. And, you know, anything that's sort of sensitive or that the media ignores, the public can then, you know, raise it on the X platform and make that an actual topic of discussion. So, I mean, you probably can think of a few reasons.

Ben Shapiro: Well, I mean, obviously one of the big ones when you were first buying X was the unwillingness to say that men exist and women exist as actual biological categories.

Elon Musk: Oh, yeah, yeah. And that one came up a lot. You'd get suspended for that.

Ben Shapiro: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. You couldn't even debate the subject without getting suspended. Right. That was a huge one. I mean, there were a bunch of no-nos that you just weren't allowed to do. And I think that a lot of people are grateful for the broadening of the Overton window. That does, you know, as a person who's trying to do good in the world, one of the things that I've always said about, you know, about people who are in charge of these tech platforms is that it's very difficult to be that job because there is‚ÄĒ¬†obviously something that's outside the Overton window, where you say, like, it's my platform, I just don't want this on the platform. How do you decide that? I mean, to a certain extent, it is, you know, a cottage under a tree, basically saying, I just, you know, this is too much for me. I know it when I see it kind of definition, but how?

Elon Musk: I mean, we're trying to be as objective as possible. Like, is something breaking the law or most likely breaking the law? We don't need a judge to say it for sure, but as far as being said, it seems to be illegal. Like someone saying they're going to murder somebody, I think threats of murder are illegal, for sure. And, you know, so that would result in a suspension. And then there's a separate thing, which is like, you know, is something either sort of potentially pornographic or not safe for advertisers? Meaning the topic is too contentious to expect that advertisers will advertise with that account. If you take Dom DeLuca as an example recently, where he says some pretty edgy stuff. And that's OK. But just as he has the right to say edgy stuff, which is untrue, and he gets the community to know it all the time. But advertisers also have the right to not advertise on Don DeLuca's posts. So it's like he has freedom to say what he wants, but he can't coerce advertisers to advertise.

Ben Shapiro: So when you look at the future of X, you've talked about X being kind of an everything company. What does that actually look like?

Elon Musk: I just mean all the things that you would want to use online. China has WeChat, which is, you kind of live on WeChat in China. So you buy things on WeChat, you post text, audio, video to various feeds. Yeah, payments, it's sort of like everything. So I want to try to have an app that at least allows you to do everything on X. You don't have to, but if you want to, you can. Think of it like what PayPal should have been, basically.

Ben Shapiro: So you have three massive and growing companies. How do you balance all that? I mean, you also have a ton of kids. Yeah. I mean, you make me look like I'm childless by the number of children that you have. But how do you balance all of those life demands?

Elon Musk: Well, all the boys are in college and high school, so they don't want much of my time because they're 17, 19. And a three and a half year old and he loves hanging with me. So I bring X around. I try to spend as much time as possible with my kids. So what is a day in the life like? Is it just different every single day? It's different every single day. Yeah. I mean, I do a lot of engineering meetings and design meetings. So when I head to Tesla... Palo Alto later tomorrow. I'll be going through engineering design reviews of Optimus, new vehicle programs of our Tesla AI for self-driving. Wednesday will be a bunch of product meetings on stuff for the X platform. So improving audio-visual calling. So you can not just DM, but you can actually do call voice and video calls, and then also do group voice and video calls. Obviously, as we mentioned, we want to introduce payments later this year when we get the approvals.

Ben Shapiro: Is it the engineering part of it that excites you the most? Which part of these things?

Elon Musk: I'm a product guy, so I develop technology products. That's what I do.

Ben Shapiro: So you're known as, you can be a demanding boss, so the rumor goes.

Elon Musk: I mean, I... have high expectations.

Ben Shapiro: Yeah. So what do you think being a good boss should look like to people? How many employees do you have at your various companies at this point? 

Elon Musk: Tesla's about 140,000. SpaceX, 15,000. Foreign companies, I think 300. Neuralink, about 300. X is around 1,300.

Ben Shapiro: So that's a lot of employees. So how do you think a boss ought to interact with employees? I mean, because obviously there's a balance between, it's sort of, you know, Tommy Lasorda, the manager of the Dodgers, once said that managing a baseball team was like holding a dove. You want to hold it tight enough that it doesn't get away, but not so tight that you squish it. So what do you think is the optimum employee management strategies for the budding entrepreneur out there?

Elon Musk: I don't know. I just meet with my team and we go around the table and talk about what everyone got done this past week and what they're planning to do next week, and then try to make some decisions about product design and direction, or solve some particular technology problem. They're quite collegial, my meetings. It's not me talking, I talk the least in the meetings.

Ben Shapiro: So we were talking about information flow and limiting information flow, and obviously you and I were just at Auschwitz today, which is a heavy experience. And one of the things that we were learning about and talking about was how limited flow of information allows for atrocities to happen. What was your takeaway?

Elon Musk: Exactly. Essentially, yeah, when the germs came in, the first thing they did was shut down all the press. So everything was heavily censored. So you couldn't say anything unless it was approved by the government. So, you know, I think really, free speech is the bedrock of democracy. And free speech is what allows atrocities to be called out and for people to be aware of them. That's why the Germans wanted to shut down the press immediately. So, you know, anyway, I think we should do everything we can to preserve free speech. And when we lose free speech, I think we lose democracy.

Ben Shapiro: One of the other things we were talking about earlier to touch back on it was the DEI of it. And one of the things that you and I had been discussing a little bit offline is the fact that DEI effectively is a conspiracy theory in which there is a cadre of powerful people who are at the top and they control everything else that's happening. And because those powerful people are at the top, they are exploiting everybody else and they have to be taken down more than one peg. That conspiracy theory aligns very closely with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Elon Musk: I think the EI is extremely anti-Semitic in its core. So, yeah, absolutely. It's just generally anti-meritocratic, which I think is very dangerous. You want to have a society where you succeed based on your skills and hard work. That's it. And it doesn't matter about your race, gender, creed, religion, nothing. Just are you good at your job? Do you work hard? Do you have high integrity? Nothing more. That's it. Stop there.

Ben Shapiro: And it seems as though in our society right now there's an objection to that, but that objection, it seems to me, can only be...

Elon Musk: It's crazy.

Ben Shapiro: Yeah, it can only be sustained if you are tacitly acknowledging that you will not succeed in the meritocracy. The people who are pushing this the hardest are the people who resume. Yeah, it's patronizing, frankly. Yeah, I mean, it's essentially making the argument, I'm not succeeding. The reason I'm not succeeding is because no one can succeed. And so it's an argument, to a certain extent, of the unsuccessful, or people who feel as though they deserve more. And one of the things that occurs to me is that I'm not sure that anybody, quote unquote, deserves anything other than what your hard work and innovation bring you in life.

Elon Musk: Right. I think DEI also, for those who were promoted based on their skills and merit and hard work, it undermines the credibility of their promotion or their status. Was it real or was it DEI? And it takes away the respect that they deserve.

Ben Shapiro: One of the things about meritocracy that I think people forget is that it's the only system ever devised that has positive externalities. Any other sort of system that you create is going to have negative externalities because you're literally just cronying with X group. And whatever that group is, that group is going to get the benefits. And if you're not part of that group, then you get screwed. And meritocracy is the idea that the people who are going to succeed are people who innately are capable of creating for everyone else. I mean, you mentioned earlier how many employees you have. And people will talk about your level of personal wealth. But that level of personal wealth is largely stockholding. And that stock is in companies.

Elon Musk: It's almost entirely stock.

Ben Shapiro: Yeah, exactly.

Elon Musk: Yeah, it's just when I created the companies, I felt that it was important. Now, in my first company, I didn't have any money, my first internet company. I just had $100,000 in student debt. But for those companies in the very early days, the internet called Zip2. But for all companies subsequently, I basically doubled down. I took the money from Zip2, invested it in X.com, PayPal, and And then took the PayPal money and invested that in creating Tesla and SpaceX. Because I didn't feel right that I should ask investors to invest if I was not prepared to invest my own money. I think the whole other people's money thing is not right. You want to have skin in the game and put the capital of the company you're creating there with investors' capital. And as a result of that, I own a lot of shares in the company, and the better the company does, the more valuable the shares are. But that's because the pie has grown. And so you have to say, like, what's at the root of a lot of the negativity is an axiomatic flaw that the pie is static, that it's a zero-sum game, that if someone else succeeds, it's because they took more than their fair share of this fixed pie. But it's not a fixed pie. Obviously, there's a lot of, now I want some pie. Mmm, pie. But obviously the economic pie has grown considerably from what it was in the past. The output of goods and services, the productivity per person is dramatically greater than it has been in the past. When you create a new company and you create new products and services, you're growing the bundle, as they say, pie again. You're growing the amount of goods and services available to people. So you've not taken anything away from anyone. You've created something new and you've given people... new products and services they didn't have before. We didn't used to have an iPhone. We didn't used to have computers. We didn't used to have cars or be able to fly in airplanes. We didn't used to have many of the life-saving medicines that we have today. These are all new things. The pie has grown tremendously.

Ben Shapiro: I think this is the fundamental distinction between innovators and business people and people in the free market and the political class. The political class operates almost solely on the basis that the pie is fixed. Because if the pie is fixed, then the way that you get elected is by promising more of that pie to such and such a person. Or you promise that by seizing money from the private sector, you're personally going to grow the pie. And it seems to me that the first mark of a politician you shouldn't listen to is, I can fix all of your problems. And that basically rules out nearly everybody. Because it seems like everyone in the political class is into the, I can fix all of your problems, when it seems like what I actually need is people who are entrepreneurial and innovative to solve this problem in front of a so that we can then move on to the next problem that's in front of them.

Elon Musk: Yeah. Basically, the reality is that the government is really just a corporation in the limit. Government is the ultimate corporation. It's not different from a corporation. It's just the ultimate corporation. And it's a corporation that is a monopoly, and also it can't go bankrupt unless the country goes bankrupt, and has a monopoly on violence. So how much do you want to... How much more do you want to give to the world's biggest corporation that has monopoly on violence? Probably less. And if you look at, say, countries like East and West Germany or North and South Korea, cases where there's just an arbitrary line that's been drawn, like it used to be one country, arbitrary line is drawn because of a war, what is the productivity difference from one to the other? You know, West Germany had a productivity five times greater than East Germany. And it's not like West Germany was just this sort of bastion of capitalism. They're like half socialist. So what that means is if they're half socialist and the other side is 100% socialist or communist, then you really have something like a 10 to 1 difference in productivity if something is done by the government or done by the private sector. But I'm not someone who says abolish the government. I just say let's have the government do the least amount, because the less the government does, the more the economy will prosper, because anything done by the government is going to be five to ten times less efficient. Like, think of the DMV. 

Ben Shapiro: I'm trying not to, but yes. If we're going to get out of DEI, what's the best way to get out of DEI?

Elon Musk: Well, I think DEI is starting to fade. First of all, DEI is actually illegal because it discriminates on the basis of race, sex, sexual preference, and all sorts of other things. That is actually illegal. So somehow they've managed to get this illegal thing in place. But now we're starting to see a large number of lawsuits saying, cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual identity, and race. So I think DEI is on its last legs. It's going to be removed because it's illegal, actually. Literally.

Ben Shapiro: So I know we're running out of time. So I do want to ask you, you've had such a fascinating life, but what is the if there was an experience that defined you, like the encapsulating experience that defined you as a person, what do you think that is?

Elon Musk: I don't know if there's one single experience that defined me. I mean, philosophically, I read a lot of books on philosophy, a lot of religious books, and I did have an existential crisis when I was about 12, and then read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is really a book on philosophy that disguises humor. And that gave me a new philosophy, which is to try to understand the meaning of life. And then if you take axiomatically that you want to understand the meaning of life, the nature of the universe, then in order to do that, you have to expand the scope and scale of consciousness and get out there and explore the galaxy. And then... you can better understand the meaning of life.

Ben Shapiro: It's funny that you and Thomas Aquinas and Maimonides all come to the same sort of conclusion, because the basic premise religiously for them was explore the universe, therefore you're exploring God. Every exploration of the world around you is, in essence, an exploration of God's system and brings you closer to the divine. And you're getting there in sort of a backwards way, even if you don't end up getting to the divine, per se.

Elon Musk: Right. I'm not disagreeing with those who believe in God. I'm saying that even... even if you do believe in God, let us go out there and explore God's wondrous creation.

Ben Shapiro: Well, that was awesome. Thank you so much. I know we're rushed on time. That was terrific. Thank you.