Unlike previous eras, the internet has allowed people to have access to the great minds of their day at a very personal level. Reddit AMAs or “Ask Me Anything” sessions are one way that people reach out to their heroes and learn details about them that usually have to wait for a posthumous biography. Elon Musk is the latest celebrity professional to use Reddit to get personal with his fans and admirers.
People learned a lot about the Tesla inventor as he fielded questions on the popular social media site. From the technical to the mundane, nothing was off the table and he obliged with genial answers. While the AMA was set up to precede the test landing of a rocket on an ocean platform, some questions were less technically inclined. Questioners learned that Musk has a fondness for French food and barbecue, which he might like to eat with a glass of whiskey at hand.
Musk also revealed that he considers his most important daily habit to be showering, a must for many. He also talked about his love of videogames, with a particular fondness for the Warcraft series of games. The image of Elon Musk, one of the greatest inventors of the age, sitting at a computer playing World of Warcraft may tickle many people’s fancies and could turn some preconceived ideas on their heads. No one apparently thought to ask whether he prefered to play as Horde or Alliance, which is a real shame. Musk also enjoys first person shooters like the Mass Effect series which, appropriately, is a space adventure themed videogame centering around the concepts of alien invasion, colonization and artificial intelligence.
As one of the foremost thinkers on artificial intelligence and a cautious one, he fielded questions about whether people should be truly worried about the concept or if it is a bit overblown. He somewhat famously has warned the world that artificial intelligence needs to be well studied to avoid some of the dangers that science fiction has recorded in its pages. A Roomba may not be an immediate threat, but he did say that a lot more work needs to be done on safety. Then, like a man of the internet people, he posted a video of a cat riding a Roomba while dressed in a shark costume. Even Elon Musk is not immune to the adorable qualities of cats on the internet.
His words on learning and education, however, may have been the most inspiring part of the Reddit AMA and revealed quite a lot about Elon Musk’s personal success over the years. As one of the most intelligent people around, some may assume that it is just due to a genetic lottery, but he did talk about his strategies for learning. According to Musk, the best way to learn something is to view the information as a tree, with basic principles being the trunk and the more esoteric ideas belonging to the branches and leaves. Using this strategy, he seems to believe that anyone can learn anything.
The influence of teachers on his own development, however, is a story that many peopel can readily identify with. In elementary school, his school principal took over teaching a math class after the original teacher left the school. He made Musk and the other students work very hard to exceed the expectations of the original syllabus. According to Musk, the students were rewarded for their extra efforts with stories of the teacher’s time in World War II. “Everybody did the work,” he recalled. It was just these kinds of intimate, personal details that participants in the Reddit Q&A session got to hear.
By Lydia Bradbury
Photo by Maurizio Pesce – Flickr License