Author Topic: Elon Musk...human?  (Read 56966 times)

maxprogram

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2015, 06:27:28 PM »
I have an engineer friend who told me that among his engineering circle of friends, they actually don't find Musk's technical aptitude all that impressive. His main talent is rallying the best engineers together for a common cause (e.g. build a rocket, electric car).

Your friends appear to be hipsters or trying to elevate their social status by looking down on someone that everybody else thinks has high social status, or something like that.

I think you may be arguing about different things. Musk is obviously incredibly smart -- he couldn't get to where is his on luck or salesmanship alone. But there are also obviously many people (in rockets, cars, etc.) who are much more technically proficient. Even if he is in the 98-99th percentile this of course is true.

I think(?) Pretium was trying to say that it's not necessary to be the *most* "brilliant" in the tech area to get to Musk's level. That's why I think Munger's quote is perfect. Musk would be a terrible value investor but then again so are most people.

To do what Musk has done you need: brilliance + a lot of money (obtained, in this case, from previous successes & salesmanship) + incredible drive + high risk appetite.

I had a friend ask me "Why hasn't Bill Gates done some of the amazing things Elon Musk has?" The answer I don't think has anything to do with brilliance (Gates would easily hold his ground against Musk) but with the ambition & risk appetite (aka mild insanity).

Howard Hughes fit this mold perfectly: brilliant, lots of money (originally from inherited tool co), huge ambitions, mild insanity. Like Hughes I think there are future risks with Musk but damn I also hope he keeps it up! (Though I'm not sure I agree that "He's so brilliant I'm sure he is aware of the risk of spreading himself too thin" -- I think his ambitions as Munger aluded to might  eventually exceed his ability.)
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Liberty

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2015, 07:36:57 PM »
I disagree on a few level, but don't really feel like getting into it since it kinds of come down to how much we think we know these people (to be able to take educated guesses at their motivations, talents, etc).
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innerscorecard

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2015, 07:52:41 PM »
I disagree on a few level, but don't really feel like getting into it since it kinds of come down to how much we think we know these people (to be able to take educated guesses at their motivations, talents, etc).

I think many people just can't accept that some people are just more able than others. They have to find ways to chip away at that.
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Liberty

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2015, 08:08:21 PM »
I disagree on a few level, but don't really feel like getting into it since it kinds of come down to how much we think we know these people (to be able to take educated guesses at their motivations, talents, etc).

I think many people just can't accept that some people are just more able than others. They have to find ways to chip away at that.

It also boils down to your definition of "better". I think there's a widespread adolescent tendency of focusing tunnel-vision-like on what can be measured (the best guitarist is the one who does the fastest solos, the best programmer is the one who's code routines runs fastest or have the fewest number of bugs or whatever). I used to care about that kind of stuff when I was younger too, but now I don't so much. I'll take a coder who comes up with the idea for the Google algorithm (PageRank) or the hyperlink over the coder who can do fancier math, more complex code and optimizations, and knows more languages but will never do much original or important work in a lifetime.

Some people's output is just thousands of times more valuable than others, if not millions, even if pedants will call them "worse" at the mundane parts of whatever field they're in... I'm sure lots of physicists and mathematicians were better at all kinds of math than Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman were, but that's missing the point.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 08:10:04 PM by Liberty »
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innerscorecard

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2015, 08:17:00 PM »
I disagree on a few level, but don't really feel like getting into it since it kinds of come down to how much we think we know these people (to be able to take educated guesses at their motivations, talents, etc).

I think many people just can't accept that some people are just more able than others. They have to find ways to chip away at that.

It also boils down to your definition of "better". I think there's a widespread adolescent tendency of focusing tunnel-vision-like on what can be measured (the best guitarist is the one who does the fastest solos, the best programmer is the one who's code routines runs fastest or have the fewest number of bugs or whatever). I used to care about that kind of stuff when I was younger too, but now I don't so much. I'll take a coder who comes up with the idea for the Google algorithm (PageRank) or the hyperlink over the coder who can do fancier math, more complex code and optimizations, and knows more languages but will never do much original or important work in a lifetime.

Some people's output is just thousands of times more valuable than others, if not millions, even if pedants will call them "worse" at the mundane parts of whatever field they're in... I'm sure lots of physicists and mathematicians were better at all kinds of math than Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman were, but that's missing the point.

Ha, understanding the Apple thesis will do that to your thinking! You should have seen the posts in the IBM thread talking about how IBM was an innovative enterprise as they produce so many patent filings every year! (I'm no bullish or bearish on IBM and haven't done the research - but that claim was just so patently absurd.)

I actually first typed out "better" in my post that you quoted, but I changed it before I submitted it to "more able." I think it's a big distinction. I actually just wrote about this whole issue of "better," here (where I also just wrote a lengthy comment): http://www.innerscorecard.co/blog/2015/1/18/aiming-low

(Parsad or anyone else - if it's not okay to post a link to my own website here please let me know and I'll edit it out.)
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rkbabang

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2015, 06:38:09 AM »
I disagree on a few level, but don't really feel like getting into it since it kinds of come down to how much we think we know these people (to be able to take educated guesses at their motivations, talents, etc).

I think many people just can't accept that some people are just more able than others. They have to find ways to chip away at that.

It also boils down to your definition of "better". I think there's a widespread adolescent tendency of focusing tunnel-vision-like on what can be measured (the best guitarist is the one who does the fastest solos, the best programmer is the one who's code routines runs fastest or have the fewest number of bugs or whatever). I used to care about that kind of stuff when I was younger too, but now I don't so much. I'll take a coder who comes up with the idea for the Google algorithm (PageRank) or the hyperlink over the coder who can do fancier math, more complex code and optimizations, and knows more languages but will never do much original or important work in a lifetime.

Some people's output is just thousands of times more valuable than others, if not millions, even if pedants will call them "worse" at the mundane parts of whatever field they're in... I'm sure lots of physicists and mathematicians were better at all kinds of math than Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman were, but that's missing the point.

+1

I couldn't agree more.  For whatever the reason is, Musk is doing more for humanity than all of the engineers in the world who are enviously bitching that Musk isn't very smart combined.  There is a creative aspect to doing important, beneficial, and successful things as well.  Musk not only has sufficient intelligence to be as successful as he's been, but he also has vision, creativity, relentlessness, business acumen, and a shit load of guts.   In my 19 years as an engineer, I've known absolutely brilliant people who have none of those other qualities which Musk has.  I've had many arguments with fellow engineers, who are much smarter than I am, who always want to do things the hard way simply because they can, who want to add unnecessary features that no customer will ever need or use and will add to the cost, time, and complexity of the product, simply because it's possible to do, etc.  There are so many brilliant people in one narrow area of knowledge who have not a lick of common sense what-so-ever and who do ridiculous things.  I have very little respect for anyone who would belittle the intelligence of someone like Musk. Why would you make such a fool of yourself? Envy really is an ugly thing.

JBird

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2015, 06:59:02 AM »
+1

I couldn't agree more.  For whatever the reason is, Musk is doing more for humanity than all of the engineers in the world who are enviously bitching that Musk isn't very smart combined.  There is a creative aspect to doing important, beneficial, and successful things as well.  Musk not only has sufficient intelligence to be as successful as he's been, but he also has vision, creativity, relentlessness, business acumen, and a shit load of guts.   In my 19 years as an engineer, I've known absolutely brilliant people who have none of those other qualities which Musk has.  I've had many arguments with fellow engineers, who are much smarter than I am, who always want to do things the hard way simply because they can, who want to add unnecessary features that no customer will ever need or use and will add to the cost, time, and complexity of the product, simply because it's possible to do, etc.  There are so many brilliant people in one narrow area of knowledge who have not a lick of common sense what-so-ever and who do ridiculous things.  I have very little respect for anyone who would belittle the intelligence of someone like Musk. Why would you make such a fool of yourself? Envy really is an ugly thing.

Well said
Woman and wine, games and deceit, make the wealth small and the wants great. - Ben Franklin

rukawa

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2015, 08:21:06 AM »
Quote
Some people's output is just thousands of times more valuable than others, if not millions, even if pedants will call them "worse" at the mundane parts of whatever field they're in... I'm sure lots of physicists and mathematicians were better at all kinds of math than Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman were, but that's missing the point.

I completely agree. Humans are geared for fairness and so I think we tend to measure things more in terms of input than output. The person who works the hardest, is most technically proficient etc we judge as being he most deserving. And we feel if someone found any easy way to get something without being technically superior or working hard at it then they are somehow not deserving. Its a ridiculously evil flaw in humans that has resulted in incredible destruction and misery (socialism, national socialism, the ridiculous Japanese work culture).

But often its not about any of that. Einstein for instance was very clever in choosing exactly the areas of science where he knew there were big problems with existing theory. There are many others who are orders of magnitude more technically proficient than Einstein and vastly more hard working. Einstein was more opportunistic in his choice of problems and very clever in his mode of attack.

Liberty

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2015, 08:26:44 AM »
But often its not about any of that. Einstein for instance was very clever in choosing exactly the areas of science where he knew there were big problems with existing theory. There are many others who are orders of magnitude more technically proficient than Einstein and vastly more hard working. Einstein was more opportunistic in his choice of problems and very clever in his mode of attack.

That's why I pointed out that Musk was working on hard problems that can make a big difference, and that few others even dare to work on. There's a great quote by biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey on this:

"It has always appalled me that really bright scientists almost all work in the most competitive fields, the ones in which they are making the least difference. In other words,  if they were hit by a truck, the same discovery would be made by somebody else about 10 minutes later."

This applies to more than science. So many smart engineers are building Candy Crush apps or working on ways to get people to click on more ads (google, facebook, etc). So many of the most brilliant mathematical minds of our era are working on creating complex derivatives and HFT algorithms on Wall Street.

Sure they go where the money is, but I'd say that Musk did pretty well too and he's making a much bigger difference (making a dent in the universe, as Steve Jobs would say).
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rkbabang

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Re: Elon Musk...human?
« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2015, 08:46:14 AM »
But often its not about any of that. Einstein for instance was very clever in choosing exactly the areas of science where he knew there were big problems with existing theory. There are many others who are orders of magnitude more technically proficient than Einstein and vastly more hard working. Einstein was more opportunistic in his choice of problems and very clever in his mode of attack.

That's why I pointed out that Musk was working on hard problems that can make a big difference, and that few others even dare to work on. There's a great quote by biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey on this:

"It has always appalled me that really bright scientists almost all work in the most competitive fields, the ones in which they are making the least difference. In other words,  if they were hit by a truck, the same discovery would be made by somebody else about 10 minutes later."

This applies to more than science. So many smart engineers are building Candy Crush apps or working on ways to get people to click on more ads (google, facebook, etc). So many of the most brilliant mathematical minds of our era are working on creating complex derivatives and HFT algorithms on Wall Street.

Sure they go where the money is, but I'd say that Musk did pretty well too and he's making a much bigger difference (making a dent in the universe, as Steve Jobs would say).

The explanation for that is risk tolerance.  If you have a brilliant mathematical mind you are almost certain to do well as a quant on Wall Street, but starting your own rocket company is not exactly going to be a sure thing. In fact if you are that mathematically capable you are more likely than the average person to know the difference in the odds between the two.  Like I said Musk has a shit load of guts.  He isn't just shooting for the Moon, he's shooting for Mars.