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5 Ways Futurist Elon Musk's Enterprises May Change the Course of Our Lives

The visionary, engineer and capitalist is helping to forestall our screwed-up future.

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Having unveiled Hyperloop earlier this year as an advanced white paper on SpaceX and Tesla's sites, Musk is already developing a demonstration while opensourcing its subsequent design to anyone who can help him make it work. Hyped up by optimists and shot down by defeatists, Hyperloop is at the very least reorienting national dialogue. "The intent," Musk explained in Hyperloop's proposal, "has been to create a new open source form of transportation that could revolutionize travel."

Whether it eventually materializes or not—although, historically speaking, it would be foolish to bet against Musk—Hyperloop is another convergence of Musk's sprawling but interconnected interests. Tesla's green fleet and bettering batteries, SolarCity's sprawling sunpower production and consumption, SpaceX's galactic ambition and mobility all achieve a wider ideal for a humanity presently locked in a trophic cascade of system failures. What will Musk come up with next?

5. [Insert Invention Here]

What sounds cool? A gesture-based design system for rockets, or whatever, that routes blueprints to 3D printers? Musk created one after watching Iron Man, whose director Jon Favreau famously based character Tony Stark—who used a kickass gesture-based design system in the film—on Musk. That hyperreal bleed got cooler when Musk and Favreau traded tweets about it, closing a circle of influence that remains instructive, given how inspired Musk has been by Isaac Asimov and other sci-fi and fantasy visionaries before him. But he is also trafficking in true-life visionaries like Nikolai Tesla, whose Long Island laboratory Musk is reportedly helping to preserve.

What do we need, atop the other concerns that brings Musk's future industries closer by the day? Well, we could really use advances in capture strategies, machines to suck the apocalyptic CO2 and CH4 out the sky and put it to work for us. A system that could repurpose nuclear waste and fallout would rule right now, but Musk knows that because he visited Fukushima and donated a $250,000 solar project. So maybe he's already working on that. 

Wait, why are we waiting for him to do it? Wasn't the point of this analysis to get everyone else to up their game? Don't we want to save the world? Aren't we paying attention?

“Few things threaten our future more than climate change," Solar Energy Industries Association's Ken Johnson told me. "Sea levels are rising, we’re experiencing more intense and unpredictable storms and droughts. To his credit, Musk is leading by example."

Scott Thill runs the online mag Morphizm.com. His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.
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