Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a
By Ashlee Vance (2015, Harper)
The biography of the man who created Tesla, SpaceX, and his Quest
for a Fantastic Future.
Read July 31st to
August 16th, 2016, in Hardcover
This look at a pioneer’s life was very
insightful. I can’t say that I’d like to work for the guy, but on the
other hand, I’d love to be involved in what he’s doing. Unfortunately,
the writing style for the book wasn’t up to holding my interest, even
with such an interesting story.
How many times can somebody say the same thing?
This author manages to do it many times over, and in different contexts,
but it’s always the same message: Musk is an extraordinary person,
inspires either extreme loyalty or extreme hatred by his employees and
relations. But he gets things done because of it.
The time spent
in Africa and Canada were interesting as history, but they were
presented rather dry. It seems that I felt the same through each
chapter, in that it didn’t hold my interest, though the subject matter
was very interesting. I guess it’s all about writing style. The author
focuses on Musk’s troubles in getting any business started, and how that
affects his strategies later on in life. He is presented as being one of
the first to think of using on-line shopping and delivery, as well as
mapquest-type software. With the internet in its infancy, I can’t
believe anybody would use this kind of service. At that time, I was just
starting to learn about the internet, and how to use the bulletin boards
and search engines. But it was difficult, and extremely slow, even with
a university network connection. But Musk persisted, and with Al Gore’s
initiative in the US to bring the internet across the country, he
succeeded as a pioneer that helped make the web what it is today –at
least in terms of shopping and web-based applications and security.
I was born around the same time as Musk, and I did a lot of the same
things that he did, and had a lot of the same interests. But I’m not an
innovator or an entrepreneur. I wrote Basic code to create games on my
first computer, saving it on a tape deck that was very difficult to use,
but still amazing to a young teen in that amazing age of technology
transition. But I never took things apart to put them back together, I
don’t have a photographic memory, and I never read a set of
encyclopedias. That seems to be where we diverged. I took the easy
route, and he took the hard one. He was driven to create something that
would change the world.
Weeks after reading this book, I’ve
become a huge fan of Tesla, though SpaceX is closer to my heart. But
electric cars are so practical, and can give so much freedom. The more I
think about what Musk did with that company, the more impressed I am.
I’d love to work for a company like either of them, but on the other
hand, I think I’d hate it. I suppose I’d rise to the challenge, but it’s
This is the man who has brought us spaceflight
for a fraction of the cost of government-run agencies, though some of
their savings has been due to shortcuts that may now be questionable,
after the recent explosion during the rocket fueling. People have been
talking for almost a hundred years about the stuff he’s now building.
Rockets that can carry people to space for a cheap price. Electric cars.
I love the reveal of the recharging stations. We even have one near
where I work. But I wonder what happens if it doesn’t get enough juice
to recharge itself. Our winters are pretty overcast, and last a long
time. Currently, if a gas station has run out of gas, there’s always
another one nearby. I know that there are some places (like India) where
gas producers/deliveries city-wide go on strike, and the cities ground
to a halt, but I wouldn’t want to count on a single recharging station
when there are a lot of electric cars waiting around to be recharged.
Still, with the growth of the industry, the number of recharging
stations should grow. I think it’s amazing.
As for the man, he’s
driven, and he’s blunt. Could he have made the companies that he has
being any other way? I don’t know. Do nice guys get to do things like
that? I don’t know. It would be great, and give us the best of both
worlds. The author give us enough information to get to know Musk, as
well, but I felt like I had to pull it out of what was written. And why
is Musk’s first wife called by her first name, but his second wife
always by her last name?
This book did what it intended, though,
I think. It got me interested in all three of Musk’s companies, and a
new way of doing things.