Elon Musk has been in the news lately, for better or worse. First, he offered to design a submarine to ferry away the Thai soccer team trapped in the cave. Then he raged and threw an infantile fit at a rescue leader for rejecting that submarine, calling him offensive names on Twitter. Then his company Tesla’s stocks hit some turbulence because of said tweet and some other bad press.
Musk has some issues, it’s true. But he’s not at fault for his tastes in sci-fi, which are excellent. Here are some of his favorites.
A set of classic science fiction novels concerning the fall of a Galactic Empire and one man’s attempts to predict the future accurately enough to forestall an interstellar dark age. The Foundation exists as a repository of human knowledge in order to save civilization itself and prevent an era of barbarism.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
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A comic masterpiece that starts with the Earth being demolished to make way for a space highway — and it only gets wackier from there. A novel that asks the important questions, like what is the meaning of life the universe and everything, and gets 42 as an answer in return.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
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A future Lunar society facing food shortages rebels against the tyranny of Earth with the help of an artificial intelligence. Another science fiction classic by a member of the big three of sci-fi writers.
Culture Series by Ian M. Banks
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Reading The Culture series by Banks. Compelling picture of a grand, semi-utopian galactic future. Hopefully not too optimistic about AI.
A series of novels and short stories centered around a utopian psuedo-anarchist spacefaring society ruled by benevolent intellects known as Minds. The stories often concern the Culture’s contact with other civilizations that don’t share their particular set of values. Several of SpaceX’s droneships were named after Minds from this series.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
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A cautionary tale about the dangers of superintelligent artificial intelligence. In a word, terrifying. The AI at the center of this story wields godlike powers that he inflicts sadistically upon the last survivors of the human race.
Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy has successfully launched into space and is headed for Mars orbit. Aboard the massive rocket is Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, a test-dummy called “Starman,” a bunch of David Bowie music, the words “Don’t Panic” (in reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) displayed on the Tesla’s panel, and a storage device containing sci-fi classics.
Besides The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference propelling through space, a device that SpaceX calls “5D quartz laser storage device…a high tech, high data storage unit that can survive the harsh environment of space” is also on the payload. This device contains Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.
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The Foundation trilogy is basically about the idea that humans have cracked the code and can predict and plan for the future. It’s kind of a nice idea that Musk stored copies of the novels aboard the first Falcon Heavy launch. It’s, you know, symbolic or whatever. People should have reason to be hopeful if Musk’s optimistic enough to be sending something like the Foundation series up into space.
Musk is a known bookworm, constantly recommending books, and apparently a Potterhead. SpaceX’s successful launch of the Falcon Heavy means we can soon send up massive payloads (up to 64 tonnes) at a relatively low price. But the most valuable part of the payload that was sent up on its premiere voyage was, of course, literature.
Inventor and business mogul Elon Musk treated tech junkies and Tesla fans to a SpaceX chat on Reddit this past Saturday, October 14th.
SpaceX is just another thing that Musk has founded. It’s goal is to reduce the cost of space travel and eventually create a colony on Mars. Knowing the engineering focus and background, it’s surprising that Musk’s Reddit chat had an amusing pop-culture twist. When a fan inquired about the heat source that would be used on the SpaceX Raptor engine, Musk replied that he planned to use the incendio spell from Harry Potter. He even included the wiki-link in the thread! Any Harry Potter fan knows that this spell is used to make fire.
Not to worry though, the South African engineer did follow up with a serious answer. He definitely didn’t become the tech titan that he is by using spells. (Or did he?) Another thread of chat also found Mr. Musk referencing kids pop culture. According to CNBC, when a redditor declared that it wasn’t possible to land on the moon using a certain engine, Musk responded, “Yes you can- Bob the Builder.” Interesting. I could have sworn that Dora the Explorer said it first. Who knew that Elon Musk was a Harry Potter fan! But I suppose when you’re a billionaire, you can make time for pleasure reading. Musk has had a total of 6 children, so he may not have earned all these cool points on his own. Regardless, there’s no doubt that now he has possibly expanded his following to include book nerds.