Tomorrow is good.
In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer and Daan Kersten, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All four contributors are – in addition to their ‘normal’ groundbreaking work – linked to theSingularityU The Netherlands, the organization that focuses on spreading knowledge about technologies that can provide solutions to the problems of our time. This Sunday, it’s Daan Kersten‘s turn.
By Daan Kersten
Tomorrow is good, let’s collaborate to ensure that promise. As I wrote in my first column we can all do our own part to fulfil this promise.
If there is someone who is really working on this goal, it must be Elon Musk. With Tesla he rapidly changes the image of electric vehicles. He makes them sporty, exciting and responsible at the same time. Who would have thought that, after the dominance of the ‘sexless’ Toyota Prius, the Leaf Nissan and GM Volt. Henrik Fisker’s beautiful Karma unfortunately failed because its batteries caught fire. Something which does occur in the industry’s best families, as Samsung has proven. With his Models S, X, and 3 Musk is building a series of cars that each of us would like to have in the driveway. Even my partner and complete petrolhead Jonas confessed – after his first ride in a Model S – that his gasoline powered car felt somewhat old-fashioned. The main contribution that Musk delivers with Tesla is not the beautification of our fleet, but the drastic improvement of the position of this whole category of vehicles. With this, he lowers the threshold for others to build cars that can make tomorrow better.
For this contribution alone Musk already deserves a statue, but he doesn’t stop at that. As if being a revolutionary car manufacturer is not challenging enough, Musk looks at a broader perspective. Because, if we make electric cars that run on electricity generated from coal, tomorrow may still not be better after all. So he helps his cousins setting up SolarCity, a company that installs solar panels on homes, and he builds the Tesla Power Wall, a large battery to store the electricity that has been generated by these panels. This way, the car can be charged with really green electricity. For him it then is logical to merge this company with Tesla for a fully integrated proposition. Again, Musk thinks one step further than the established order and he makes it easy for people to choose the technology that makes tomorrow a little bit better.
Finally Musk is working on plan B which, when you look into his heart, actually is plan A. If tomorrow will not turn out to be better soon enough on this earth, we should be able to move to another place. He has set his eyes on Mars, which is not the most obvious choice, but no less interesting. Even with all the practical difficulties and operational bumps, his ambition is to make humanity ‘multi-planetary’. His company SpaceX is working to realize this dream since 2002. In an extremely short period of time it has developed rockets that have already supplied the International Space Station for NASA nine times. Thanks to these commercial contracts, SpaceX is further developing its technology, testing new concepts, and laying the foundations for a future mission to Mars. For this, SpaceX needs new technology and again challenges its partners to think along. New technology which not only is needed to permit a mission to Mars, but also helps in reducing the weight of cars, the cheapening of medical implants and improving high-tech systems. In short, he contributes to the realization of ‘tomorrow is good‘.
May I invite the readers of this column to send me your best example of people or companies who contribute to improving our world? Please send it to the editors via [email protected].