Tim Urban, co-founder of the blog Wait But Why, spends his days writing about what he calls “this magical world of the future.” He explains everything from space travel to artificial intelligence to the thinking of leaders like Elon Musk. In this discussion, Urban tackles some of the toughest issues he’s written about – from technology to politics.
On the mind of Elon Musk: “‘First principles’ is a physics term, which is just your axioms: the things that are definitely true, the things that are the core kind of axioms of the physical world. And when you want to build a conclusion or a theory, you’ve got to use those axioms as your first principles to use them as puzzle pieces and take observations, actual data that you find and those are your puzzle pieces and you work out a conclusion from there... So I think that Elon is like the Michael Jordan of reasoning from first principles. I think that he is a total natural at it. That fear of non-conforming that we are all kind of wired with. He just doesn’t have it or he overcame it at some point.”
On the future of space travel: “A great leap is when there’s a million people on Mars in a self-sustaining civilization where if Earth disappeared, they could turn into a seven-billion-person planet of their own. They have everything they need to self-sustain. That’s a great leap, and this is happening.”