Elon Musk talks Mars, Neuralink and Dogecoin in surprise Clubhouse interview
In a meandering chat, the world's richest man also talks Cobra Kai and Robinhood.
Jackson RyanFormer Science Editor
Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
, the SpaceX and
head honcho, appeared on the exclusive audio-only Clubhouse app Sunday night, joining the Good Time Show to talk all things Mars, memes and becoming a multiplanet species. The app, which allows people to create rooms for conversation, didn't fare too well. The cap on participants is set at 5,000 -- and it was quickly overwhelmed as Musk fans clamored to hear the world's richest man speak.
Still, enterprising YouTubers and Discord servers popped up, and far more than 5,000 people got to hear some surprising claims about Mars and monkeys. In his characteristic fashion, Musk made some bold claims about when people might get to the red planet, discussed his Twitter memes and detailed some of the progress his team at Neuralink has made. It was meandering and, at times, bizarre, but Musk did reveal a few interesting details.
Let's start with Mars. If you're wondering what Musk's timeline to get humans on Mars is, you might be surprised.
"Five and a half years," Musk told hosts Sriram Krishnan and Aarthi Ramamurthy at the beginning of the show.
Musk has been known to put ambitious deadlines on his projects, from Tesla to SpaceX, but five and a half years to get Starship off the ground and ferrying humans to another planet? That's a whole other level of ambition. But that's not a hard deadline. Musk listed a number of caveats -- there's a raft of technological advances that must be made in the intervening years.
"The important thing is that we establish Mars as a self-sustaining civilization," he said.
After Mars, Musk got applause for his meme abilities, which he partly attributed to "meme dealers," before the topic swerved to something more serious: Neuralink, the brain-implant startup he founded in 2016.
The last update, which came in August 2020, showed a "Fitbit-like" implant "working" in pigs, but we haven't heard much since -- and there' haven't been any scientific papers published in the meantime. Musk said new videos showing progress would be released in a month or so.
"We have a monkey with a wireless implant in their skull who can play video games using his mind," Musk said. Of course, there's no evidence for this, and it's the second time we've heard Musk discuss it. "Can we have the monkeys play mind Pong with each other?" he mused.
Consider that a caveat, though: Musk pulled it right back and made it clear these were long-term goals for the brain-implant device. The initial research focuses on how it might help those who have experienced brain and spine injuries.
"I want to be clear." Musk said, "the early applications will really just be for people who have a serious brain injury, like, where, it's like the value of the implant is just enormous."
One of the biggest stories in the last week has been the stock market, Reddit and GameStop's huge rally. But it was Bitcoin that Musk focused his attention on. "I'm late to the party but I'm a supporter of Bitcoin," he noted before turning his attention to Dogecoin, which had its own surge over the past week.
"Arguably the most entertaining outcome, the most ironic outcome would be that Dogecoin becomes the currency of Earth of the future," he joked. Cryptocurrency tracker CoinDesk showed a small dropoff for Dogecoin's price immediately after Musk's comments.
Towards the end of the discussion, Musk rattled off a few things he's watching at the moment. We've thrown some of the quotes below.
Cobra Kai: "It's such a sick burn, that show."
The Expanse: "Maybe I should start watching that."
Mythic Quest: "That's a good one."
Tenet: "It's pretty good. I think if you think too hard about Tenet, it's maybe not going to make complete sense, but I enjoyed the movie."
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "Effectively a book on philosophy, disguised as a silly human book."
Toward the end of discussion, Vlad Tenev, chief executive officer of stock trading app Robinhood, joined the interview to talk about the GameStop-Reddit saga, and Musk prodded him.
"People demand the truth," Musk said. "Did something shady go down here?"
"I wouldn't impute shadiness or anything like that on behalf of the NSCC," Tenev replied, referring to the National Securities Clearing Corporation.
It was typical Musk stream of consciousness, clocking in at about 90 minutes. Clubhouse couldn't keep up with the demand, and the conversation moved at a fierce, confusing pace. But it was weirdly entertaining? When Musk speaks, people seem willing to listen, and you never know where things are going to end up.