Elon Musk: South Africa’s greatest export

18 April 2024, Thursday

Elon Musk is probably South Africa’s greatest ever export, says human brand specialist Rob Opie. He draws inspiration from this technological pioneer, urging others to ‘just musk it’. Ironically technology could become humankind’s biggest enemy, reflects Opie here as he traces back on Musk’s successes and the lessons we can all learn from him. – Jackie Cameron

By Rob Opie

While doing a recent radio interview, I was asked one of life’s most powerful questions, a question which often helps to light up one’s own path to human greatness:

‘Who inspires you most?’

What would your answer be?

As young children most of us had our own chosen comic book ‘superheroes’. Then we moved on to the sporting field, where our ‘superheroes’ entertained and inspired the world.

But, somehow as we grow older, we seem to abandon the use of the word ‘superhero’. In reality the game is just beginning, as we start to acquire greater knowledge and wisdom of how the world works, and how the world does not work sometimes.My answer was an unequivocal one. A man who is fast changing the way of the world. A man who is even making Bill Gates look pedestrian. South African born Elon Musk, who must probably rank right up there as our greatest export.

Schooled in Pretoria, Elon Musk knows that ordinary will never change the world. At age 43, he is already the entrepreneurial and visionary mastermind behind Tesla Motors, PayPal, Space X, Solar City and the envisioned high speed Hyperloop from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The scary thing is that he’s just warming up.

To understand Elon Musk’s contribution to humankind, one needs to look a little deeper at what he is about. What is his ‘one thing’?
It’s certainly not clear from his varied business interests. Yes, to the outside it appears his new focus lies in the field of energy, but what is really turning Musk into the next great saviour of humankind. And, when he talks the world is starting to listen intently.
As recently as last Friday, he warned that probably the biggest threat to humankind is the latest trending towards ‘artificial intelligence’, where man is looking at computers to do tasks that normally require human thinking.

Musk’s strategic outlook on life is pure potential power, ready to be unleashed. It reflects a man who is constantly looking to find out what is, and what is going to affect mankind the most, to then find out what is not working, and to then go and fix it.

He is certainly not one who avoids life’s big challenges. So far, he has done some pretty amazing things and is warming up ‘to musk the world’! Mr Fixer par excellence in his chosen fields of greatness – space, internet and green technology.

Now, imagine if more and more South Africans could think like Elon Musk? To apply his philosophy of finding out what is not working and fixing it for the good of mankind.

If everybody had that mindset in their sphere of excellence, we would surely move a little faster from good to great to greater. Everyone making a collective contribution.

That’s how a nation becomes inspired, but sadly we are not quite there! It reminds me of the classic crayfish joke where Gatiep arrives back with a full bucket of crayfish and his mate says: Pasop Gatiep, that one crayfish is going to escape. Gatiep replies : ‘Nooit, these are South African crayfish – as soon as one makes a move, the other will pull him back down again ‘.

Recently we have seen a few cases in South Africa. Professor Tim Noakes stood up to do nothing more than ‘to help people do life better’, only to be pulled down by his own establishment, who have vested interests elsewhere.

Then just last week we saw Marcel Golding being pulled down by his own establishment, for trying to ‘do what is right ”. So, yes we should all be taking heed of Elon Musk’s approach to building a better world together for the good of mankind. For instance, Musk does not believe in patents.
Now going back to the interview question, where I replied that Elon Musk’s ‘fix what is not working approach’ was the primary inspiration behind my passion to ‘to help people to do life better’.

Musk has now recently also spoken out about artificial intelligence becoming a heightened risk for mankind. I agree, as today we all live in the most technologically advanced society that mankind has ever known, but sadly we mostly remain ignorant of the most powerful universal laws that govern our daily lives. We are at risk of outsourcing our lives to technology, and medicine for that matter – when things go wrong in our lives. Samsung even went as far as running a campaign recently entitled: ‘My life, powered by Samsung S5”.

Inspired by Musk, our research at The Game Plan has been focused on fixing what is not working, and hence the opening of our global online cancer research centre to help more people prevent and conquer cancer. It’s early days for our proudly SA initiative, inspired to change the world – one life at a time, but the results to date have been extra ordinary.

My suggestion is to keep an eye on this man on a mission! We can still claim him as one of our superheroes! Amazingly, he’s just warming up! And if more and more South Africans can ‘just musk it’, then we will surely have less ‘potholes of life’, and will all be on the road to greatness together

We are summoning the demon with artificial intelligence - Elon Musk. 26 October 2014