Leaked transcript: Inside Elon Musk’s first meeting with Twitter employees

Leaked transcript: Inside Elon Musk’s first meeting with Twitter employees

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On Thursday morning, Elon Musk addressed Twitter employees for the first time in a Q&A session about how he’ll run the social media company. The meeting comes after weeks of uncertainty about whether the deal is happening at all.

In the meeting, Musk answered challenging questions submitted from employees, including how he will handle contentious speech on the platform, whether he plans layoffs, and if he will allow employees to continue to work remotely.

While Musk provided few details that would assuage those at Twitter who fear Musk’s self-labeled free speech ideology and management style — it was one of the most substantial conversations Musk has had yet about how he actually plans to change the company.

The following is a rush transcript of Twitter’s internal meeting on June 16, 2022. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

The meeting started with a brief introduction from Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s current CEO. Twitter’s chief marketing officer, Leslie Berland, asked Musk questions submitted in advance by Twitter employees.


Parag Agrawal

So you’re going to hear from you live and direct. And we all appreciate you joining us today.

Elon Musk

Absolutely, Parag. Thanks for having me. Glad to be able to speak to everyone. And since we started late, I’m going to go right ahead, hand it over to Leslie so that she can moderate this Q&A session for us.

Leslie Berland

Amazing. Thanks, Parag. Hi, Elon. We have a lot to cover — a ton to cover. So I am going to ask you a question that usually gets asked at the end, which is: Will you come back for a part two at some point if there are things that we don’t cover?

Elon Musk

Oh, yeah, absolutely. I’m happy to do that.

Leslie Berland

Okay, great. … So I really do see this as the beginning of a conversation, obviously, with the company at large, and then also with teams and leaders over the next coming weeks and months and beyond. So we’re just getting started. Okay, so I’m going to zoom all the way out to the reason that we’re actually here together today. And that is because you love Twitter.

Elon Musk

I do love Twitter, yeah. So I want to be clear about that. I love Twitter. In fact, I literally have tweeted “I love Twitter,”

Leslie Berland

You have. So tell us, say more. Why do you love Twitter? And also, why did you and do you want to buy Twitter?

Elon Musk

Well, let’s see. I find, like, I learn a lot from what I read on Twitter, and what I see in the pictures, videos, text, and memes that people create. I also find it’s a great way to get a message out over the phone, when I want to say something and make an announcement, I think Twitter’s the best way to do that. It just goes out immediately to everyone. And you know, I sort of made this joke already, but you know, some people use their hair to express themselves, I use Twitter. So you know, I find it’s the best forum for communicating with a lot of people simultaneously.

And getting that message directly to people in the past, you’d have to … in order for somebody to read about something, you have to issue a press release, and then you’d hope that the regular media would write about the press release. And then they wouldn’t write about it in quite the way you’d like to write about it. I always find those like, the old-style press releases kind of, really quite strange because you’re writing a press release about yourself, which is sort of something that the media — it’s like, it’s overly flattering, it’s like vaguely sort of, you know, propagandist — effectively — quite propagandist, and then hope that the media writes something favorable, which they usually do not.

And, you know, I think that that actually is maybe one of the biggest reasons for using Twitter is so I communicate directly to people and not through the lens of the media. And, you know, I think there’s obviously an important role for the media to play. But as anyone knows who reads the newspaper, it’s coming through quite a negative lens. So you have to say, how many newspaper articles do you read that are positive? And how many news articles do you read that are negative? What percentage are positive, what percentage are negative? And then when you read about — it’s obviously overwhelmingly negative. And then when you read about something — newspaper is a dated term, in the news — where you actually personally understand the situation, how many times has the media gotten it right? I would say almost never. Not never, but almost never.

So this is a way for people to communicate directly with each other and not through a negative lens. And I think that’s extremely important for the world. So I’m sort of going waxing on about this, but I think it’s pretty important.

And you know, some of my comments about Twitter being sort of like a digital town square — but really much more than that, because you can’t put that many people in a town square, but you have the ability to communicate with millions of people on Twitter. That’s just an incredibly important thing. And I think it’s essential for a functioning democracy to function well.

I think it’s essential to have free speech and to be able to communicate freely. Now you know, the free speech stuff: It’s free speech within the context of the law. So I’m not talking about suggesting that we just flout the law, because we’ll just get shut down in that case.

And I think also, there’s freedom of speech or freedom of reach. And freedom of speech is one thing, because, like, anyone could just go into the middle of Times Square right now and say anything they want, they could just walk into the middle of Times Square and deny the Holocaust, okay? You can’t stop them, they will just do that. But that doesn’t mean that needs to be promoted to millions of people.

So I think people should be allowed to say pretty outrageous things that are within the bounds of the law, but then that doesn’t get amplified, it doesn’t get, you know, a ton of reach.

And I think an important goal for Twitter, really, is to try to include as much of the country, as much of the world, as possible. So currently, you know, it’s a relatively small percentage of the world that is — it is a small percentage of the world that is on Twitter — say, like daily active users, if you presume that that’s, say, 200 million, you’ve got 8 billion people on Earth, that 7.8 billion who are not on Twitter. So that’s a pretty big number.

And really, I think you want as much of the world as possible on Twitter, you want to be as inclusive as possible, the broadest demographic, and for that to happen, people must like being on Twitter.

So if they’re being harassed or if they’re uncomfortable, they’re just not gonna use Twitter. We have to strike this balance of allowing people to say what they want to say but also make people comfortable on Twitter, or they simply won’t use it. It will be sort of quite niche.

But I think there’s also a lot that should be done in terms of enhancing the core technology and operating of Twitter. Like right now, if somebody does, say, a video, like a content creator does a video, then they can put that video on YouTube and just put a link to it from Twitter because they’re able to monetize their content on YouTube, but not on Twitter. And I think it’s gonna be really important for you to want to put the content on Twitter, which we do, then there has to be a mechanism for content creators to monetize that content.

And so they could dual post and they can post it to YouTube and to Twitter. But it’s, I think it’s crazy right now that content creators will use Twitter to drive traffic to their YouTube video because that’s how they make a living. And that really should be on Twitter.

We want to basically address the reasons that people like — why aren’t more people using Twitter? And why do people click away from Twitter? And if we can address those reasons, then then they will use Twitter more, and they’ll get greater value from the service. And, you know, if I think of, like, WeChat in China, which is actually a great, great app, but there’s no WeChat movement outside of China. And I think that there’s a real opportunity to create that. You basically live on WeChat in China because it’s so useful and so helpful to your daily life. And I think if we could achieve that, or even close to that with Twitter, it would be an immense success. Hopefully, that is — I really went on there. And I’m happy to elaborate on any of those points.

Leslie Berland

Yeah, no, it’s great. And we’re gonna get a little bit deeper on free speech and policy a little bit later. So I do want to come back to this actually. But in terms of you, you clearly have a lot of thoughts around sort of the problems with Twitter, the things that aren’t working well, and the barriers to what’s possible. How do you see your buying the company? Did that sort of feed your desire to buy the company or how do you see these things come together? And what’s your thought process around that?

Elon Musk

Well, there’s definitely an ongoing challenge with Twitter with bot accounts and spam accounts. There’s quite a lot of crypto scams on Twitter. It’s gotten better, but there’s still a fair bit of that. There are also people where they’re not necessarily bots, but they might be operating. You know, one person’s operating hundreds of accounts and trying to make them look like individuals, but they’re not.

So you know, I think a lot of stuff is kind of reiterating stuff that I said publicly —in fact, on Twitter — but in order for people to have trust in Twitter, I think it’s extremely important that there be transparency. So that’s why I’m an advocate of having the algorithm be open source so that people can critique it, improve it, identify bugs, potentially, or bias. But when it’s transparent, transparency obviously increases trust. So I think it’s just very important, like, anything that’s happening on an automated basis be open source and be clear, and that if there is any action taken by someone within Twitter to boost, or de-boost, or something with a tweet that it’s just very clearly identified on the tweet, so people aren’t ascribing malice where there’s no malice.

But when it’s inscrutable, then people don’t know what to think. And they will sometimes think the worst when that’s actually not true. So I think that trust is extremely important. And then just the usefulness of the system, getting rid of sort of troll farms and bots and spam is incredibly important.

I have a thought in this regard, which I think might work, which is to — because this kind of leads us to Twitter Blue — but if you have Twitter Blue, your identification in the system doesn’t change at all, you still have a normal user ID. But I think if there was like a little Twitter Blue authenticated, not like authenticated like a celebrity, but authenticated at least by Twitter Blue payments, piggybacking on the payment system due to authentication, that I think a lot of people would be like, “Okay, that’s pretty helpful to have some designation that reflects my name, that indicates I’m probably not a bot, or spam, or one person who’s operating 100 accounts.” And that’s like three bucks a month, I believe, I think that would be pretty helpful.

And then, also prioritizing comments and mentions and whatnot, by who is verified in this broader sense of the word of “verification.” In the sense of you’re Twitter Blue verified, and just prioritize that above someone who’s not not verified. There will still be full read access to the system, still be full write access to the system. But essentially any tweets or our actions will be prioritized according to who’s verified. And then a very large number of people can be verified.

Leslie Berland

I’m gonna have a couple of follow-up questions on this, specifically, but given [that] you mentioned trust, I wanted to ask one of the employee questions around trust. They said, “Twitter has a lot of incredible, smart, talented people. What can we do to earn your trust? And what are you going to do to earn ours?”

Elon Musk

I think trust is as trust does. So, I tend to be extremely literal in what I say. So, aspirationally, one does not need to read between the lines, one can simply read the lines. So the things that I’ve said about Twitter, I think, need to happen in order for it … to really go to the next level. I think the potential is there for Twitter to be accessible to an order of magnitude more people, and for a lot more people to find it useful.

Currently, I guess it would be a cutback, for 4 percent of the world or something like that. Four or 5 percent of the world, optimistically, is finding Twitter useful, and maybe 50 percent of the world could find Twitter useful. So I want to take whatever actions would lead to that. I’m very much like […] I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a trust thing. It’s like, if somebody is getting useful things done, then that’s great. But if they’re not getting useful things done, then I’m like, okay, why are they at the company? So it’s really just, we need to improve the core technology, improve the design.

Leslie Berland

Trust emerges from that.

Elon Musk

Yeah. … If somebody’s getting stuff done, great, I love them. And if they’re not, I don’t like that and I do not love them. It’s pretty straightforward.

Leslie Berland

I would love to stay on this topic of employees and how we work. So distributed work is something that has been core to our strategy. Most of our people work in a hybrid model. About 1,500 people work remote full time. We know that you’ve recently sent a communication to Tesla executives about remote work. Can you share what your point of view is on remote work, and specifically for Twitter?

Elon Musk

Now Tesla makes cars and you cannot make cars remotely, obviously. You have to make cars in a big factory, and the supply chain, and you have to bring in the parts, and assemble them, and then transport the car to the owner. All of these things must be done in person because it’s physically impossible to do them remotely. There are some roles at Tesla where the work can be done remotely, like, say, software or design. … I think that’s still a case where you want to aspire to do things in person, but if somebody is exceptional at their job, then it’s possible for them to be effective, even working remotely.

So with Tesla, I have simply asked for a list — that the manager has to confirm — that they’re an excellent contributor, and if they do, they’re allowed to work remotely. So it’s pretty basic, I think. There is a hit one takes, remotely, because it does reduce esprit de corps and … it kind of matters to be in person, at least some of the time. So one of the things I’ve said, even if somebody’s working remotely, they gotta show up at the office occasionally so that they recognize their colleagues and don’t walk down the street and pass your colleagues and you don’t recognize them. That would not be good.

Leslie Berland

Well I think this is super clarifying, and resonates with us entirely in terms of how we work, so thank you for clarifying that topic. It’s really important to us. I would like to keep on the topic of employees and some of the questions that have come through. This one’s on compensation and benefits. Most people — especially, obviously, here — are used to working for a public company. Can you talk a little bit about how you compensate folks at SpaceX as a private company, how does it work, and what approach you plan to take at Twitter as a private company?

Elon Musk

Yeah. So SpaceX, I think, operates in the best of both worlds, where stock and options are issued to everyone. But we don’t have all the challenges of being a publicly traded company with a stock that can be up and down from one day to the next — it can be quite a distraction — and where one is at the mercy of short sellers and class action lawsuits. … It’s like being in the public stockade in which they just throw tomatoes at you all day. SpaceX still allows liquidity, so every six months, there’s a liquidity event at SpaceX, and people have the opportunity to sell their shares. And that’s worked very well for the whole lot of the company. So I think something like that would make sense at Twitter. So it would still be stock and options and every day, and it would just be liquidity events twice a year.

Leslie Berland

Thanks. We are getting some real-time feedback on the remote work questions, so I just want to make sure I follow up.

Elon Musk

Sure.

Leslie Berland

Your approach to remote work and distributed work. … What I’m hearing from you is that you are supportive of remote and distributed work as it is productive and meaningful. People show up when it’s important, and depending on their jobs. Is that an accurate reflection?

Elon Musk

The bias there definitely needs to be strongly toward working in person. But if somebody is exceptional, then remote work can be okay. But basically, if their work output is exceptional, then remote work is fine. There is some communication impact that one takes when working remotely because if you’re with people, and they’re just a few desks away, it’s very easy to communicate in real time, but it’s much harder to do that if you’re in different physical locations. So I do want to emphasize that the bias is very much toward in-person work. It’s just that it would obviously be insane if someone is excellent at what they do but can only work remotely, to then fire them even though they’re doing excellent work. … So I’m definitely not in favor of things that are mad. I’m in favor of things that build the business and make it better.

Leslie Berland

Thank you. Question about layoffs. We received several questions from employees on this point. Obviously, they’ve read about the recent layoffs at Tesla. Can you speak to how you’re thinking about layoffs at Twitter?

Elon Musk

Well, I think it depends on, you know, the company does need to be — to get — healthy. So I mean, right now, the costs exceed the revenue. So that’s not a great situation to be in. And so there would have to be some rationalization of headcount and expenses to have revenue be greater than cost. Otherwise, Twitter is simply not viable or can’t grow. So, yeah, I think it would just be dependent on you know, like I said, anyone who’s obviously a significant contributor should have nothing to worry about. I do not take actions which are disruptive to the health of the company. So, you know, yeah.

Leslie Berland

One question connected to that, as you’re obviously learning and gaining information as we get closer to this deal being closed. What do you feel that you have deep understanding and grasp of? And what are the areas that you feel like you want to dive much more deeper on to understand and learn?

Elon Musk

Well, I certainly, I mean, I have a strong, a great understanding of the product because I use Twitter every day, practically. And, you know, I think I’ve got a really good understanding of how Twitter works from a product standpoint. What I have less understanding of is, you know, like, this sort of bot spam or multi-user account — basically, anything that affects the monetizable daily user number, that’s probably my biggest concern. Because that’s really what drives advertising revenue, as well as subscription revenue. And really, Twitter’s revenue is going to be subscription, advertising — I think payments would be an interesting thing to do, as well. But all of those things are only relevant as a function of how many unique humans are on the system. So that’s my biggest concern. And that’s what I’ve said publicly as well, like I said, I try to be as literal as possible, yeah.

Leslie Berland

And as we think about, obviously, the product and the service and serving customers all around the world, clearly, it’s critical and existential for us to serve diverse communities. And all people, as you said earlier. So inclusion, diversity is obviously core and central to our work at Twitter, both our employees and the customers that we serve. You have been vocal on a variety of different topics and issues that relate to inclusion and diversity. Can you talk about both your views and also your commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace and also a service where everyone can feel included and safe?

Elon Musk

Yeah, I mean, well, it’s, to be clear, when talking about Twitter as a whole, there’s 8 billion people in the world; I’m told there’s 200 million daily users of Twitter. That’s a 7.8 billion-person gap. So I think we really want to have, I don’t know, at least a billion people on Twitter, maybe more, as many people as we can possibly get on Twitter. So that, I think, is the most inclusive definition of inclusiveness, just like, all humans. So that’s important. You know, from a company standpoint, I believe in a sort of strict meritocracy, so whatever, you know, whoever’s doing great work, great, they get more responsibility and authority. And that’s that.

Leslie Berland

And I know you mentioned in some of our conversations about your I&D team at Tesla; we have an amazing I&D team here at Twitter as well. So continue on the journey together.

I want to talk about content moderation, go back to a number of the things that you said earlier. So this is one I’ll take, I’ll take verbatim. So you’ve spoken a lot about the importance of free speech. Let’s start with the US, where we have a strong tradition around this. And you touched on this earlier, a lot of what’s called lawful but awful speech is allowed here in the United States, right? Animal abuse footage, doxxing, videos of sexual violence, etc. So allowing this type of content, obviously, could cause harm, and make Twitter unusable for the broad audience that you’re trying to reach. What is your approach to this type of content that’s legal but problematic as it relates to people actually using the service? How do you think about this tension?

Elon Musk

As I said earlier, really, I think people, we should allow people to say what they want, post what they want, within the bounds of the law. But that’s different from them being able to reach people who don’t want to be reached with that content. So if that content is offensive to people, they will, those people will simply stop using Twitter. So it’s important to make Twitter as attractive as possible. And really, that means not showing people content that they would find hateful or offensive, or even frankly content they would find boring is not good. We don’t even want them to see boring content.

We were talking about TikTok last night. And TikTok obviously does a great job of making sure you’re not bored. I mean, it’s just like ADD, but like next level — but TikTok does a great job of making you not bored. I mean, I do find some of the videos offensive, I think, but they’re not boring. So the folks — how do we ensure people have content that they find entertaining and engaging and interesting, such that they want to keep using Twitter and use it more. So that’s, yeah, that’s what’s essential to the growth of the service.

Leslie Berland

One of our employees asked about people who use Twitter having the right and the ability to filter out content that they don’t want to see — I think this gets to exactly what you’re pointing to.

Elon Musk

I mean, to be clear, the standard is much more than not offending people. The standard is, should be, that they’re very entertained and informed. Like, you could not offend someone, but you could also bore them and show a bunch of content that they don’t find interesting, and then they will not use the service or they will use it less. So that’s why I used the example of TikTok, where they just honed the algorithm to be as engaging as possible. And I think we want to also hone it to be as engaging as possible, in a different way, I think.

You know, TikTok is interesting, but, like, you want to be informed about serious issues as well. And I think Twitter, in terms of serious issues, can be a lot better for informing people about serious issues. I do you think it’s important that there be, you know, if there are two sides to an issue, it’s important to represent multiple opinions. But you know, and just make sure that we’re not sort of driving narrative. Give people an opportunity to understand the various sides of issues. Most issues in the world are complex. They don’t boil down to a simple, “this is 100 percent good; this is 100 percent bad.” So I think it would be — we’d have a more informed public — if people were presented with multiple sides to an issue.

Leslie Berland

One point I just want to go back to, on the law and how that impacts content and moderation: As we think globally around the world, there are some countries that have laws that limit speech, and sometimes actually use these laws to silence disagreement with the government, etc. You were talking about different points of view. So Twitter is historically focused on doing what we can do to enable people everywhere to have their voices. How do you think about that as it relates to, again, like the local laws and what that means?

Elon Musk

Well, I’m in favor of doing, of going, as far as the law will allow us. If the law will — if, say, Twitter employees would get arrested in the country if we didn’t adhere to the law, then we obviously must adhere to the law or exit the country or something. So I mean, as much as we can enable people to have a voice and to speak their mind, I think we want to do that.

Leslie Berland

And I know we talked about this as well, last night — about the teams doing this work and sort of your desire to connect with those teams and understand where we’ve been, where we are, where we’re going. And I think that would be usually productive across the board, both ways. Can we talk briefly about your political views? How if at all do your political views play into the leadership of the companies that you currently run? How would it affect Twitter, if at all?

Elon Musk

Well, my political views, I think, are moderate, at least as would be, you know, as if you said, like, what is the center of the normal distribution of political views in the country, I think that’d be pretty close to the center. You know, I’ve voted Democrat, every election until this recent one this week. And then I voted for Mayra Flores, who is Republican. She’s Mexican American, and I thought a good candidate and worth voting for. But I, you know, I’m in favor of moderate politics. But I’m allowing people who have relatively extreme views to express those views within the bounds of the law. So that’s, you know, as I said publicly, I think if, let’s say, the far left 10 percent and far right 10 percent were equally upset on Twitter, then that would probably be a good outcome.

Leslie Berland

I want to just talk about our business for a minute. You’ve spoken about incentives that the business creates for services like Twitter. What role does advertising play in the future of your business plan for the company?

Elon Musk

I think advertising is very important for Twitter. So in the case of, say, Tesla or SpaceX, there’s no need for advertising because the demand exceeds our production. So I mean, advertising is fundamentally a demand generator, and you occasionally want to get some other message out there. But it’s fundamentally a demand generator.

So given that, at Tesla, demand is far in excess of production, there’s no need for Tesla to advertise. But, you know, I’m not against advertising. I would probably, I don’t know, want to talk to the advertisers and say, like, “hey, let’s just make sure the ads are as entertaining as possible.” I think they’re more effective if they’re entertaining. Like, you want to not be strident or spammy in an ad. And then, of course, I don’t think it’s good to allow advertising of any products which are, you know, bad products.

I was literally scammed. I bought this thing off of a YouTube ad, and it doesn’t work. And then I Googled it and it’s like, oh, yeah, once you click on the second page of Google search results, it’s like, yeah, this product totally doesn’t work. It’s trash. And I’m like, well, why the hell is YouTube allowing advertising of scammy products? That’s totally not cool. So I think if your advertising is entertaining, interesting, it’s something you might actually want, and the product would be, you know, fulfilling to the Twitter user, then I think that’s great advertising. So, yeah.

Leslie Berland

So we’re gonna go over. Is that okay? Awesome. Thank you. Can you talk a little bit about Twitter and payments? You mentioned this a few times in different settings. I would love to understand your thinking there.

Elon Musk

Yeah. Your money is essentially a form of information. It’s information that allows us to exchange products and services without having to barter and allows people to shift obligations in time. But money is fundamentally digital at this point, and has been for a while. And PayPal, you know, I think it’s done a great job on the payments front. I think it would make sense to integrate payments into Twitter so that it’s easy to send money back and forth. And if you have currency as well as crypto. Essentially, whenever somebody would find it useful.

So my goal would be to maximize the usefulness of the service — the more useful it is, the better. And if one can use it to make convenient payments, that’s an increase in usefulness. News, entertainment, and payments, I think, are like three critical areas. But really, it’s just about thinking about how to make this, how to make using Twitter so compelling that you can’t live without it and that everyone wants to use it.

Leslie Berland

I want it to say on the product. Again, you did touch upon this earlier, but it’s a recurring question around the authentication piece, you know, in terms of you’re saying you want to authenticate all humans, so just to sort of double click into that, you know, balancing this with those who benefit from anonymity, right, from a safety perspective, especially, for example, human rights activists and marginalized communities. Can you just clarify, again, speak to that tension? And how you think about those words, specifically? Anonymity is sort of core to how people use the service.

Elon Musk

Yeah, I don’t think it’s necessary for someone to use their real name. So if one, say, does a payments-based authentication, I think it should be okay to not use your real name on Twitter. So Twitter would know who you are, at least from a payment standpoint, but you would not have to state your real name or anything. That’s obviously important, where if someone has different political views from their manager, let’s say, then they don’t really want to, you know, get crosswise there. And so it would be better for them to have a pseudonym on Twitter, but it would still be backend authenticated.

And like, at no point would I suggest that you have to be authenticated in order to use Twitter, it’s just that it would be prioritizing authenticated comments and actions on Twitter over unauthenticated in order to combat the bots and trolls. And essentially, it needs to be much more expensive to have a troll army. Whereas right now, it’s basically very inexpensive to have 100,000 fake Twitter accounts.

Leslie Berland

You have certainly been very vocal on Twitter. You are very vocal on Twitter. And often your tweets and even emojis create news cycles. You have been also critical of the company on Twitter, which obviously impacts lots of discussions, conversations, and perceptions from whether it be partners or even now employees. How do you think about these tweets? Do you look at the reaction and think about the reaction of these tweets? I’m just curious about the thinking behind the tweet, if you will.

Elon Musk

Well, I think that it would be helpful, you know — one thing about words is that it’s hard to convey tone. And so it’s possible for … Essentially, people will sometimes take the words and then assume they were said in maybe an angry way or a vindictive way or something like that. But, I mean, hopefully you can tell my normal tone is not … I’m not an angry person. I almost never raise my voice. So like, in a year, I might not have raised my voice. So this is not a, you know … Sometimes people may think, “oh, wow, he’s sort of yelling and screaming” or something, but I’m really not. So maybe there’s some way to indicate tone? I mean, emoji sorta do that. But I don’t know, maybe they could have like, I don’t know, an irony flag or something: This is an ironic tweet. Something like that.

Leslie Berland

Listen, I think Spaces is a great product for you as well. We also have voice tweets, which I don’t think I’ve seen you use before, but I think that would add sort of your literal voiceover and color some of the things that you tweet …

Elon Musk

Oh sure. Yeah maybe I could just say it. Or you could read it, but then you can also see how I would have said it. Like, I wonder if you said that in an angry way. And then you can see how I actually said it.

Leslie Berland

Yes, absolutely, that’d be amazing. I know, we have 10 more minutes, up at the hour, so I’m holding you until then. Your role at the company — there’s been some discussion about will you be CEO, will you not be CEO? How can you speak to this? And how do you anticipate your role influencing strategy, day-to-day division?

Elon Musk

Well, I guess I’m not hung up on titles, but I do want to drive the product in a particular direction. So, you know, it could be like … I don’t really care about being CEO. In fact, I renamed myself “Techno King” at Tesla in an official SEC filing. So …

Leslie Berland

Yes, we saw.

Elon Musk

And then our CFO was renamed “Master of coin,” which I think is a cooler thing than CFO. So, I mean, what I really just want do is, like, drive the product and improve the product, and then it’s like, basically, software and product design. So you know, I don’t mind doing other things, you know, related to operating the company, but there are chores. There’s a lot of chores to do as CEO. And all I really want is to make sure that the product evolves rapidly and in a good way.

And I don’t really care what the title is, but I do … Obviously, people do need to listen to me. If I say, like, “Hey, we need to improve the product and find ways and make the following changes, add these features.” Then, you know, I do expect that people listen to me, in this regard. I mean, that’s how I do it at SpaceX and Tesla. So you know, I’m really just working with engineering and production. And, like, it sometimes may seem that, wow, he’s really out there a lot. But actually, I’m not. If you see how many actual interviews I do, it’s quite a small number. But whenever I do a tweet, they’ll make an entire, like, two-page article about it, you know. So, I’m like, like, basically get far fewer.

I’m actually quite internally focused at SpaceX and Tesla, even though it may not seem that way. And it’s really just, you know, evolving the rocket technology at SpaceX and providing global internet with Starlink. And then at Tesla, it’s about accelerating sustainable energy, you know, electric cars and stationary battery packs and solar power. And the fundamental good of Tesla, I would say, is measured by how many years accelerate the advent of sustainable energy.

And then the final goal of SpaceX is, you know, are we able to make life multiplanetary and thus improve the probable lifespan of consciousness? Like you’ve already said, what is the unifying philosophy for me? It is, we should take the set of actions most likely to extend the scope, scale, and lifespan of consciousness as we know it. What sort of actions improve things at a civilizational level and improve the probable lifespan of civilization? Civilization will come to an end at some point, but let’s try to make it last as long as possible.

And it would be great to understand more about the nature of the universe. Why we’re here, meaning of life, where are things going, where we come from? Can we travel to other star systems and see if there are alien civilizations? There might be a whole bunch of long-dead, one-planet civilizations out there that existed 500 million years ago. Think about the span of human civilization from the advent of the first writing, it’s only about 5,000 years.

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