I’ve heard references to WaitButWhy (WBW) several times in recent years. I remember reading their Gen Y post a couple of years back when it was making its viral rounds, and it was often mentioned as a source of inspiration to other content sites that I frequent or contribute to like Farnam Street and Evergreen. But I never got a chance to check it out until this past winter break, and boy did I pick a good time to do so.
WBW was just wrapping up a series of mega-posts (tens of thousands of words each) on Elon Musk and his companies. Committing to spending the necessary time reading such lengthy posts was not a trivial thing, but it was definitely worth the investment. These posts are truly the most comprehensive and clear resource on what Musk and his companies are really all about. Personally I’ve found them to be a better read than his recent biography.
It is a 4-part series consisting of:
- An intro: Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man
- A deep-dive on Tesla: How Tesla Will Change the World
- A deep-dive on Space X: How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars (audio)
- A deep-dive on Musk: The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce
I’m not even going to try to summarize them in any sort of meaningful way. But I will call out a few meta-ideas that really stuck with me, are relevant to the readers of this blog, and I may or may not turn into full-fledged blog posts in the near future:
- Technological progress doesn’t just happen organically over time. Without some sort of outside pressure, either natural (driven by the market) or artificial (driven by regulation), technological progress stops.
- We’re focused on the wrong kind of “doing things that don’t scale”. While the tactical application of this term (scrappiness, doing things manual before you can invest in automating them, etc.) is useful, the strategic application is far more interesting. This is what WBW refers to as the “Hershey’s Kiss” business plan used by both Tesla and SpaceX, but also by companies like Uber and Nike.
- The broad application of a scientific mindset (as opposed to dogma) to all aspects of life as the key thing that separates the most impressive and smartest leaders of our times from the rest of us