Well, it’s not only that we’re live.
Elon Musk (00:02):
Jumping at the deep end.
Benjamin Netanyahu (00:03):
I think the important thing to tell people is this is not deepfake. This is really the two of us.
Elon Musk (00:09):
Yes. This is actually us. Wait, how do we know it’s not deepfake?
Benjamin Netanyahu (00:12):
I don’t know. I was going to ask you that.
Elon Musk (00:13):
Possible. So welcome. It’s an honor to speak and I think people are going to be very interested in the conversation. We’ve spoken a number of times over the years, had a lovely breakfast at your place in Israel, and it was wonderful to have that conversation.
Benjamin Netanyahu (00:33):
Well, I came out of it and I said to my wife, Sarah, “This guy really knows what he’s talking about.” I said, “He’s the Edison of our time.” And I think I probably dealt you a backhanded slap because what about the Tesla of our time?
Elon Musk (00:49):
Got a long way to go before I’m anywhere near Tesla, I think. But yeah, it was a great conversation. We touched on a number of subjects. Yeah, so we’re at a very interesting juncture in the world from a technology standpoint. If you say there’s so many things happening. If you were to plot the various types of technology on a chart in the modern era, and I’d say even just really the last 20 years, certainly the last 100 years from the dawn of human civilization, the growth of technology just looks like a wall. Technology’s improving at a hyper-exponential rate. And we obviously want to make sure that the technology is something that benefits humanity to the greatest extent possible. And we’re going to go in-depth into artificial intelligence, which is potentially the biggest civilizational threat. I say potentially. So I’m trying not to be sort of, whatever, a scaremonger or something.
But when you’re talking about having something that is an intelligence far in excess of the smartest human on earth, you have to say at that point, who’s in charge? Is it the computers or the humans? And there’s some interesting ratios that I think are quite profound, like one of them being the ratio of digital to biological compute. So you take all the human brains and then all the computer circuits and you say, “What’s that ratio?” The ratio of digital to biological computer’s increasing dramatically every year because the population of Earth is fairly static, but the output of silicon is dramatically increased. So basically, at a certain point, with the percentage of compute that will be biological is very small. And I’m a technologist and I’ve had some responsibility for the creation of artificial intelligence at least a little bit. And I think we just want to make sure that we’re guiding things to a positive future and reduce the probability of a negative one.
Benjamin Netanyahu (02:51):
Well, I call it the blessing and the curse. 3,500 years ago when Moses steered the children of Israel to the promised land, and he was standing outside and he said, “You’re going into the promised land and you’re going to find a choice between two things, a blessing and a curse.” And he said, “You better choose the blessing,” which was the blessing of life and not the curse of death. And I think in many ways, we stand today at a juncture for all humanity where we have to choose between a blessing and a curse. The blessings of AI are amazing, and we see them already in Israel. We see them around the world. You can see the addition of decades of life to the human lifespan, precision medicine dedicated to every person’s genetic composition. Robots. I know you know nothing about this. Robots who care for the elderly, I think you’re making some of them here.
You could have precision agriculture and autonomous factories that create abundance beyond our imagination. What you call the end of scarcity, which is a departure in human history, can have all these blessings. You can have the end of traffic jams with above-ground and in-the-air AI-driven vehicles. All these things that are real promise. But at the same time, you’ve got the curse. And the curse could be manifold. It could be the disruption of democracy, the manipulation of minds, crimes, AI-driven wars that go uncontrollable. And what you said just now, which is the stuff of science fiction. We used to read these things. We used to read Isaac Asimov that machines will control humans as opposed to the other way around. And I’ll tell you, the worst thing about it is what you said earlier, which is that the pace of change is increasing so fast.
It took us centuries at least to adapt to the agricultural revolution, took us maybe a century to adapt to the industrial revolution. We may have just but a few years and then we’re running out as we speak to adapt to the AI revolution, and I’m not sure that we are. Certainly not in curbing the curses, and as a leader of a country that is an AI player and could be a big player, if we have our way, and I think we will. Now we want to increase the blessings not only for ourselves, but for all of humanity. We’ve done that with other technological innovations that came out of Israel, but in many other places. But the real question is what do we do globally to contain the threats? Well, you can’t be president of the US last time I checked, right? But assume you are.
Elon Musk (05:21):
Benjamin Netanyahu (05:22):
Not officially. Okay. So you’re the unofficial president. What do you suggest we do to curb the curses and increase the blessings?
Elon Musk (05:31):
Well, that’s what part of this discussion is about. So I’ve actually met with a number of world leaders to talk about AI risk because I think for a lot of people, unless you’re really immersed in the technology, you don’t know just how significant the risk can be. I think the reward is also very positive. I tend to view the future as a series of probabilities. There’s a certain probability that something will go wrong, some probability it’ll go right. It’s kind of a spectrum of things. And to the degree that there is free will versus determinism, then we want to try to exercise that free will to ensure a great future.
And the single biggest rebuttal that I’ve gotten among leaders in the West with regard to AI is that, well, sure the West might regulate AI, but what about China? Because to your point about which countries will have significant leadership in AI, China is certainly one of the very top, potentially number one. So if China basically does not regulate while others do, then will the other countries be at a disadvantage? That’s the single most common rebuttal that I got. So I went to China, met with some of the senior leadership, and I talked about the risks of AI. One of the points I made is that if you create a digital super intelligence, that digital super-intelligence, if it’s sufficiently powerful and care is not taken, that digital super-intelligence could be in charge of China instead of the CCP being in charge of China. I think that archenemesis-
Benjamin Netanyahu (07:15):
Must have gotten some attention.
Elon Musk (07:17):
They propose to be in charge and bit of a dry house we’ve got here anyway. Anyway, so I think that they understand the argument like, “Look, if you create digital God and now that is the boss of you, that’s not something that’s to them- [inaudible 00:07:34]
Benjamin Netanyahu (07:35):
I think there’s another thing though. I see this as three layers. I’ve been thinking about this ever since we spoke about it. And I read some of the books, including some of the people that we’re going to talk about later, Ted Mark’s book, which I thought was really absorbing and stimulating, but how do you get the international regime to control this thing? Okay, well, okay. If you look at it and you look at… The first thing you can do is get like-minded states, I call them the like-minded smarts, to agree on a code of ethics and a code of conduct. And that’s pretty easy. We can do it within our countries and between our countries, and we can cooperate to ensure the blessings and curb the curse as much as we can. We do that in civil aviation, we do it in other things too.
And we do that actually beyond the democracies. The second tier is the other regimes, the other systems. And there I look at nuclear weapons. Okay, how did we control nuclear weapons? Everybody says, “Well, we had treaties, we had arrangements.” That’s not what controlled nuclear weapons, what controlled nuclear weapons and gave us 75 years of nuclear peace, basically MAD, what they call mutually assured destruction. That was enough and I hope will be enough to contain the… The curse is inherent in these weapons of mass destruction. I think there is something beyond that machines will take over. It’s that if
Benjamin Netanyahu (09:00):
We don’t have a code of conduct between the major powers. You’ll have MAC, mutually assured chaos. If anybody punches the other side and you’ll have a response, then you’ll have a runaway chain of events that could foster such global disruption that everybody loses.
So that may persuade the established powers and superpowers. But then you have the third problem, which I think is the most difficult one. What do you do about what they call bad actors, which is a laundered way of saying rogue states, crime syndicates, runaway corporations? How about runaway individuals? Remember the James Bond movie where you see the guy in some island and he’s manufacturing the specter argument you have, but to do that, you need computation, you need big data, and you need basically algorithms and very able people.
Could we trace that? Could we control that? Assuming we got the first part, the like-minded smarts, and then we had some kind of code of conduct and mutual deterrence among the big guys, could we police the planet against the little guys or the rogue factors?
Elon Musk (10:12):
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think the answer with respect to digital super intelligence is yes, because although if you see a movie like say Terminator, you see the intelligence appears to be in the robot, but actually the intelligence is in large data centers, large server centers.
So think of it more like… And when you see some of these data centers you just see… You can practically see the curve of the Earth, that’s how long the corridors are, these gigantic massive warehouses or buildings with in some cases hundreds of thousands of computers. For extreme digital super intelligence, that it’s not subtle. It’s not someone in-
Benjamin Netanyahu (10:51):
What you’re saying is there are barriers to entry, that will be difficult to overcome.
Elon Musk (10:56):
What I’m saying is that you’ll be able to see, if you have an infrared camera from space, you’ll be able to see whether-
Benjamin Netanyahu (11:02):
Its traceable, you can actually identify it.
Elon Musk (11:04):
Yes. Because if you’ve got say, 100 megawatt data center, you’re going to have 100 megawatts of heat column. So in infrared, this will show up… It won’t be subtle.
Benjamin Netanyahu (11:15):
It’s not drug dealer-
Elon Musk (11:15):
You’ll see it from space.
Benjamin Netanyahu (11:15):
It’s not a drug dealer in the Amazon who’s doing this.
Elon Musk (11:19):
No, it’s hard to hide a giant server center, maybe at the bottom of the ocean or something. But it requires a lot of capital. It’s a lot of power, and it’s not something that you can just sort of hide in a small location.
Benjamin Netanyahu (11:34):
Well, in the case of nuclear weapons, there are two principle components, which are sort of the necessary and in many ways sufficient, and that is you have the capacity to enrich uranium, which requires these plants. And you have to have basically nuclear scientists. And the nuclear scientists, you can fit in a room smaller than this to produce a nuclear device, but you can trace the other component fairly well, as we know, and we’re doing our best to prevent rogue states from having it, principally Iran.
What you’re saying is there’s a definable universe, a small one actually, of capable actors in AI, which I think is good news. It allows, at least for the hope of some kind of regulation, or some kind of controls over.
Elon Musk (12:19):
Yeah, that essentially is what I think gives some hope for these digital super intelligence. Now, you can certainly have… You should really think of AI as a spectrum, like a very wide range of simple AI that will do automatic calendaring or something.
In fact, one thing that would be much appreciated is if we could apply a better AI for auto correct on my phone, because that would be a great benefit. If the AI is so great, why does auto correct just suck?
But there’s varying degrees of order of AI that go from doing simple functions to levels of intelligence that I think are hard for us to comprehend as individuals. And at the very high level, the one that’s at least understandable requires massive amount of power, a large number of computers and the right software and the right data and everything. So it’s something you’d notice. It’s difficult to hide. It’s sort of similar to uranium, you can sort of detect the uranium radiation. I agree with you. It’s actually very easy to build nukes. Yeah.
Benjamin Netanyahu (13:24):
Well, we’re trying to make it harder, doing our best. And I’ve devoted a good chunk of my adult life to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons because it’s a bad actor, it’s a chance of death to Israel, death to America, and they want to have ICBMs to deliver that threat. You don’t want them to be able to reach Fremont or New York or Dallas or any place else and threaten you and blackmail you.
Elon Musk (13:49):
Yeah. I’ll tell you a funny anecdote about Iran in this case. So we’ve got permission from the US State Department to turn on Starlink over Iran, and so the few people are using it, and we got a sort of upset letter from the government of Iran. But actually the letter was so polite, I expected it to be sort of angry or something, but it was polite to a degree that I think… like Charles Dickens level polite. And I was expecting to see, “P.S. death to America and Israel,” or something like that. They didn’t have that. So I was like-
Benjamin Netanyahu (14:21):
They tried to kill the Secretary of State of the United States and the National Security Advisor. I mean, that’s really chutzpah. Don’t be calmed-
Elon Musk (14:31):
I just thought it was-
Benjamin Netanyahu (14:32):
By Charles Dickens language.
Elon Musk (14:34):
It was very nice language and I was like… It would’ve been just frankly, just pretty epic if it said, “P.S. death to America, by the way, death to America.” Anyway it was [inaudible 00:14:44].
Benjamin Netanyahu (14:44):
Well, that’s an interesting subject, which I hope we can pursue later on today. But I think these regimes basically are based on the ability to control the minds of their people. And to the extent that you can facilitate what I know you believe in deeply, which is pluralistic views to be heard. Well, people are discussing it all over the place in the free world. What makes the unfree world unfree is that you can’t have this discussion, you can’t do anything.
Elon Musk (15:14):
Right, totally. I think the founders of the United States, or shortly thereafter with the First Amendment being free speech was a very wise amendment because and you say, “Why did they care about that so much?” It’s because the places that they came from, they didn’t have free speech. So the places they immigrated from the speech, the press and everything was very much controlled.
And to your point, I think if you don’t have free speech and discussion of often difficult and contentious ideas that necessarily not everyone agrees with, then it’s very difficult to have an effective democracy because the people are voting based on the information that they receive. And if they do not know what’s going on, or if they’re fed a false narrative, then they cannot vote sensibly because they don’t have the information.
Benjamin Netanyahu (16:07):
Well, I know your commitment to free speech. I respect that because I think it’s the foundational thing of democracies, really. But I also know your opposition to antisemitism. You’ve spoken about it and tweeted about it, and all I can say is I hope you find within the confines of the First Amendment, the ability to stop not only antisemitism, or roll it back as best you can, but any collective hatred of a people that antisemitism represents. And I know you’re committed to that. So I hope you succeed in it. It’s not an easy task, but I encourage you and urge you to find a balance. It’s a tough one.
Elon Musk (16:44):
Yeah. I think generally I’m sort of against attacking any group. It doesn’t matter who it is. I’m in favor of that which furthers civilization and which ultimately leads us to become a space bearing civilization and where we understand the nature of the universe. So we can’t do that if there’s a lot of infighting and hatred and negativity.
So obviously I’m against antisemitism. I’m against anti really anything that promotes hate and conflict, and I’m in favor of that which helps build society and take us to a better future for humanity collectively. And I think one can actually argue that really everyone should have this view. All it requires is long-term thinking. And if you’re long-term thinking, you say, “Okay, well…” So basically you can say even if hypothetically, if someone is say completely self-centered, it’s like, well, how would you feel if you didn’t have civilization? It’s very easy to figure that out. Just go into the forest with nothing and see how long you want to live there. Just watch an episode of Naked and Afraid and-
Benjamin Netanyahu (17:59):
See how long you live, you’ll
Benjamin Netanyahu (18:00):
… be a diver-
Elon Musk (18:01):
Yeah. Exactly. So, it’s like, civilization turns out it’s pretty nice actually. We may quibble about civilization, but it’s easy to experience not civilization by just going into someplace where there are no people, and seeing what it’s like. You’ll very quickly come back to civilization. Unless you’re Ted Kaczynski or something. He liked living in the forest. So, yeah. Now, free speech does at times mean that someone you don’t like is saying something you don’t like. If you don’t have that, then it’s not free speech. Now, that doesn’t mean some sort of negativity should be pushed upon people, because for the X platform, unless it’s interesting, entertaining, engaging, then we will lose users. People will want to not use our system if they find it to be unpleasant. Our overarching goal for the X platform is to maximize regretted user time.
So, if you spend half an hour on X platform, did you learn a lot? Were you entertained? Did you perhaps laugh a little bit? In fact, I find it to be the best source of humor. I laugh more on stuff that I read on X than everything else combined. So, I think that’s a good thing. But it’s also important to bear in mind that there are 550 million monthly users now going to maybe 600 million monthly users. Any given day, there’s on the order of 100 to 200 million posts to the system, this is a lot of material. So, in amongst the 100 or 200 million, and I’m excluding retweets, or reposts as I say, new wording. Some of those are going to be bad. It’s impossible to say… You can’t police it in advance, but you can say after the fact, “Oh, it’s getting reported as hate speech. Okay, well we’re going to de-amplify…” We’re not going to promote hate speech, because we think probably that’s not what people want to hear.
Benjamin Netanyahu (20:11):
Well, I think the other thing is that it doesn’t stop you from coming out as you have and as I do on every possible forum and condemn antisemitism. It’s just this collective hatred of a people. You say they have to be banished. They don’t have a right to exist, they don’t have a right to a state of their own and so on. The vile things that are said, I don’t care if they come from the hard left or from the hard right or White supremacists or, I don’t know, ultra progressives. For me, that’s something that I condemn and I think that it’s important to come out. That’s quite a separate question, the condemnation is quite separate from the question of axis. The one axis idea that I have, and I don’t even know if it’s technically possible, is to prevent the use of bots, armies of bots to replicate and amplify it. So, at least if you get a crazy guy and a hateful guy, let him be speaking for one voice rather than arming an army of fake millions to do this.
Elon Musk (21:09):
Absolutely. This is actually a super tough problem, and it’s probably really, I’d say, the single most important reason that we’re moving to having a small monthly payment for the use of the X system is, it’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots. Because a bot costs a fraction of a penny, call it a 10th of a penny. But if somebody even has to pay a few dollars or something, some minor amount, the effect of cost of bots is very high. Then you also have to get a new payment method every time you have a new bot. So, that actually, the constraint of how many different credit cards you can find, even on the dark web or whatever.
So, prioritizing posts that are written by basically X premium subscribers. We’re actually going to come out with a lower tier pricing. We want it to be just a small amount of money. It’s longer discussion, but in my view this is actually the only defense against vast armies of bots. Because as the AI gets very good, it’s actually able to pass these CAPTCHA tests better than humans. In fact, one of the ways you might say, wait a second. This is passing the test too fast, that there must be a robot, must be AI because a human would be much slower than that.
Benjamin Netanyahu (22:29):
But you’re saying that all these things are happening at such a rapid, exponential rate that our discussion, the means we’re talking about, we’re really so far behind the curve that we’re not really addressing, as leaders of technology, leaders of nations, leaders of technological nations, we’re not really addressing these massive changes that are changing humanity in our world and our future. Not in the future, it’s right now, and we’re not dealing with it. I’m coming here to talk about what we do, because nobody’s done it before. I’m a fairly, I don’t want to say I’m a lazy reformer, I helped reform the Israeli economy from a semi-socialist economy to one of the most vibrant free market economies. But I could do that by saying, “Look, let’s look at what the successful countries did.” It was pretty easy. You could copy market economies, that was pretty easy. Hard to do, but easy to conceptualize. When we had to deal with cyber, there was no model and we just went along, changed ourselves as we went along and figured out how to make Israel one of the leading cyber powers to protect ourselves.
Elon Musk (23:42):
Benjamin Netanyahu (23:42):
But when I look here, there’s really no one to look at. So, I came to you, and I look forward to the meeting we’re going to have in a short while to talk about, what’s the model that a democratic country, and I have to say, Israel will be always a democratic country, what does a democratic country do? How does it cooperate with other democracies? How does it cooperate with other nations to get a handle on this? I don’t want to say on this, I don’t want to say this demon that has been released. You didn’t create a demon. But you created the blessing and its got a curse next to it, it doesn’t come free. I think we don’t have much time, and I think this is the single most important development in our lifetime. In many ways, perhaps in history. We don’t have much time to deal with shaping our future, and that is really my greatest interest for my country, but not only for my country, for everyone.
Elon Musk (24:38):
I couldn’t agree more. Actually, I guess before we bring the other participants on, speaking of Israel, there’s, as you saw, some protesters outside, and I’ve probably got the most amount of negative pushback from people at Tesla about this interview than anything else I’ve ever done. So, maybe if you could take a few moments to address, I think it’s primarily the judicial reform question. Yeah.
Benjamin Netanyahu (25:06):
Well, it’s a good opportunity to tell people who are protesting too, at least so they know what they’re protesting about. Because I think many of them don’t know, and there’s a concerted effort to make sure they don’t know. Look, the first thing I’d say is repeat what I just said a minute ago. Israel was, is and will always be a robust democracy. But its changed its, I would say its character, subtly and imperceptibly about three decades ago. I’d say this all goes back to a very bitter day in Athens about 2,400 years ago. That’s where it starts.
Elon Musk (25:43):
Benjamin Netanyahu (25:43):
I told you history has its roots. Well, there’s this brilliant 28 year old man who sees his beloved teacher forced to drink a cup of hemlock, Socrates, and was forced by the Athenian assembly, the democracy of Athens. Plato says, that’s the 28-year old man. He says, “What is this crazy system, this democracy? There has to be a better thing.” The better thing he says is a utopia where the philosopher is king. You know who the philosopher is? Plato. He says, “How will he govern? He’ll govern with 300 guardians that he’ll appoint and they’ll appoint their successors,” and so on. Now, this idea ambled its way through the Middle Ages and was soundly rejected in modern times, first by John Locke and then Montesquieu, and then the fathers of the American Revolution.
I mean, the curious thing was, I mean, Plato said you have to have elevated people, enlightened people to rule, and not the masses. But then you had these brilliant people, Madison, Hamilton, all these guys, and they said, “No. It’s not the enlightened people, the people rule. It’s we the people, not we the elites. We the people rule.” But the way you rule and the way you balance in democracies, majority rule and individual
Benjamin Netanyahu (27:00):
… individual rights is a balance between the three branches of government. In Israel, that balance, 30 years ago, began to change. And we have the most activist judicial court on the planet, so it’s steadily arrogated to itself the powers of the legislature and the executive, where it basically decides. Democracy is supposed to be checks and balances of the three branches on each other. In Israel, the judiciary has no checks and no balances. It just has power. And so there’s a request to try to bring it back into line, and that has been sort of boiling all the time.
I came in and there was a proposal put in, which I thought was bad, which is to reject one imbalance by creating another imbalance. If the court can rule against any decision made by the government or the parliament, then let’s now correct it by having the parliament reject any decision with a simple majority that the court makes. I thought that’s a mistake. It’s moving the pendulum from one side to the other side. It has to be in a happy middle. I’ve been looking for that happy middle. I have a majority in the parliament, in the Knesset, to legislate anything. But I didn’t. I held back because I want this to be a consensus. And so we made the minimal changes that would bring back a little of the balance that we had in Israel’s first 50 years, and that’s what we’re trying to do now.
I’m still reaching for a consensus. If I can’t reach it with the other side of the political aisle… Which becomes very difficult in today’s democracies with the polarizing effect of social media and big money and big data that is used to polarize even further to arrange demonstrations anywhere on the planet… Then if I can’t do it with the other side of the aisle, then I want to do it with the public. That is to have as broad a consensus for a minor correction. Basically, some correction on how we choose judges, because otherwise we have basically 15, in many ways, unelected officials. By the way, I think gifted people, good people. But they replace the government. They’re sort of unelected and they decide everything. That’s not exactly democracy.
So we’re trying to get Israel back to where it was before. I hope we succeed. I can tell you that as soon as I get back to Israel after this week, that’s what I’m going to focus my attention on. I hope we succeed, but it’s not… I’m described as something between, I don’t know, Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan.
Elon, you read a lot of books. I read the Federalist Papers a couple of times. I’m versed in the theories of democracy and the balance between the three branches of government. That’s what I’m trying to achieve, nothing more. And it’s not an easy thing to be maligned. I know you’ve never seen that, right?
Elon Musk (29:36):
Absolutely. Yeah. No, me maligned, never. So yeah, no, I guess… [inaudible 00:29:43], we don’t want to spend obviously too much time on the subject since this is primarily about AI’s existential risk, and it’s difficult for people here to, say, know exactly how other systems work. But certainly the press in the US has not portrayed the reforms you mentioned in a positive light. They…
Benjamin Netanyahu (30:01):
Well, especially the New York Times, I mean, they’re in a fantastic obsessive, but they usually get it wrong. So it’s not important.
Elon Musk (30:10):
In the US, the courts cannot really produce new laws, but they can-
Benjamin Netanyahu (30:15):
Elon Musk (30:16):
Provided it’s against the Constitution.
Benjamin Netanyahu (30:18):
Elon Musk (30:19):
Benjamin Netanyahu (30:19):
Exactly. Well, in Israel, we supposedly have basic laws that constitute a constitution. Now, the debate in Israel is whether the court can actually change the basic laws. And it’s a big debate. I don’t want to get into that and get… But there’s always a balance. The way you balance the power of the people, the majority, with the court in America is that the politicians choose the judges. Okay? That’s something that creates constant tension, obviously, including today. That’s built in the democracy. There’s tension between the various branches of government. You have to resolve to make sure that you’re somewhere in the middle and not in one of the extremes. And that’s what I hope I can achieve in Israel, so that’s… And I think it’ll come out. People will see that. Israel was a democracy and will be, in my opinion, a stronger democracy after the dust settles.
Elon Musk (31:11):
Benjamin Netanyahu (31:12):
It’s easier than AI.
Elon Musk (31:13):
Yeah. Sounds good. Well, great. I guess, back to AI. Is this the appropriate time to bring the other people on?
Benjamin Netanyahu (31:20):
Only after you answer one of my questions I wanted to ask you. I want to ask you two questions.
Elon Musk (31:25):
Benjamin Netanyahu (31:25):
First one is, who’s the person that most influenced you?
Elon Musk (31:28):
Well, I’ve been influenced by a lot of people. I’ve read a lot of… I’m a voracious reader of books. I would say probably Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be the single most influential book, which is really a book on philosophy disguised as humor. So that’ll probably be my number one. I mean, I think A Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite books as well. Asimov, the Foundation Series was actually quite a… helped inspire me to try to make life multi-planetary. Because I think that improves the probable lifespan of civilization. So what about you?
Benjamin Netanyahu (32:06):
Well, the person who most influenced me was my father, who was a great historian, and he was also the editor… You might find this interesting because you read encyclopedias… He was the editor in chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia, so he was sort of… But I once asked him, when I decided to run for the Prime Minister, and this is a few decades ago, because I’ve been reelected six times. So I asked him, ” Father, what is the most essential quality that you need to be the prime minister of Israel?” And he said to me, “Well, what do you think?” And I said, “Well, you have to have a vision and you have to have the resolve and flexibility to achieve it.” And he said, “Oh, you need that for anything.” And I said, “So what is the most essential thing?” And he said a word that surprised me. He said, “Education. You have to have a broad and deep education, otherwise you’ll be at the mercy of your clerks. Otherwise, you won’t navigate the course that you want to reach. You’ll be navigated to the course they want to reach.”
And I found that to be actually very sound advice that I find hard to maintain. But I read also all the time to increase the intellectual capital. They’re not depleted. And I think that also makes life more interesting, as I’m sure you do. We both… I think you’ve read more books than I have, but I try to read a lot.
Elon Musk (33:24):
Yeah. Well, I think that generally would be good advice for kids or adults, frankly, is just to read more.
Benjamin Netanyahu (33:30):
Who reads today? Do people read?
Elon Musk (33:32):
I know, unfortunately, I think reading has taken somewhat of a hit.
Benjamin Netanyahu (33:34):
That’s because people read tweets. That’s what they do.
Elon Musk (33:38):
Well, they watch TikTok videos live. Which is not… You learn something, I suppose, but there just is much less reading. And the things that I think if I’d had entertaining… If I’d had the internet back then with the great movies, video games and that kind of thing, I probably would’ve read much less than I did. I kind of read the encyclopedia out of desperation because I didn’t have anything else to read.
Benjamin Netanyahu (33:59):
You read the whole encyclopedia?
Elon Musk (34:01):
Yeah, pretty much. I’d get something that I’m not that interested in and obviously skip past it. But yeah, pretty much.
Benjamin Netanyahu (34:07):
Elon Musk (34:08):
It was desperation. No, I was just like, “I’ve run out of books.”
Benjamin Netanyahu (34:12):
But I think it was probably a better encyclopedia than the one… These digital encyclopedias today, which unfortunately are edited in ways that don’t necessarily bring out the balanced views of things.
Elon Musk (34:27):
Yeah, I mean, the fun thing about, say, Wikipedia, is there’s an old saying history is written by the victors. And it’s like, “Well, yes, but not if your enemies are still alive and have a lot of time on their hands to edit Wikipedia.”
Benjamin Netanyahu (34:41):
History is written by the people who can harness the most editors.
Elon Musk (34:44):
Yeah, I mean, whoever, the losers just got a lot of time on their hands and it’s like, “What do they do?” Edit Wikipedia. And literally, so yeah. Should we perhaps bring… Okay. Oh, we’re going to take a break. Okay. Okay. So it sounds like we’re going to wrap up this and then take a break and then we’ll add Max Tegmark and Greg Brockman. So is there anything, any last words you’d like to say for just the two of us?
Benjamin Netanyahu (35:12):
Well, just I appreciate the opportunity to pick your brain on something that is so important for the future of my country, and the future of the world. And I really think that we don’t have much time. We don’t have much time.
Elon Musk (35:25):
Yeah. Well, one of the things I was… Well, maybe we’ll do it another time, but actually, I went to Hebrew preschool and I can sing a pretty good Hava Nagila. So I should maybe going to have a sing off at some point. But I don’t know if we have time today, but…
Benjamin Netanyahu (35:41):
If you want to, go ahead, I’m not going to stop you.
Elon Musk (35:44):
Well, we need some music.
Benjamin Netanyahu (35:46):
This is where we go into the deep fake. We could have the Elon Musk Hava Nagila.
Elon Musk (35:51):
All right. Well, I guess we’ll take a break now. Maybe kick it off for some Hava Nagila in the next session or something.
Benjamin Netanyahu (35:58):
Terrific. Thank you.