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11 Books that Inspired Elon Musk

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Simon Owens found this witty
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Elon Musk is best known as the brains behind Tesla, SpaceX, and a host of other novel businesses. He's a billionaire, genius, engineer, and inventor, which effectively makes him the Tony Stark of our Earth. The biggest question many have about Elon Musk is how he's managed to achieve the things he has, and how better to answer that question than by looking at the many, many lists of the books that he feels have had the biggest influence on his life?

This post is an attempt to distill those varying lists down into a single reading list of the 11 books that have been most influential in Musk's life to date. Given his dedication to clean energy and affordable space travel, it's sweet to see so much classic science fiction in Musk's list of influential reading; it's very sweet to see some Heinlein on a list of influential reading from a man who hopes to colonize Mars sooner rather than later

The Lord of the Rings

Continuing the story begun in The Hobbit, all three parts of the epic masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, in one paperback. Features the definitive edition of the text, fold-out flaps with the original two-colour maps, and a revised and expanded index. Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power - the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring - the ring that rules them all - which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as the Ring is entrusted to his care. He must leave his home and make a perilous journey across the realms of Middle-earth to the Crack of Doom, deep inside the territories of the Dark Lord. There he must destroy the Ring forever and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose. Since it was first published in 1954, The Lord of the Rings has been a book people have treasured. Steeped in unrivalled magic and otherworldliness, its sweeping fantasy has touched the hearts of young and old alike. This single-volume paperback edition is the definitive text, fully restored with almost 400 corrections - with the full co-operation of Christopher Tolkien - and features a striking new cover.

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Structures

For anyone who has ever wondered why suspension bridges don't collapse under eight lanes of traffic, how dams hold back-or give way under-thousands of gallons of water, or what principles guide the design of a skyscraper or a kangaroo, this book will ease your anxiety and answer your questions. J. E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose.

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Benjamin Franklin

During his 84-year life Benjamin Franklin was America's best scientist, inventor, publisher, business strategist, diplomat, and writer. He was also one of its most practical political thinkers. America's first great publicist, he carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public and polished it for posterity. In this riveting new biography Walter Isaacson provides readers with a full portrait of Franklin's public and private life - his loyal but neglected wife, his bastard son with whom he broke over going to war with England, his endless replacement families and his many amorous, but probably unconsummated, liaisons. But this is not just a biography of Benjamin Franklin but rather a fascinating look at American and European political history at that time. Isaacson examines the run up to the Revolutionary War, the intimate relations between Britain, France and the colonies and the decisive events that led to America's independence. Just as David McCullough brought life to the historic figure of John Adams, Isaacson portrays Franklin in the flesh, showing readers how this radical man helped define America's national character and personality.

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Einstein

Walter Isaacson's "New York Times" bestselling biography of Albert Einstein is now available on audio for only $14.99 and will coincide with the hardcover and audio release of his next work, "Steve Jobs." How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson's biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom. Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk--a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate--became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals. These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.

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Foundation Trilogy

It is the story of the Galactic Empire, crumbling after twelve thousand years of rule. And it is the particular story of psycho-historian Hari Seldon, the only man who can see the horrors the future has in store: a dark age of ignorance, barbarism and violence that will last for thirty thousand years. Gathering together a band of courageous men and women, Seldon leads them to a hidden location at the edge of the galaxy where he hopes they can preserve human knowledge and wisdom against all who would destroy them. Asimov went on to add numerous sequels and prequels to the trilogy, building up what has become known as the Foundation series, but it is the original three books, first published in the Forties and Fifties, which remain the most powerful, imaginative and breathtaking.

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Merchants of Doubt

The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers. Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly - some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is "not settled" denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. "Doubt is our product," wrote one tobacco executive. These 'experts' supplied it. Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, historians of science, roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how ideology and corporate interests, aided by a too-compliant media, have skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The intergalactic adventures of Arthur Dent begin in the first volume of the 'trilogy of five', Douglas Adams' comedy sci-fi classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. On 12 October 1979 the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor (and Earth) was made available to humanity - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace express route, and his best friend has just announced that he's an alien. At this moment, they're hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed, in large friendly letters, with the words: DON'T PANIC. The weekend has only just begun . . . With exclusive bonus material from the Douglas Adams archives, and an introduction by former Doctor Who showrunner, Russell T Davies.

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Zero to One

WHAT VALUABLE COMPANY IS NOBODY BUILDING? The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won't make a search engine. If you are copying these guys, you aren't learning from them. It's easier to copy a model than to make something new: doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. Every new creation goes from 0 to 1. This book is about how to get there. `Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how.' ELON MUSK, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla `This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.' MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO of Facebook `When a risk taker writes a book, read it. In the case of Peter Thiel, read it twice. Or, to be safe, three times. This is a classic.' NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB, author of The Black Swan

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Superintelligence

The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. Other animals have stronger muscles or sharper claws, but we have cleverer brains. If machine brains one day come to surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become very powerful. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on us humans than on the gorillas themselves, so the fate of our species then would come to depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence. But we have one advantage: we get to make the first move. Will it be possible to construct a seed AI or otherwise to engineer initial conditions so as to make an intelligence explosion survivable? How could one achieve a controlled detonation? To get closer to an answer to this question, we must make our way through a fascinating landscape of topics and considerations. Read the book and learn about oracles, genies, singletons; about boxing methods, tripwires, and mind crime; about humanity's cosmic endowment and differential technological development; indirect normativity, instrumental convergence, whole brain emulation and technology couplings; Malthusian economics and dystopian evolution; artificial intelligence, and biological cognitive enhancement, and collective intelligence. This profoundly ambitious and original book picks its way carefully through a vast tract of forbiddingly difficult intellectual terrain. Yet the writing is so lucid that it somehow makes it all seem easy. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom's work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

In 2075, the Moon is no longer a penal colony. But it is still a prison...Life isn't easy for the political dissidents and convicts who live in the scattered colonies that make up lunar civilisation. Everything is regulated strictly, efficiently and cheaply by a central supercomputer, HOLMES IV. When humble technician Mannie O'Kelly-Davis discovers that HOLMES IV has quietly achieved consciousness (and developed a sense of humour), the choice is clear: either report the problem to the authorities...or become friends. And perhaps overthrow the government while they're at it. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has been called Robert A. Heinlein's crowning achievement. His best-known novels include Starship Troopers Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land.

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Consider Phlebas

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender. Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction. Consider Phlebas - a space opera of stunning power and awesome imagination.

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I am a man who enjoys hiking and woodland walks. I love the smell of freshly cut grass and of wild onions in early spring.

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