The First Principles Method Explained by Elon Musk

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1986

In an interview with Kevin Rose Elon Musk has beautifully explained how thinking based on first principles can lead to remarkable insights. Here are the gems:

“I think its important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy…The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy…

We are doing this because it’s like something else that was done..or it is like what other people are doing…slight iterations on a theme…

“First principles” is a physics way of looking at the world…what that really means is that you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there…that takes a lot more mental energy…

Someone could –and people do — say battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be because that’s the way they have been in the past…

They would say it’s going to cost, historically it cost $600 KW/hour.  It’s not going to be much better that in the future…

So first principles..we say what are the material constituents of the batteries.  What is the spot market value of the material constituents?  It has carbon, nickel, aluminum, and some polymers for separation, and a steel can..break that down on a material basis, if we bought that on a London Metal Exchange, what would each of these things cost.  oh geez…It’s $80 KW/hour.  Clearly, you need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell, and you can have batteries that are much cheaper than anyone realizes.”

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