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article imageElon Musk makes surprise visit to SXSW — Talks Mars ship progress

By Karen Graham     Mar 11, 2018 in Science
Austin - On Sunday, the annual South by Southwest Technology and culture festival in Austin, Texas had a surprise visitor when Elon Musk popped in and joined screenwriter Jonathan Nolan on stage. Musk said his Mars ship could be ready for short trips in 2019.
SXSW, the annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas always draws a big crowd and Sunday was no exception. While taking questions from his friend, Jonathan Nolan, Musk covered a whole range of topics, from A.I. to the source of his inspiration.
The Tesla and SpaceX founder, 46-year-old Elon Musk, has long dreamed of creating a human colony on Mars. Readers may remember in early 2017 when he talked about building a "Big Falcon Rocket" (BFR) that would be capable of traveling anywhere on Earth in under an hour. The spacecraft would ultimately be able to make missions to the Moon or Mars, Musk said.
Who inspires Elon Musk? “Well  Kanye West obviously.”
Who inspires Elon Musk? “Well, Kanye West obviously.”
SXSW on Twitter/Michael Ehrlich
When asked about the BFR, Musk said, "In the short term, Mars is really about getting the spaceship built, and we're making great progress." He predicted the BFR would be ready to take to the skies next year, even if for only "short flights.
"We are building the first ship, the first interplanetary ship right now, and I think we will be able to do short flights, short sort of up and down flights, probably sometime in the first half of next year," he said.
Musk actually brought up his sometimes overly-ambitious timelines, saying he does have a habit of making them appear a little bit too rosy. “People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic," he said to great laughter from the audience.
Musk did talk at great length about his well-known fear of artificial intelligence.
"We're quite close to the cutting edge in AI and it scares the hell out of me," he said. "We have to figure out some way to ensure that the advent of digital superintelligence is one which is symbiotic with humanity. I think that's the single biggest existential crisis that we face." He added, "Mark my words, AI is far more dangerous than nukes."
This artist s rendering represents a concept of possible activities during future space exploration ...
This artist's rendering represents a concept of possible activities during future space exploration missions. It depicts a crewmember planting an American flag on the surface of Mars.
This fear of AI is also part of the reason Musk wants us to colonize Mars - He fears the Earth might experience a "Dark Age." But besides the seriousness of some of his remarks, Musk did talk about some of his past ventures, including his Boring Company.
But he really raised eyebrows when asked the source of his inspiration. Musk cited the iconic entertainer Fred Astaire and hip-hop artist Kanye West.
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