Musk's Razor Explained: "The most entertaining outcome is the most likely."
Musk's overlooked wisdom on living life fully, communicating better, creating successful products, and making more accurate predictions.
Regardless of what you think about his personality, Elon Musk is one the top innovators of all time.
Creating one innovation that fundamentally changes one industry is almost unheard of. Musk has done it in industry after industry. And at 52 years old, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Given everything that Musk has accomplished, it would be foolish not to learn from him in his areas of expertise.
At the same time, this can be hard since he says so many things about so many topics—from politics, to war, to futurism, to demographics. Not only that, he’s famous for his irony, sarcasm, and trolling, which makes it hard to tell whether he’s being serious or not sometimes.
So, on the one hand, I want to learn everything I can from Musk. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a Musk apologist who attempts to find the genius in everything he says.
With that said, I now think there is something profound to his saying:
The most entertaining outcome is most likely.
In this article, I will show how we can use Musk’s saying to live life more fully, communicate better, create successful products, and make more accurate predictions.
In addition, I will share how it actually syncs in interesting ways with research from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, media theorist Neil postman, historian Johann Huizinga, and venture capitalist Chris Dixon.
But before we jump in, it’s worth pointing out what led me to believe that Musk’s Razor isn’t just a throwaway tweet said in jest…
Two Reasons Why Musk’s Razor Is Central To Musk’s Worldview
Section Summary 1. He has talked about it everywhere for years 2. He puts his money where his mouth is
First, He has talked about it everywhere for years
Second, he puts his money where his mouth is
In other words, Musk invests serious resources and takes serious risks to incorporate his sense of humor into his companies and communication...
Tesla has everything from a fart noise, to designs that evoke one of Musk’s favorite movies to acceleration speeds well past the level of everyday utility to games to make the experience more fun.
When Musk talks about SpaceX launches, he often talks about how it will be entertaining to watch at the very least. Either the rocket works, which is amazing, or it blows up.
Musk became the most famous user on Twitter before he bought it partially by using it as a platform to express his unfiltered sense of humor. He has continued to push the line even when there is significant legal and social backlash. One prominent example was when he tweeted “Taking Tesla private at 420. Funding secured.” and was fined $40 million by the SEC.
So, let’s just say Musk is serious about Musk’s Razor.
Now the question is, why should we care?
What We Can Learn From Musk’s Razor
Musk’s Razor clicked for me while I was reading psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book The Evolving Self.
In the book, Csikszentmihalyi looks back at the history of technology and proposes that enjoyment is more fundamental than people give it credit for…
About half a century ago the Dutch historian Johann Huizinga proposed the provocative thesis that social institutions—even the more redoubtable ones like science, religion, or the army—start out more or less as games that only later become serious and even deadly. Science began as a series of riddling contests, religion as joyful collective celebrations, military institutions as ceremonial combat, economic systems as festive reciprocal exchanges. Originally, Huizinga believes, people came together to have a good time, and only later developed rules to make the game more lasting and interesting. Eventually the rules became binding, and people were forced to obey them.
Csikszentmihalyi also points out how other serious things descended from fun things:
Courtroom trials. “Early trials were more or less spontaneous performances judged on their entertainment value by the entire community.”
Cars. “Interest in automobiles started not because they were useful but because as soon as the first ones were built, stunts and races captured people’s imaginations.”
Computers. “The great demand for the machines was fueled not by spreadsheets and word processing, but rather by games.”
If Csikszentmihalyi’s thesis is true, it begs a question…
Why is entertainment such an important selection mechanism for what actually happens?
Csikszentmihalyi proposes three reasons for why fun things survive…
They’re fun to create. “Inventors and tinkerers love what they do, and keep working on their ideas even when the odds for success seem to be very slim.”
They’re fun to use. “Many inventions succeed because, like the car or the personal computer, they open up a whole new range of enjoyable experiences.”
They free up time for enjoyment. “It frees time from drudgery, and promises to improve the quality of experience indirectly.”
This pattern has also been noticed in the modern tech world. Renowned entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon is famous for two related sayings:
What the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years.
The next big thing will start out looking like a toy.
Dixon writes more on this phenomenon in a widely circulated 2010 article.
Not only that, famous media critic Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves To Death, is famous for pointing out that even serious TV is fundamentally about entertainment:
Bottom line: What we’re left with is something that seems obvious yet profound… We don’t just do things because they’re useful, we also do things because they’re enjoyable. This concept doesn’t just apply to recreational activities, it also applies to all human endeavors—even the most serious ones.
Now the question becomes, how do we apply Musk’s Razor to our life?
The more I understand it, the more that I see how this Razor is fundamental and leads to major changes in how we make big decisions…