Skip to main content


The billionaire genius “driven by demons”

Musk at the Met Gala last year. Theo Wargo/Getty

When Walter Isaacson began his biography of Elon Musk, he tells the FT, he informed the billionaire: “I have to be at your side for two years and I want to talk to you almost every day – I want to be like Boswell doing Doctor Johnson.” Why did Musk agree? “He loves history,” says Isaacson, “and he has a big enough ego that he thinks of himself as a historical figure.” The result was a “wild ride” that left the historian grappling with big questions: do you have to be half-crazy to be truly innovative, or a genius? And how do you stop a brilliant mind from spinning out of control?

Initially, Isaacson was expecting the book to be “easy”. His new subject was riding high – Tesla had sold almost a million cars and SpaceX had 31 successful launches, making Musk the richest man in the world. But the entrepreneur “doesn’t like things when they are going well. He is addicted to drama.” So, perhaps out of boredom, Musk hatched a plan to take over Twitter. Then Isaacson watched him, not content with the colossal headache from purchasing a social media company, embark on a secretive drive to create an AI firm, hoping to use the vast stores of data from Twitter and Tesla to leapfrog other AI companies. How is he able to do all this? “He is driven by demons,” says Isaacson. “Musk goes through manic mood swings and deep depressions and risk-seeking highs, and if he didn’t have that risk-seeking maniacal personality he would not be the person who launched EVs and got rockets into orbit.”

👨‍👧‍👦 Musk has had 11 children by three mothers. Many, like him, are based in Austin, since “he likes having his children around”. Do the mothers get on? “Not with each other.”

🚚 He likes to get things done, says The Wall Street Journal. Just before Christmas, Musk wanted to save money by shutting down a Twitter data centre in Sacramento, California and move the servers to another site. “Staff warned it would take months,” so on Christmas Eve Musk hired some moving vans, went to the data centre with several lieutenants, and began shifting the servers himself.