Elon Musk is known for many things: SpaceX, Tesla, humanity going to Mars, global warming, thinking in first principles, Twitter, shitposting…
But he is also known for global fertility, human legacy, and having many children with many women: Elon Musk has nine children; five with Justine Wilson, two with musician Grimes, and two more with Shivon Zilis, an executive at one of Musk’s companies. Why so many children? With so many women?
Most people assumed he was just shagging around, like famous people are known to do. It’s true that he’s dated beautiful women like actresses Talulah Riley and Amber Heard.
But many other famous people have sex without having children, like Leo.
Conversely, Musk himself has said he has little sex.
So it doesn’t like that this is about sex.
People didn’t believe that: How can Musk not be shaking the sheets when he’s having children at the same time with two women, Grimes and Zilis?
But here’s the thing: Musks’s five children with his first wife, Wilson, were born through IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization). The second one with Grimes was also born through IVF (a surrogate). And the twins with Zilis were also born through IVF. So eight out of Musk’s nine children were born through IVF!
That’s not consistent with somebody who is carelessly sleeping around. Musk is purposefully having plenty of children. Why?
Maybe he likes children?
Love for Children
Well, babies are just eating and pooping machines, you know? Right now there’s not much I can do. Grimes has a much bigger role than me right now.—Elon Musk in the NYT.
But he’s also said that:
When the kid gets older, there will be more of a role for me. I think just doing what I’ve done with my other kids. If I have a trip for Tesla to China, for example, I’ll bring the kids with me and we’ll go see the Great Wall or we took the bullet train from Beijing to Xian and saw the Terracotta Warriors.
Custody of our five children is split evenly. Almost all of my non-work waking hours are spent with my boys, and they are the love of my life.—Elon Musk, Source.
He also created a school for his kids at SpaceX, Ad Astra (now Astra Nova), which has branched into online schools like the amazing synthesis.
So it looks like he’s simply a busy dad that loves having kids.
That’s enough to have kids. But maybe there are other reasons to have kids? A potential one is Musk’s concern about the fertility crisis.
He’s been giving stats on how the drop in fertility endangers both the Earth.
He encourages people to have big families.
And has joked that he’s consistent with that thought.
It’s not just for him. Also for whomever he can influence.
Obviously Musk can’t single-handedly correct the population crisis. So why is he doing it? Is it just his way of adding his little grain of sand?
This doesn’t fit with what he does in other areas.
Global warming? Tesla.
Need to diversify away from the Earth? SpaceX.
Fear the AI singularity? Neuralink and OpenAI.
Human fertility… Have children?
In fact, it might very well be exactly the right way to influence the global fertility crisis.
In this article, I explained how one single man caused the birth of 50,000 babies and turned around the fertility crisis of this country, Georgia.
With so many kids, Musk probably inspires others to do the same. With his over 100M followers on Twitter and a legion of musketeers, every message he sends is probably seen by tens of millions of people, and that’s before they’re reported by broadcast media, which increases his reach. As I explained in Why Is Fertility Down, and What Can Be Done About It?, cultural influences are a huge yet ignored way to increase fertility. I wouldn’t underestimate the impact that a single man with this kind of reach could have in people’s decisions of having children.
It would be better if he didn’t have them through IVF, with surrogates, and with so much money to support them: His unique situation might not make him into a relatable role model. But it’s better for global fertility to set an example like this than no example at all.
We now have two reasons for Musk to have so many kids: He might enjoy them, and think that he’s doing something good for humanity as a fertility role model. What else?
There are graphs that suggest that the worst thing you can do for the environment is to have kids. But Musk’s green cred is pretty legit. Through Tesla’s impact on the electric vehicle industry, he is probably the single person who has done the most to improve the environment on Earth. So what’s going on? These two things don’t seem compatible. If children are bad for the environment, why is green Musk having so many, and setting a poor example? Either Musk is inconsistent, or he believes children aren’t bad for the environment.
Musk is usually quite consistent, so he probably believes having kids is either neutral or good for the environment. Why would he think that? I think he believes that. I’ve written a bit on it in the past and I’ll write more about it in the future, but as a summary in the meantime, the theory he probably believes is that:
Shrinking economies have enough infrastructure to function, don’t need to invest anymore, and so have no incentive to become greener.
The stronger an economy, the more it cares about the environment. And children grow the economy.
Regardless of whether this type of argument is true or not, the key here is that Musk probably thinks along these lines, or else he would not have children because he would be inconsistent. So we have three reasons for Musk to have kids: love for them, improve the fertility crisis, and the environment. Any other reason he might be doing it? Maybe for his genes to spread?
Musk is known for thinking in first principles. If he’s done that with evolutionary psychology, he knows that a key source of fulfillment is to have as many children as possible, as this is something we’ve evolved to appreciate: Genes have evolved so that we reproduce. One of the ways it has to push us to reproduce is to feel fulfilled when we do. So maybe Musk has concluded that he will maximize fulfillment by maximizing kids.
If this was true, what kind of behavior would we see?
Elon Musk would worry about his legacy, fear death, have children with different, successful women, and be a semen donor
If he’s worried about his legacy, he would be doing things to make sure his passage on Earth is remembered. It’s clearly a motivation of his; it would be very hard to justify Tesla and SpaceX otherwise.
That is, unless he thinks he will live forever. But he doesn’t.
It is important for us to die because most of the time people don't change their mind, they just die. If you live forever, we might become a very ossified society where new ideas cannot succeed. [And I’m] not aware of any secret technology to combat aging.
So Musk worries about his legacy and thinks he’s going to die. One way to ensure his legacy is through companies, but the other one is through his genes. The more children, the more likely that his genes will last. And given his opinion of himself, he might think that would be good for humanity.
He can have many children in different ways. Donating semen is the most straightforward way of reproducing for a male. They don’t need to invest in finding a partner or in the relationship. If Musk was a donor, it would be reasonable to think that he has children to make sure his genetic code endures.
I’d love to ask Musk if he’s a sperm donor. As far as I know, we don’t know that. But we know his father has been asked to donate sperm, and is open to it. Maybe his son Elon is open too.
A more costly way to spread your genes is by having lots of children yourself. But if you do that and think in first principles, you probably want to have them with as many different, extraordinary women as you can.
Having children with only one couple is very risky genetically. If your partner’s genes are not amazing, or they don’t complement yours well, you run the risk of a poor genetic makeup for your children. If instead you want to optimize your children’s genetic makeup to ensure your genes’ survival, the best way to do that is by partnering with women who are beautiful, successful, and as different from each other as they can be. A writer, a musician, and a technology executive sounds quite good in that regard.
If he was going for very different children, he would also probably try to achieve different upbringings for them. One key variable that defines people is their name. In that regard, putting weird names to some of his children might be a good diversification strategy. X Æ A-12 and Exa Dark Sideræl make sense in this context.
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Musk probably doesn’t have children because he likes sleeping around and is careless. His children are very thoughtfully conceived. But he might have four reasons to have children:
He probably enjoys having children.
He probably believes that having children can improve one of humanity’s issues—the fertility crisis—both directly by having children, and indirectly by giving an example to society.
He probably believes having children can also improve the environment.
He might also be concerned about his genetic legacy, and might be trying to diversify his genetic progeny.
“I think greenhouse gasses are important, therefore I’ll create a hundred-billion dollar company.” “I think colonizing Mars is important, therefore I will completely reinvent the entire rocket industry.”
He might have some issues with his semen given the recurring use of IVF. Even if he does, though, these problems might not have existed (or he was unaware of them) when he was a donor.
Last night, I watched half of the movie version of early 1960s puppet show from the UK, "Thunderbirds Are Go!" on TCM: seeing the patriarch of the clan, the Ben Cartright-type guy, I thought "THAT is what Elon Musk is after!" He wants 5 strong sons to fly his rocket ships from his secluded Mediterranean Island fortress (with one of them launched from underneath the swimming pool that slides out of the way) and do big splashy rescues with his crazily awkward rockets/airplanes.
Father of soon 5 here. yep, 3 rather different mothers, thus at least one way to resemble Musk ;)
I agree with most of the post, but
1. I doubt that in Musk's case the IVF is mainly due to sperm-issues. He might be thinking from first principles and using IVF for embryo-selection. Sounds far-fetched? Hey, this guy wants "to die on Mars, but not on impact"! And is at times the 2nd richest man on earth ("after Putin").
2. Loving kids, esp. your own, is quite enough reason to have them. The rest is rationalization (though all the reasons you give, are valid). See also Bryan Caplan "Selfish reasons to have more kids" (tl;dr: The ONE selfish reason is that you love them. The main upside is: There is not nearly as much downside as all those silly people want to make you believe.)