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Elon Musk’s wild interview today had him raging, reliving ‘three years of hell,’ and recalling a ‘rough’ childhood

April 14, 2022, 11:29 PM UTC

Elon Musk wants to acquire Twitter, but he also has many other things on his mind.

In an interview at the TED conference on Thursday, the Tesla CEO raged against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, recalled “three years of hell” at Tesla, and discussed the impact of Asperger’s syndrome on his life.

Here are a few of Musk’s most interesting comments:

Musk attacks the SEC

The mercurial CEO did not hold back against the SEC, which charged Musk with securities fraud in 2018 after he posted “misleading tweets” about wanting to take Tesla private, infamously saying that he had “funding secured” for the deal. As part of a settlement, Musk agreed to step down as Tesla chairman and pay $40 million in penalties.

Speaking about the settlement on Thursday, Musk said, “So I was forced to concede to the SEC unlawfully, those bastards, and now it makes it look like I lied when I did not in fact lie.”

He specifically criticized the SEC’s San Francisco office, saying that the agency “knew that funding was secured, but they pursued an active public investigation nonetheless.” He explained that Tesla “was in a precarious financial situation” and that his bankers told him if he didn’t agree to a settlement “the banks would cease providing working capital and Tesla would go bankrupt immediately.”

“So that’s like having a gun to your child’s head.”

Musk’s “three years of hell”

Musk spent the years 2017 through 2019 steering Tesla though numerous production delays related to its Model 3 electric car. He referred to this time in his life as “three years of hell” and “the longest period of excruciating pain in my life.” 

During this period, Musk said he lived in Tesla’s factories “fixing that production line, running around like a maniac through every part of that factory so that the team who was going through a hard time could see me on the floor so they knew that I was not in some ivory tower.”

“There wasn’t any other way, and we barely made it,” Musk said. “We were on the ragged edge of bankruptcy the entire time.”

Life with Asperger’s syndrome

Musk discussed his life having Asperger’s syndrome, which he revealed in May 2021 while hosting Saturday Night Live.

“I think everyone’s experience is going to be somewhat different, but I guess for me, the social cues were not intuitive, so I was just very bookish, and I didn’t understand this, I guess,” Musk said.

While “others could sort of intuitively understand what is meant by something,” Musk said that he “would just tend to take things very literally as just like, the words that are spoken were exactly what they meant.”

It took him some time to understand the nuances of human communication, he explained.

“So I was bullied quite a lot,” Musk said. “So I didn’t have a, sort of a happy childhood.”

“To be frank, it was quite, quite rough,” he added.

Putting light on Twitter’s algorithms

If he acquires Twitter, Musk said, he wants to make its algorithms available for everyone to inspect, to be more transparent into why certain tweets are promoted. That would also show that Twitter doesn’t covertly control who gets to say what on the platform, which many Republican lawmakers have said is the case.

“Having a black-box algorithm promote some things and not other things, I think this can be quite dangerous,” Musk said.

He suggested that Twitter’s software code should be available on the GitHub code repository service, so people could “critique it” and “say, like, ‘I see a problem here, I don’t agree with this,’” Musk said.

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