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How One Man's All Nighter Could Save The Planet

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Anyone can pull an all nighter. What student hasn't done this and produced some whiz bang of a term paper the next morning. No big deal right?

So this Elon Musk guy works all night and whacks out a 57-page report detailing the Hyperloop, a souped up hovercraft in a tube allowing the great unwashed to travel at the speed of sound from one city to the next, powered by the sun, all for $20 a shot. Big whoop.

Oh yeah, on the side he's running that Tesla Motor thingy. Sure the company makes those flashy electric-powered cars and is making money, winning major awards and his stock is a market darling. Okay, okay, we can't forget SpaceX, designed to kick off space travel for you and me. In the same week he tossed out the HyperLoop idea, we witnessed a major test of his 10-story rocket ship, which blasted 820 feet into the air, shifted to one side, before returning to Earth intact.

He's also got a bit of a resume. The South African native sits on the board of Solar City and also built PayPal, which went a long way towards disrupting the world's cumbersome and often corrupt global banking business.

Well, in fact, it is a big deal. Can we clone him? Because this guy, who is being compared to everyone from Thomas Edison to Tony Stark, is the kind of entrepreneur we need today. Is he a saint who has never contributed a ton of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere? Hardly. But we need people like him who spend time trying to make things better, cheaper and all wrapped in a more sustainable package.

Musk is not spending his hours thinking of new ways to drill for oil, make better pipelines or gas guzzling cars. We've had enough of that. He wants to contribute to a more sustainable world; not so we can live like the Amish, but so we can swoosh around in this wired world without ruining it.

Just look at why he stopped to think about Hyperloop (an idea he gave away to the public). He looked at California's rapid rail plan and gagged, as he recounted in his blog this week:

"When the California 'high speed' rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL -- doing incredible things like indexing all the world's knowledge and putting rovers on Mars -- would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?"

Some might have thought California's plan was good enough. It would help cut greenhouse gas emissions and mass transportation is always a good thing, right? But Musk says, 'hold on -- we can do better.'

In an interview with Wired last year, Musk talked about his plans at SpaceX and some of his frustrations in the government's inability to develop affordable technology: "So, yeah, there's a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering."

Bruce Leak, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who once worked with Musk at a video game company, told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that Musk "has that Bill Gates energy where his foot bounces and he's wiggling just because he's so smart."

We need more of that energy channeled into projects that solve the problems we have today, not ideas that extend our woes. Why? because we live on a resource challenged planet where we need to constrain some resources while letting loose the hounds of innovation in other areas.

In the book The Sixth Wave: How to Succeed in a Resource-Limited World, the authors argue that identifying waste is the growth opportunity for the new, emerging entrepreneur.

"If you can find waste in a system, the opportunities will follow, because in a world of limited resources waste is a huge source of untapped value," the authors James Bradfield Moody and Bianca Nogrady wrote. "In The Sixth Wave, waste is simply another transaction cost."

In short, the next wave of innovation will be driven by resource efficiency, enabled through the pricing of waste and natural resources, and turbo-charged by clean technologies."

So let's have more toe tapping, more all nighters and more Elon Musks so we can create more turbo-charged energy that leads to a better world.

Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions
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