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SXSW2013 SXSW2013

Elon Musk: 'My Life Is Insane'

Innovator talks space, education and how success can sometimes suck

At a packed keynote panel that left many SXSW attendees watching from overflow rooms, SpaceX, Tesla and PayPal founder Elon Musk gave convention goers a glimpse of his "insane" life.

Throughout the hour-long conversation, Musk touched on his work in space exploration, showing the audience the first test videos for SpaceX's reusable rockets program, to sizeable audience applause. Musk spent little time talking about Tesla and his auto programs, venturing instead into Tesla's work with Boeing to develop lithium ion batteries for the company's 787 Dreamliner plane. Musk even touched on education. "Generally, you want education to be as close to a good video game as possible," he said. "You don't need to tell your kids not to play video games. If you can make it interactive and engaging, then you can make it far more compelling and easy to do."

The interview fell flat, however, on the recent controversy surrounding Musk's dust-up with The New York Times' James Broder regarding a review of a Tesla's Model S car that Musk claimed was inaccurate. Musk told the crowd, "I don't think the language was accurate. I really don't," but the interviewer, former Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson, neglected to probe him further. Musk went on to say, "I don't have a problem with critical reviews, I have a problem with false reviews," calling the situation a journalistic violation, but not of the "Jayson Blair variety." The thousands in the audience appeared to side with Musk, backing him with applause. After Musk admitted the only thing he'd change about the experience was to rebut the Times' rebuttal, Anderson swiftly changed subjects.

After a piecemeal tour of his projects and achievements, including his near obsession with Mars, Musk admitted that his success has come at a price. "Last year was a great year of achievement but it wasn't all that fun...It kind of sucked," he confessed.

In all, the keynote followed the trend of other large-scale SXSW events, where hype and big names often overshadow shallow, overpacked conversations. Reviews on Twitter were mixed for Musk. While many were awed by his aspirations to "die on Mars, just not on impact," others like MIT Technology Review editor in chief and publisher Jason Pontin criticized Musk's lack of explanation when it came to talk of landing humans on Mars. 

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