Let me focus on the business tension. Great businesses do something that’s very unique. And when something is seen as good by society, it has a very conventional feel. You have the fourth online pet food company or the 10th thin-film solar company, those are often not great businesses because there are too many people doing similar kinds of things. Once space that borders on social entrepreneurship involves all the education-related startups. I find they’re often hard to differentiate; they all have a story that what they’re doing is really good, but they’re often similar to one another.
I prefer to focus on the mission of a company. And the mission has a story that is about more than making money, some transcendent purpose. But I distinguish mission from convention; if it involves an idea that’s totally different than what I’ve seen before, that’s what feels very powerful. The creative part of the process is to think really hard: What are the great new things that we can develop today in 2015?
If you ask, is Space-X a form of social entrepreneurship? Because Elon would say that it is good for humanity to move onto another planet, and we should become a planet traveling species and go to Mars. But that’s an idiosyncratic view; if you took a poll, that wouldn’t be high up on peoples’ list of what they think is good for society.
People have all sorts of reasons to be critical of tech. They will say that it’s either too big, has too much hubris, or its too small; it’s people throwing a sheep at one another on the internet. We should make technology more ambitious.