In early 2022, Bill Gates approached Elon Musk to discuss philanthropy and climate change. Musk had recently put $5.7 billion into a charitable fund due to his stock sales for tax reasons. They agreed to meet in Austin, Texas, where Musk was giving Gates a tour of his Gigafactory.
During the tour, Gates expressed skepticism about batteries’ ability to power large semi-trucks and the significance of solar energy in combating climate change. He also questioned Musk’s Mars plans, which he found bizarre. However, Gates was impressed by the factory’s technology and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation.
The conversation eventually shifted to philanthropy, where Musk expressed his view that most philanthropy was ineffective, with only a 20-cent impact per dollar. Musk believed he could do more good by investing in Tesla to combat climate change.
Gates countered by listing five philanthropic projects worth $100 million each, focusing on refugees, American schools, AIDS research, mosquito eradication using gene drives, and genetically modified seeds resistant to climate change. He promised to provide detailed descriptions of these ideas.
However, a contentious issue arose during their meeting. Gates had shorted Tesla stock, betting that its value would decrease, but he was wrong, resulting in a $1.5 billion loss. Musk was furious about this and found it hypocritical, as Gates claimed to be passionate about climate change while betting against a sustainable energy car company.
Gates later sent Musk a paper on philanthropy options, which Musk responded to by asking if Gates still had a half-billion-dollar short position against Tesla. Gates attempted to change the subject, but Musk expressed his distrust in Gates’ commitment to climate philanthropy due to his short position.
Their exchange escalated when Musk tweeted a photo of Gates with a sarcastic comment about his appearance. Musk expressed frustration and concluded that Gates was “categorically insane” and “an asshole to the core.”
Despite their differences, Gates acknowledged Musk’s contributions to science and innovation, praising his role in pushing the boundaries of technology.
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