Elon Musk said on September 18 that X, the platform formerly known Twitter, is “moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the X system.”
Musk made the comment during a livestreamed discussion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 18.
He said that the introduction of a monthly payment was "the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots” on the social media platform.
“If somebody even has to pay, a few dollars or something […] the effective cost of bots is very high, and then you also have to get a new payment method every time you have a new bot,” Musk said.
He spoke about “prioritizing posts that are written by, basically, X Premium subscribers” and said, “we’re actually going to come out with a lower tier of pricing.” He did not say explicitly that this lower tier would be for all users.
During the same talk, Netanyahu asked Musk to “stop” and “roll back” antisemitism on the X platform. Credit: Benjamin Netanyahu via Storyful
ELON MUSK: Not too bright. Flattering lighting, flattering.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Do it?
ELON MUSK: It's--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: It's fine. I'm seeing it--
ELON MUSK: Does it look-- you look-- you look OK.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [INAUDIBLE]
ELON MUSK: [LAUGHS]
So we're going to start off with just the two of us and then add [INAUDIBLE].
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: As long as you want.
ELON MUSK: OK. Are we-- are we going live? Or when are we-- sorry, if you're speaking from the back, I can't hear you. When do we go live?
- OK, should I--
ELON MUSK: I said-- OK, you're ready to go as soon as we say go?
- The microphone's right here.
ELON MUSK: All right, because I think what we should do is start off with just a-- kind of an intro screen. And then send me the link so that I can post it to my account as well. So that we start off with just sort of a-- kind of of an intro screen. Can we turn the intro screen live? Like so they can't hear us, but just sort of a intro screen.
All right then.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, it's not only that we're live.
ELON MUSK: Jump in at the deep end.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: You know, I think the important thing to tell people is this is not deep fake. This is really the two of us.
ELON MUSK: Yes, this is actually us. Wait, how do we know it's not deep fake?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I don't know. I was going to ask you that.
ELON MUSK: [LAUGHS] Possible. So welcome. It's an honor to speak. And I think people are going to be very interested in the conversation. You know, we've spoken a number of times over the years and had a lovely breakfast at your place in Israel. And it was wonderful to have that conversation.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, you know, I came out of it and I said to my wife, Sara, you know, this guy really knows what he's talking about. I said, he's the Edison of our time. And I think I probably dealt you a sort of a backhanded slap because what about the Tesla of our time? You know?
ELON MUSK: Yeah, I think I've got a long way to go before I'm anywhere near Tesla, I think. But yeah, it was a great conversation. We touched on a number of subjects. And yeah, so.
We're at a very interesting juncture in the world from a technology standpoint. If you say-- there's so many things happening. If you were to plot the various types of technology on a chart, even the one area, and I'd say even just like really the last 20 years-- certainly the last 100 years from the dawn of human civilization-- the growth of technology just looks like a wall.
Technology is improving at sort of a hyper-exponential rate. And we obviously want to make sure that the technology is something that benefits humanity and to the greatest extent possible.
And we're going to go in depth into artificial intelligence, which is potentially the biggest civilizational threat. I say potentially, so I'm trying not to be sort of a whatever, scaremonger or something. But when you're talking about having something that is an intelligence far in excess of the smartest human on Earth, you have to say, at that point, who is in charge? Is it the computers or the humans?
And you know, there's some interesting ratios that I think are quite profound, like one of them being the ratio of digital to biological compute. So if you all the human brains and then all the computer circuits and you say, what's that ratio? The ratio of digital to biological compute is increasing dramatically every year because the population of Earth is fairly static, but the output of silicon is dramatically increased. So basically at a certain point, the percentage of compute that will be biological is very small.
And anyways, some of these technologies like-- and I'm a technologist and I bear some responsibility for the creation of artificial intelligence, at least a little bit. And I think we just want to make sure that we're guiding things to a technological-- a positive future and reduce the probability of a negative one.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I call it I call it the blessing and the curse. You know, 3,500 years ago when Moses steered the people, the children of Israel, to the promised land and he was standing outside. And he said, you're going into the promised land and you're going to find a choice between two things, a blessing and a curse. And he said, you better choose the blessing, which was the blessing of life and not the curse of death.
And I think in many ways we stand today at a juncture for all humanity where we have to choose between a blessing and a curse. The blessings of AI are amazing and we see them already in Israel. We see them around the world.
You can see the addition of decades of life to the human lifespan. Precision medicine dedicated to every person's genetic composition. Robots-- I know you know nothing about this-- robots who care for the elderly. I think you're making some of them here.
You can have precision agriculture and autonomous factories that create abundance beyond our imagination-- what you called the end of scarcity-- which is a departure in human history. You can have all these blessings. You can have the end of traffic jams, with subground, above ground and in the air, AI-driven vehicles. All these things that are real promise.
But at the same time, you've got the curse. And the curse could be manifold. It could be the disruption of democracy, the interference-- the manipulation-- of minds, crime syndicates, AI-driven wars that go uncontrollable. And what you said now, which is the stuff of science fiction. I mean, we used to read these things. We used to read Isaac Asimov, you know? That machines will control humans as opposed to the other way around.
And I'll tell you the worst thing about it is what you said earlier, which is that the pace of change is increasing so fast. I mean, it took us centuries, at least, to adapt to the Agricultural Revolution. Took us maybe a century to adapt to the Industrial Revolution. We may have just about a few years-- and that we're running out as we speak-- to adapt to the AI revolution.
And I'm not sure that we are, certainly not in curbing the curses. And as a leader of a country that is an AI player-- and could be a big player if we have our way, and I think we will-- then we want to increase the blessings for not only for ourselves but for all of humanity. We've done that with other technological innovations that came out of Israel and many other places.
But the real question is, what do we do? What do we do internationally? What do we do globally to contain the threat? So if you were-- well, you can't be you can't be President of the US the last time I checked, right? But assume you are.
ELON MUSK: Not officially.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Not officially.
OK, so you're the unofficial President. What do you suggest we do to curb the curses and increase the blessings?
ELON MUSK: Well, that's what part of this discussion is about. So I've actually met with a number of world leaders to talk about AI risk, because I think for a lot of people they don't-- unless you're really immersed in the technology, you don't know just how significant the risk can be.
Now, I think the reward is also a very positive so I don't want to be-- I tend to view the future as a series of probabilities. There's a certain probability that something will go wrong, certain probability it will go right. It's kind of a spectrum of things. And to the degree that there is free will versus determinism, then we want to try to exercise that free will to ensure a great future.
And the single biggest rebuttal that I've gotten among leaders in the West with regard to AI is that well, sure, the West might regulate AI, but what about China? Because to your point about which countries will have significant leadership in AI, China is certainly one of them, one of the very top, potentially number one.
So if China basically does not regulate while others do, then will the other countries be at a disadvantage? That's the single most common rebuttal that I got. So I went, you know, I went to China. I met with some of the senior leadership and I talked about the risks of AI. And one of the points I made is that if you make a-- if you create a digital superintelligence, that digital superintelligence, if it is sufficiently powerful and care is not taken, that digital superintelligence could be in charge of China instead of the CCP being in charge of China. And I think that argument did resonate.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Must have gotten some attention.
ELON MUSK: Yeah, the CCP prefers to be in charge. You know. Bit of a dry house we've got here. Anyway. [LAUGHS] Anyway, so I think that they understand the argument. Like look, if you create digital God and now that is the boss of you, you know, that's not something that appeals to them. Or any government.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yeah, I think there's another thing though. I mean, I see this as three layers. How do you-- I've been thinking about this ever since we spoke about it. How do we-- and I read some of the the books, including some of the people that we're going to talk about later-- Tegmark's book, which I thought was really absorbing and stimulating.
But how do you get the international regime to control this thing? OK? Well, OK, if you look at it and you look at-- you know, the first thing you can do is get minded states-- I call them the likeminded smarts-- to agree on a code of ethics and a code of conduct.
And that's pretty easy. We can do it among our-- within our countries and between our countries. And we can cooperate to ensure the blessings and curb the curse as much as we can. We do that in civil aviation. We do it in other things, too. OK? And we do that, actually, beyond the democracies.
The second tier is the other regimes, the other systems. And there I look at nuclear weapons. OK? How did we control nuclear weapons? We really-- everybody says, well, we had treaties, we had arrangements.
That's not what controlled nuclear weapons. What controlled nuclear weapons and gave us 75 years of nuclear peace is deterrence, basically MAD, what they call Mutually Assured Destruction. That was enough, and I hope it will be enough, to contain the the curses inherent in these weapons of mass destruction.
I think there is something beyond that machines will take over. It's that if we don't have a code of conduct between the major powers, you'll have MAC, Mutually Assured Chaos. If anybody punches the other side and you'll have a response, then you'll have a runaway chain of events that could foster such global disruption that everybody loses. So that may persuade the established powers and super powers.
But then you have the third problem, which I think is the most difficult one. What do you do about what they call bad actors? Which is a laundered way of saying rogue states, crime syndicates, runaway corporations. How about runaway individuals? I mean, like, remember the James Bond movie where you see the guy in some island and he's manufacturing the specter argument you have?
But to do that, you need computation, you need big data, and you need basically algorithms and very able people. Could we trace that? Could we control that? Assuming we got the first part, the like-minded smarts, and then we had some kind of code of conduct and mutual deterrence among the big guys, could we police the planet against the little guys or the rogue factors?
ELON MUSK: Yeah, that's a great question. And I think the answer with respect to digital superintelligence is yes. Because although if you see a movie like say "Terminator", you see the-- the intelligence appears to be in the robot. But actually the intelligence is in large data centers, large server centers.
So think of it more like-- if you see some of these data centers, you just see computers as-- like you can practically see the curvature of the Earth, that's how long the corridors are. I mean, these gigantic, massive warehouses or buildings, with in some cases, hundreds of thousands of computers for extreme digital superintelligence. It's not subtle. It's not someone in a--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: What you're saying is there are barriers to entry that will be difficult to overcome.
ELON MUSK: What I'm saying is that you'll be able to see the-- if you have an infrared camera from space, you'll be able to see where it's located.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: It's traceable. You can actually identify it.
ELON MUSK: Yes, because if you've got a sort of, say, 100 megawatt data center that you're going to have 100mw of heat rise-- a heat column. So in infrared, this will show up like a-- it won't be subtle.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: It's not a drug dealer. It's not a drug dealer in the Amazon who's doing this, you know?
ELON MUSK: No. It's hard to hide a giant server center. Maybe at the bottom of the ocean or something. But I mean, it requires a lot of capital. It requires-- it's a lot of power. And it's not something that you can just sort of hide in a small location.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, in the case of nuclear weapons, there are two principal components, which are the necessary, and in many ways sufficient. And that is you have the capacity to enriched uranium, which requires these plants. And you have to have, basically, nuclear scientists.
And the nuclear scientists you can fit in a room smaller than this to produce a nuclear device. But you can trace the other component fairly well, so we know. And you know, we're doing our best to prevent it, rogue states from having it, principally Iran.
But what you're saying is there is a definable universe, a small one actually, of capable actors in AI, which I think is good news. I mean, it allows at least for the hope of some kind of regulation or some kind of controls over it.
ELON MUSK: Yeah, that essentially is what I think gives some hope for at least digital superintelligence. Now, you can certainly have-- you should really think of AI as a spectrum, like a very, very wide range of simple AI that will do automatic calendaring or something.
In fact, one thing would be much would be much appreciated is if we could apply a better AI for autocorrect on my phone, because that would be a great benefit. In fact, if AI is so great, why is autocorrect to suck? You know, it's sort of like-- anyway.
But there's varying degrees of AI that go from doing simple functions to levels of intelligence that I think are hard for us to comprehend as individuals. And at the very high level of the stuff that's least understandable requires massive amount of power, large number of computers, and the right software and the right data and everything. So it's not-- it's something you'd notice. It's difficult to hide.
Sort of similar to uranium. You can detect the uranium radiation, you know. I agree with you. It's actually very easy to build nukes. Yeah.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, we're trying to make it harder on the bad guys, you know. We're doing our best. And I've devoted a good chunk of my adult life to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons because it's a bad actor. You know? Chants death to Israel, death to America. And they want to have ICBMs to deliver that threat. And you don't want them to be able to reach Fremont or New York, or Dallas, or anyplace else and threaten you and blackmail you.
ELON MUSK: Yeah. Yeah, I'll tell you a funny anecdote about Iran in this case. So we got permission from the US State Department to turn on Starlink over Iran, and so a few people are using it. And we got a sort of upset letter from the government of Iran. But actually, the letter, it was so polite that--
I expected it to be sort of angry or something. But it was polite to a degree that I think-- like Charles Dickens level polite, you know? And I was expecting to see, you know, P.S. death to America and Israel or something like that. You know? But they didn't have that. So I was like--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Elon, they tried to kill the Secretary of State of the United States and the National Security advisor. I mean, that's really chutzpah, you know. So don't-- don't be calmed by--
ELON MUSK: I'm not. I just thought it was funny--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: --by Charles Dickens language.
ELON MUSK: No, no. It was very nice language. And I was like sort of-- it would have been just frankly-- just pretty epic if it said P.S. death to America. I was like, by the way, death to America. I don't know. It's just a--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, that's an interesting subject, which I hope we can pursue later on today. But I think-- you know, I think these regimes basically are based on the ability to control the minds of their people. And to the extent that you can facilitate what I know you believe in deeply, which is pluralistic views to be heard.
Well, you know, people are discussing it all over the place in the free world. But what makes the unfree world unfree is that you can't have this discussion. You can't do anything.
ELON MUSK: Right. Totally. You know, I think it's-- I think the founders of the United States, or shortly thereafter, with the First Amendment being free speech, was a very wise Amendment. Because you say, why did they care about that so much? It's because the places that they came from, they didn't have free speech. So you know, the places they immigrated from, the speech was-- the press and everything was very much controlled.
And to your point, I think if you don't have free speech and discussion of often difficult and contentious ideas, that necessarily not everyone agrees with, then you don't really-- it's very difficult to have an effective democracy. Because the people are voting based on the information that they receive. And if they do not know what's going on or if they're fed a false narrative, then they cannot make their vote a-- they cannot vote sensibly because they don't have the information.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I know I know your commitment to free speech. I respect that because I think it's an integral-- it's the foundational thing of democracies really. But I also know your opposition to anti-Semitism. You've spoken about it, tweeted about it. And all I can say is I hope you find within the confines of the First Amendment the ability to stop not only anti-Semitism, or roll it back as best you can, but any collective hatred of a people that anti-Semitism represents.
And I know you're committed to that. I hope you succeed in it. It's not an easy task. But I encourage you and urge you to find a balance. It's a tough one
ELON MUSK: Yeah. I mean, I think generally-- I mean, I'm sort of against attacking any group. You know? It doesn't matter who it is. You know, this is-- I'm in favor of that which furthers civilization, and which ultimately leads us to become a spacefaring civilization, and where we understand the nature of the universe. So we can't do that if there's a lot of infighting and hatred and negativity.
Obviously, I'm against anti-Semitism. I'm against anti really anything that is-- you know, that promotes hate and conflict. And I'm in favor of that which helps evolve society and take us to a better future for humanity collectively. And now this--
And I think one can actually argue that really everyone should have this view. All it requires is long-term thinking. And if you are long-term thinking, you say, like, OK, well-- so basically you can say like even if-- hypothetically-- if someone is, say, completely self-centered. Well, it's like, can you-- how would you feel if you didn't have civilization?
It's very easy to figure that out. Just go into the forest with nothing and see how long you want to live there. Just watch an episode of "Naked and Afraid"
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And-- see how long you live. You may die very quickly.
ELON MUSK: Exactly. So it's like-- civilization, it turns out, it's pretty nice actually. We may quibble about civilization, but it's easy to experience not civilization by just going into someplace where there are no people and seeing what it's like. And you'll very quickly come back to civilization. Unless you're Ted Kaczynski or something. He liked living in the forest. So yeah.
Now, free speech does at times mean that someone you don't like is saying something you don't like. If you don't have that, then it's not free speech. Now that doesn't mean some sort of negativity should be pushed upon people. Because for the X platform, unless it's interesting, entertaining, engaging, then we will lose users. People will want to not use our system if they find it to be unpleasant.
Our overarching goal for the X platform is to maximize unregretted user time. So if you spend half an hour on X platform, did you learn a lot? Were you entertained? Did you perhaps laugh a little bit? In fact, I find it to be the best source of humor. I laugh more on stuff that I read on X than everything else combined. So you know, I think that's a good thing.
But it's also important to bear in mind that there are 550 million monthly users, now going to maybe 600 million monthly users. And you know, at any given day there's on the order of 100 to 200 million posts to the system. There's a lot of-- this is a lot of material. So in amongst the 100 or 200 million-- and I'm excluding retweets or reposts, as I say-- new wording-- you know, some of those are going to be bad. It's impossible to say.
And you can't police it in advance. But you can say after the fact, oh, it's getting reported as hate speech. OK, well, we're going to deamplify. We're not going to promote hate speech because we think probably people-- that's not what people want to hear. You know?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I think the other thing is that it doesn't stop you from coming out as you have, and as I do on every possible forum, and condemn anti-Semitism. You know? It's just this collective hatred of a people. You say they have to be banished. They don't have a right to exist. They don't have a right to a state of their own and so on.
And the vile things that are said. I don't care if they come from the hard left or from the hard right, or White supremacists, or I don't know, ultra-progressives. For me, that's something that I condemn. And I think that it's important to come out.
And that's quite a separate question, that the condemnation is quite separate from the question of access. The one access idea that I have-- and I don't even know if it's technically possible-- is to prevent the use of bots, armies of bots, to replicate and amplify it.
So at least if you get a crazy guy and a hateful guy, let him be speaking from one voice rather than arming an army of fake millions to do this.
ELON MUSK: Absolutely. This is actually a super tough problem. And it's really-- I'd say maybe the single most important reason that we're moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the X system is it's the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots.
Because a bot costs a fraction of a penny, call it a tenth of a penny. But if somebody even has to pay a few dollars or something, some minor amount, the effective cost of bots is very high. And then you also have to get a new payment method every time you have a new bot. So that actually-- the constraint of how many different credit cards you can find, even on the dark web or whatever.
And then so prioritizing posts that are written by basically ex-premium subscribers-- and we're actually going to come out with a lower tier pricing so it's. We want it to be just a small amount of money. This is the-- and it's a longer discussion, but in my view, this is actually the only defense against vast armies of bots.
Because as the AI gets very good, it's actually able to pass these sort of CAPTCHA tests better than humans. In fact, one of the ways, you might say, like, wait a second. It's passing the test too fast. That must be a robot. It must be AI. Because human would be much slower.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: But you're saying that all these things are happening at such a rapid exponential rate that our discussion, the means that we're talking about, we're really so far behind the curve that we're not really addressing as leaders-- leaders of technology, leaders of nations, leaders of technological nations-- we're not really addressing these massive changes that are changing humanity and our world and our future. Not in the future. It's right now. And we're not dealing with it.
And I'm concerned-- I'm coming here to talk about what we do. Because nobody's done it before. Usually I'm a fairly-- I don't want to say I'm a lazy reformer. I helped reform the Israeli economy from a semi-socialist economy to one of the most vibrant free market economies. But you know, I could do that by saying, look, let's look at what the successful countries did.
And it was pretty easy. You could copy market economies. That was pretty easy. Hard to do, but easy to conceptualize. When we had to deal with cyber, there was no model and we just went along, changed ourselves as we went along and figured out how to make Israel one of the leading cyber powers to protect ourselves.
But when I look here, there's really no one to look at. So I came to you. And I look forward to the meeting we're going to have in a short while to talk about what is it-- what's the model that a Democratic country-- and I have to say Israel will be always a Democratic country-- what does a Democratic country do? How does it cooperate with other democracies?
How does it cooperate with other nations to get a handle on this-- I don't want to say on this-- I don't want to say this demon that has been released. You didn't create a demon, don't worry. You created the blessing and it's got a curse next to it. It doesn't come free.
And I think we don't have much time. And I think this is the single most important development in our lifetime, and in many ways, perhaps, in history. So we don't have much time to deal with shaping our future. And that is really my greatest interest for my country. But not only for my country, for everyone.
ELON MUSK: I couldn't agree more. Actually, I guess before we bring the other participants on, speaking of Israel--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yeah, speak of it.
ELON MUSK: There is, as you saw, some protesters outside. And I, to be frank, probably got the most amount of negative push-back from people at Tesla about this interview than anything else I've ever done. So if maybe-- if you could take a few moments to address--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Oh, sure.
ELON MUSK: You know, I think it's primarily the judicial reform question.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Sure.
ELON MUSK: Yeah.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, it's a good opportunity to tell people who are protesting to at least-- so they know what they're protesting about. You know? Because I think many of them don't know. And there's a concerted effort to make sure they don't know.
Look, the first thing I'd say is what I-- repeat what I just said a minute ago. Israel was, is, and will always be a robust democracy. But it's changed it's, I would say, its character, subtly and imperceptibly, about three decades ago. And I'd say this all goes back to a very, sort of a very bitter day in Athens about 2,400 years ago.
ELON MUSK: OK.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yeah, that's where it starts.
ELON MUSK: OK.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I told you history has its roots. Well, there's this brilliant 28-year-old man who sees his beloved teacher forced to drink a cup of hemlock-- you know, Socrates. And he says-- and was forced by the Athenian assembly, the democracy of Athens.
And Plato says-- that's a 28-year-old man-- he says, what is this crazy system, this democracy? There has to be a better thing. And the better thing, he says, is a utopia where the philosopher is King. You know who the philosopher is, it's Plato. It's Plato. And he says, how will he govern? He'll govern with 300 guardians that he'll appoint, you know, and they'll appoint their successors and so on.
Now this idea sort of ambled its way through the Middle Ages and was soundly rejected in modern times, first by John Locke and then Montesquieu, and then the fathers of the American Revolution. I mean, the curious thing was-- I mean, Plato said you have to have elevated people, enlightened people to rule, and not the masses. Right?
But then you had these brilliant people, Madison and Hamilton and all these guys. And they said, no, no. It's not the enlightened people. The people rule. It's we the people, not we the elites. We the people rule. But the way you rule and the way you balance in democracy is majority rule and individual rights is a balance between the three branches of government. OK?
In Israel, that balance 30 years ago began to change. And we have the most activist Judicial Court on the planet, so it's steadily arrogated to itself the powers of the legislature and the executive where it basically decides. Democracy is supposed to be checks and balances of the three branches on each other. In Israel, the Judiciary has no checks and no balances. It just has power.
And so there is a request to try to bring it back into line and that has been sort of boiling all the time. I came in and there was a proposal put in, which I thought was bad, which was to reject one imbalance by creating another imbalance. If the court can rule against any decision made by the government or the parliament, then let's now correct it by having the parliament reject any decision with a simple majority that the court makes.
I thought that's a mistake. It's moving the pendulum from one side to the other side. It has to be in a happy middle. I've been looking for that happy middle. I have a majority in the parliament in the Knesset to legislate anything, but I didn't. I held back because I want this to be a consensus. And so we made the minimal changes that would bring back a little of the balance that we had in Israel's first 50 years.
And that's what we're trying to do now. I'm still reaching for a consensus. If I can't reach it with the other side of the political aisle, which becomes very difficult in today's democracies, with the polarizing effect of social media and big money and big data that is used to polarize even further, to arrange demonstrations anywhere on the planet.
You know, if I can't do it with the other side of the aisle, then I want to do it with the public. That is, to have as broad a consensus for a minor correction, basically some correction on how we choose judges, because otherwise we have basically 15, in many ways unelected, officials. By the way, I think, gifted people, good people. But they replace the government. They're sort of unelected and they decide everything. That's not exactly democracy.
So we're trying to get Israel back to where it was before. I hope we succeed. I can tell you that as soon as I get back to Israel after this week, that's what I'm going to focus my attention on. I hope we succeed. But it's not-- you know, I'm described as something between, I don't know, Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan.
Elon, you read a lot of books. I read "The Federalist Papers" a couple of times. You know, I'm versed in the theories of democracy and the balance between the three branches of government. That's what I'm trying to achieve, nothing more.
And it's not an easy thing to be maligned. I know you've never seen that, right? You've never experienced it, right?
ELON MUSK: No idea what you're talking about. Yeah, no. Me, maligned? Never.
Yeah, I know-- I guess-- we don't want to spend, obviously, too much time on this subject since this is primarily about AIs sort of existential risk. And it's difficult for people here to know exactly how other systems work. But certainly, the press in the US has not portrayed the reforms you mentioned in a positive light. They--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, especially "The New York Times." I mean, they are in a fantastic, obsessive campaign. But they usually get it wrong. So it's not important.
ELON MUSK: So I mean, in the US, the courts cannot really produce new laws but they can--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Nullify.
ELON MUSK: Provided it's against the Constitution.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Exactly.
ELON MUSK: Right.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Exactly. Well, in Israel we don't-- in Israel we supposedly have basic laws that constitute a Constitution. Now the debate in Israel is whether the court can actually change the basic laws. And it's a big debate. I don't want to get into that and get people into this, but there's always a balance.
You know, the way you balance the power of the people, the majority, with the court in America is that the politicians choose the judges. OK? That's something that creates constant tension, obviously, including today. But that's built into democracy. There's tension between the various branches of government. You have to resolve to make sure that you're somewhere in the middle and not in one of the extremes. And that's what I hope I can achieve in Israel. And I think it'll come out. People will see that. Israel was a democracy, and will be, in my opinion, a stronger democracy after the dust settles.
ELON MUSK: Sounds good.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: It's easier than AI.
ELON MUSK: Yeah. Sounds good. Well, great. I guess back to AI. Is this the appropriate time to bring the other people on?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Only after you answer one of my questions I wanted to ask you. I want to ask you two questions.
ELON MUSK: OK.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: First one is, who's the person that most influenced you?
ELON MUSK: Well, I've been influenced by a lot of people. I've read a lot of books. I'm somewhat of a voracious reader of books. I would say probably Douglas Adams "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" would be the single most influential book, which is really a book on philosophy disguised as humor. So that'll probably be my number one.
I mean, I think "Lord of the Rings" is one of my favorite books as well. Asimov. You know, the "Foundation" series was actually quite a-- helped inspire me to try to make life multi-planetary, because I think that improves the probable lifespan of civilization.
So what about you?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, the person who most influenced me was my father, who was a great historian. And he was also the editor-- you might find this interesting because you read encyclopedias-- he was the Editor in Chief of the Hebrew encyclopedia. So he was sort of a polymath.
But I once asked him, when I decided to run for the prime minister-- and this is a few decades ago, I've been re-elected six times-- so I asked him, father, what is the most essential quality that you need to be the prime minister of Israel? And he said to me, well, what do you think?
And I said, well, you have to have a vision and you have to have the resolve and flexibility to achieve it. And he said, well, you need that for anything. And I said, so what is the most essential thing?
And he said a word that surprised me. He said education. You have to have a broad and deep education. Otherwise, you'll be at the mercy of your clerks. Otherwise you won't navigate the course that you want to reach, you'll be navigated to the course they want to reach.
You know, I found that to be actually very sound advice that I find hard to maintain, but I read also all the time to increase the intellectual capital and not deplete it. And I think that also makes life more interesting, as I'm sure you do. We both-- I think you've read more books than I have, but I try to read a lot.
ELON MUSK: Yeah. Well, I think that generally would be a good advice for kids or adults frankly, is just to read more.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Who reads today? Do people read?
ELON MUSK: I know. Unfortunately, I think reading has taken somewhat of a hit. [LAUGHS]
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: That's because people read twits-- tweets. That's what they do.
ELON MUSK: Well, they watch TikTok videos a lot. You know? Which it's not-- you learn something I suppose. But there's just-- there's much less reading. And the things that I think-- if I'd had entertaining, if I'd had the internet back then with the great movies, video games and that kind of thing, I probably would not have-- I would have read much less than I did. I kind of read the encyclopedia out of desperation because I didn't have anything else to read. You know?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: You read the whole encyclopedia?
ELON MUSK: Yeah, pretty-- I skipped-- you know, I'd get to something that I'm not that interested in and I'd just skip past it. But yeah, pretty much.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: That's desperation.
ELON MUSK: It was desperation. No, it was just like, I'm running out of books. You know? So--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: But I think it was probably a better encyclopedia than the one you-- you know, these digital encyclopedias today, which are-- unfortunately are edited in ways that are not-- that don't necessarily bring out the balanced views of things.
ELON MUSK: Yeah, I know. I mean, the funny thing about, say, like Wikipedia is-- like, there's an old saying history is written by the victors. It's like, well, yes, but not if your enemies are still alive and have a lot of time on their hands to edit Wikipedia.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: History is written by the people who can harness the most editors.
ELON MUSK: Yeah. I mean, you know, the losers just got a lot of time on their hands. And you know, so what are they going to do? Edit Wikipedia. Literally. So yeah.
Well, is this-- should we perhaps bring--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yeah, please.
ELON MUSK: OK.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Let's bring them in.
ELON MUSK: Oh, we're going to take a break. OK. OK, so it sounds like we're going to just-- we're going to wrap this-- wrap up this and then take a break. And then we'll add Max Tegmark and Greg Brockman.
So is there anything, any last words, you'd like to say for just the two of us?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, just I appreciate the opportunity to pick your brain on something that is so important for the future of my country and the future of the world. And I really think that we don't have much time. We don't have much time.
ELON MUSK: Yeah. One of the things I was-- well, maybe we'll do it another time. But is-- you know, I actually I went to Hebrew preschool and I can sing a pretty good "Hava "Nagila", you know. So maybe I can have a sing off at some point. But I don't know if we have time today. But--
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: If you want to, go ahead. I'm not going to stop you.
ELON MUSK: Well, we need some music.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: This is where we go into the deep fake. We could have the Elon Musk "Hava Nagila".
ELON MUSK: All right. Well, I guess we'll take a break now. Maybe kick it off with some "Hava Nagila" in the next session or something.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Terrific. Thank you.
- Mic three, mic three. Hey, hey, one-two-three. Mic three. So one-two-three-four. OK. Moving mics.