Elon Musk says his companies count as 'philanthropy'

Tech billionaire Elon Musk said that the companies he founded or runs are forms of "philanthropy" because they seek to improve humankind.

In a video interview published on Monday, Musk made these statements to Chris Anderson, the head conference organizer of TED.

"If you care about the reality of goodness instead of the perception of it, philanthropy is extremely difficult," Musk said when Anderson asked what he felt about billionaire philanthropy.

"SpaceX, Tesla,Neuralink and The Boring Company are philanthropy. If you say philanthropy is love of humanity, they are philanthropy. Tesla is accelerating sustainable energy. This is a love of philanthropy," he said.

Musk also said that SpaceX is on a quest to "ensure the long-term survival of humanity with multi-planet species," while Neuralink "is trying to help solve brain injuries and existential risk with AI."

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He further added that The Boring Company is "trying to solve traffic."

The billionaire's views on philanthropy aren't traditional. According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary online dictionary, philanthropy is defined as "goodwill to fellow members of the human race," "an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes," and "an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes."

However, Musk's companies, although he showcases them as offering useful services and goods to people, are for-profit businesses and have helped propel him to become the wealthiest person in the world. He has an estimated fortune of around $251bn, as noted by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

This wouldn't be the first time Musk has made the indication that he thinks direct giving isn't worth it.

Last month, he was interviewed by Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner and said if people care about "the reality of doing good" and not the perception of it, "then it is very hard to give away money effectively."

And in October 2021, Musk challenged David Beasley, the director of the UN's World Food Programme, who made the claim that a one-time donation of $6 bn could help eradicate world hunger.

"If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it," Musk tweeted.

Beasley responded: ".@elonmusk! Headline not accurate. $6B will not solve world hunger, but it WILL prevent geopolitical instability, mass migration and save 42 million people on the brink of starvation. An unprecedented crisis and a perfect storm due to Covid/conflict/climate crises."

Elsewhere, a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission made public in February showed that Musk donated more than 5 million Tesla shares to unspecified charities back in November. Trusts were also noted to be involved in the transactions.

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