Elon Musk: When We Colonize Mars | Summary and Q&A

December 11, 2015
Stanford eCorner
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Elon Musk: When We Colonize Mars

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In this video, the speaker discusses the idea of creating a new framework for governance that encompasses sentient beings such as AI. They suggest the possibility of a more direct democracy and limiting the length of laws to make them more accessible and readable. Additionally, they propose implementing sunset periods for laws and making it easier to remove laws than to create them.

Questions & Answers

Q: How might a framework for governance that includes other sentient beings look like?

If we were to start over with a clean sheet of paper on governance, it is difficult to predict, but it is likely that a framework encompassing other sentient beings such as AI would strive for a more direct democracy. This would allow for greater recognition and representation of the rights and interests of these beings, providing them with a voice in decision-making processes.

Q: What could be a practical suggestion to improve the accessibility of laws?

One practical suggestion that was mentioned by Larry Page is to limit the number of words in a law. Instead of having lengthy and complex laws that go unread, there could be a maximum word or letter count imposed. For instance, a law could be limited to a thousand words. This would encourage legislators to be more concise and result in laws that are more understandable and transparent to the general public.

Q: Why is it important to have a limit on the length of laws?

The existence of excessively long and complex laws, often spanning thousands of pages, poses multiple issues. First, these lengthy laws are not effectively read or understood by most people, including lawmakers themselves. This lack of understanding can hinder accountability and transparency, as it becomes nearly impossible to fully comprehend the implications and nuances of such laws. Additionally, the complexity of these laws can create loopholes and ambiguities that can be exploited or lead to unintended consequences. By limiting the length of laws, we can promote clarity, accessibility, and accountability.

Q: How could laws be given a finite lifespan?

Laws, by default, could be designed to have a sunset period. This means that laws would have an expiration date, after which they would no longer be valid unless explicitly renewed. This approach ensures that laws are periodically reviewed and evaluated for relevance and effectiveness. If a law is not deemed worthy of renewal, it would automatically expire, reducing the accumulation of outdated and unnecessary legislation.

Q: What is the advantage of making it easier to remove a law than to create one?

One of the challenges in governance is the tendency for the body of laws to continually expand over time. To prevent the accumulation of excessive and unnecessary laws, it could be beneficial to introduce hysteresis. This means that a higher threshold, such as a 60% majority, would be required to create a new law, while a lower threshold, like 40%, would suffice for the removal of an existing law. By making it easier to remove laws, there is a greater opportunity to streamline and update legislation, preventing the system from becoming burdensome and unwieldy.


The speaker's discussion highlights the need to reimagine governance in a way that includes all sentient beings, such as AI, and to make laws more accessible and understandable. This could be achieved through a more direct democracy, limiting the length of laws, implementing sunset periods, and introducing hysteresis to make it easier to remove laws. By implementing these ideas, we can create a more transparent, accountable, and adaptable governance framework.

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