Am I an arrogant criminal? Or: How I honestly feel about Elon Musk.


Headlines of articles are supposed to animate us to click. Often they are at least misleading, sometimes they even convey the opposite of the content of the text.

Therefore, I would like to write here quite unmistakably what I really think of Elon Musk and how I privately feel about him.

David Reger
From the penitentiary to robotics

Headlines of articles are supposed to animate us to click. Often they are at least misleading, sometimes they even convey the opposite of the content of the text. This has already brought me various concerned or indignant calls. For example, when titled an interview with me: »From penitentiary to robotics«. Of course, it was not about how I founded a robotics company after finishing a criminal career and serving a prison sentence. The headline was referring to my time in San Francisco, where as a correctional social worker I had helped homeless people and criminals get their lives back on track. But many neighbors and friends just didn’t have the time to read the whole article.

And recently, in mid-February 2023, Automations Praxis published an interview with me. Out of 1081 words, the words that seemed best suited for the title were the ones that describe me as an arrogant know-it-all: »Elon Musk doesn’t know anything about robotics«.

All right, strictly speaking, that’s exactly what I said. However, with a laugh and using a few more words. The question was whether we as a start-up really wanted to take on Elon Musk. And there I had answered:

»Yes, of course. Because Elon Musk has no idea about robotics, because he’s just getting started with it. I have seen better humanoid robots in many German and European research institutes. I am one hundred percent convinced that we are in a much better technological position with robotics in Germany, especially in terms of hardware. You shouldn’t be tricked by Elon Musk’s marketing.«

Of course, I also noticed that Elon Musk didn’t have a clue about cars not too long ago – and today no one is laughing at him and Tesla’s success.

I wanted to make it clear in the interview that we now, here and today in Europe, have a serious lead in terms of robotics expertise. Because currently, Elon Musk is only better than us in marketing. Of course, if we miss this train in Germany and Europe – and I’m well aware of that – Silicon Valley will easily overtake us in this area as well. The first autonomous service robots – the first smart phones with arms and legs – would then come from the U.S., as basically everything that shapes our everyday lives today.

Satellite Internet all over the world? Colonization of Mars? Who would even dare to say that out loud here in Germany!

That’s why I would like to write here without any ambiguity what I really think of Elon Musk and how I feel about him in private. Regardless of the fact that we are currently competing on the subject of humanoid robots.

I have the utmost respect and even admiration for the way this tech visionary always manages to attract people and investors to his big ideas, no matter how crazy they may be. Satellite Internet all over the world? Colonization of Mars? Who here in Germany would even dare to say something like that out loud!

Personally I firmly believe that we should solve the problems on our planet first, before we colonize Mars, but this is my personal attitude. This would be a matter of priorities that I would be happy to debate with Elon personally. Debatable Elon Musk is without question, especially in recent times. However, I think it is quite honorable to publicly swim against the tide of the zeitgeist. This is absolutely necessary in a pluralistic society and, at least in the past, was rather the unique selling point of important inventors, researchers and philosophers.

Has anyone else besides Elon Musk actually managed to make so many seemingly unrealistic ideas actually work entrepreneurially? I don’t mean multinational corporations, but individual entrepreneurial personalities. In this respect, Musk the entrepreneur is one thing above all for me: a role model. And if I may be completely honest here, I’m even a bit envious of his sales talent. If we had Elon Musk on board at NEURA Robotics, I’m pretty sure we could significantly increase our enormous pace. And I wouldn’t mind at all if a Tesla household robot with the label »NEURA inside« were soon available for purchase at supermarkets. Since energy supply is one of the big challenges for humanoid robots, we could undoubtedly benefit from Tesla’s experience with large batteries.

I want to make one thing very clear here: I am a partner person. And I would make no exception for Elon Musk. NEURA Robotics has approached all the major robotics companies in the world with a collaborative sales approach from the beginning. And many of them whose competitors we could have become are now our partners instead.

So back to that headline thing. The so-called click-baiting. Anyone who is in the public eye has to live with being reduced to headlines in terms of content. Probably Elon Musk experiences that a lot more often than I do. Personally, I don’t want to beat around the bush like a politician, but continue to say what I think spontaneously. Even at the risk of it ending up in a headline. That’s why I’m still counting on everyone who, despite the media overload, takes the trouble to read an article to the end – before forming an opinion.

Blick über die Schulter einer Journalistin auf David Reger