Iron Man


This Wednesday, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk met with United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter down at the Pentagon. The meeting was secret, although Carter disclosed it was about ‘innovation’, but that didn’t stop a lot of people on the internet and some news outlets to speculate about the content of the discussions. In his uncanny style, Musk turned to twitter to dispel any unnecessary interpretations. It was “something about a metal suit,” Musk said.

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The comment is, of course, an inside joke among his followers. Musk is often likened to the comic book hero Tony Stark, a genius inventor and billionaire entrepreneur, who lives a double life as Iron Man. Musk even featured as a cameo in Iron Man 2.

Besides Musk, Pentagon officials have met with other leading tech figures from Silicon Valley, marking a sort of paradigm shift in the way the U.S. military is handling innovation. Carter is the first Secretary of Defense to visit Silicon Valley in 20 years, having staged private talks with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and many other names of caliber.

Then, in March, the Pentagon created a new advisory board headed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The plan is to recruit 12 members  “who have successfully led large private and public organizations, and excelled at identifying and adopting new technology concepts,” but so far no members have been announced. It seems likely, though, that a place on the board was offered to Musk during Wednesday’s meeting.

“When I began my career in physics, most technology of consequence originated in America, and much of that was sponsored by the government, particularly the Department of Defense,” Carter said during his speech on innovation from May.

“Today, we’re still major sponsors, much more technology is commercial, and the technology base is global,” he said. “And nations like Russia and China are modernizing their militaries to try to close the technology gap with us.”

“So, to stay ahead of those challenges and stay the best, I’ve been pushing the Pentagon to think outside our fix-sided box, and invest aggressively in change and innovation,” Carter added.

Musk is no stranger to working with the military. His company, SpaceX, has ongoing contracts with the Air Force to send satellites into orbit worth tens of millions of dollars. And who knows, maybe a flying metal suit is in the works too.