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Bernard Arnault Lunches With Elon Musk at Paris’ Cheval Blanc

PARIS — They regularly jostle for the position of the richest man in the world, but on Friday Bernard Arnault and Elon Musk left lists aside and gathered for a Parisian power lunch.

The duo dined on the terrace of the private apartment atop the Cheval Blanc, with a clear view of the Eiffel Tower. The hotel’s three-starred Michelin chef Arnaud Donckele had already decamped to Saint Tropez for the summer season, but returned to Paris at Arnault’s request to prepare the meal.

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LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chair and chief executive officer Arnault and Musk, the head of Tesla, Twitter and a cofounder of Neuralink and OpenAI, among other companies, discussed the economy and investment in France, according to an LVMH spokesperson, ahead of Musk’s highly anticipated appearance at the VivaTech conference.

The two were joined by family members for the meal. Musk’s mother, model Maye Musk, was in attendance, as were LVMH head of communication, image and environment Antoine Arnault and Tiffany & Co. executive vice president, product and communications Alexandre Arnault.

At VivaTech, Musk took to the stage for a wide-ranging and lively interview led by Publicis Groupe supervisory board chair Maurice Lévy, with Orange CEO Christel Heydemann, L’Oréal chief digital and marketing officer Asmita Dubey and Antoine Arnault joining.

Arnault good-naturedly joked with Musk that LVMH’s storied houses have centuries of brand-building and craft behind them, yet the 19-year-old Tesla beats them in market valuation.

“The question is, how much longer are you going to make us look so bad?” Arnault quipped, before hitting a serious note: “Do you feel the creation of value is more challenging in traditional or innovative businesses?”

Musk said he continuously thinks the stock price for Tesla is too high, but ultimately it is up to the market. The market is betting on the promise of future autonomy and potential utility time. He added that Tesla’s output is only 2 percent of the total vehicle market, thus investors are putting money on its potential to eventually solve the self-driving puzzle.

Alexandre Arnault, Maye Musk, <a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bernard Arnault;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Bernard Arnault</a>, Elon Musk, Antoine Arnault (L-R)
Alexandre Arnault, Maye Musk, Bernard Arnault, Elon Musk, Antoine Arnault (L-R)

Heydemann questioned Musk on his move last month to exit Twitter from a voluntary agreement to combat disinformation in the European Union. Musk deftly sidestepped. “I’m a fan of [free speech] and we should have free speech as much as possible, as much as is allowed by the laws of any country.…If the people want the laws to be different then pass a different law and we’ll adhere to that law.”

As she followed up with a question about online bullying and harassment, he said his overarching goal is to “have Twitter be a force for good,” adding that the algorithm pushes down offensive content.

“We call it ‘freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.’ Yes you can say offensive things, but then your content is gonna get downgraded. So if you’re a jerk, your reach will drop.”

Dubey asked Musk how he will win back the trust of advertisers that have abandoned the platform after his series of impulsive moves, including reducing content moderation. Musk maintained that advertisers are coming back to the platform, and new CEO Linda Yaccarino, who took the helm last week, “very deeply understands the concerns that advertisers have and I think will do a great job in addressing those concerns.”

Musk also addressed several questions about AI, and his call for a “pause” on development of the tech, despite being a cofounder of ChatGPT developer OpenAI.

“AI is definitely going to be a massive disruptive force,” he said, and that humans will quickly lose their advantage of being smarter than other creatures. As AI rapidly develops, it will call into question the entire structure of economies when you have an “unlimited number of sort-of-people robots” in the workforce.

“I think we are heading for an age of abundance, where any goods and services that you want, you can just have,” he said, without addressing any concerns about resource allocation and planetary boundaries. He does still plan to go to Mars and added that he thinks even if we are headed toward “some sort of AI apocalypse” that these are “interesting times.”

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 16: Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of Twitter, Elon Musk attends the VivaTech conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre on June 16, 2023 in Paris, France. Elon Musk is visiting Paris for the VivaTech show where he gives a conference in front of 4,000 technology enthusiasts. He also took the opportunity to meet Bernard Arnaud, CEO of LVMH and the French President. Emmanuel Macron, who has already met Elon Musk twice in recent months, hopes to convince him to set up a Tesla battery factory in France, his pioneer company in electric cars. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
Elon Musk on stage at the VivaTech conference

Musk believes that going to Mars with his SpaceX project is to protect the consciousness of mankind. “Life cannot just be about solving one problem after another; we need things that inspire us. We need things in our heart that when you wake up in the morning, you’re excited to be alive. Being a spacefaring civilization, and making true the things we see in science fiction movies, this is one of the things that I think can inspire all of humanity.”

He later said that Tesla is building a humanoid robot, and joked that it is called the “T-800” — a reference to the “Terminator” films, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

When asked what specifics he would like to see in regulation for AI, Musk said that there should be “regulatory insight,” before making a joke about Transformers becoming president one day.

Musk knew his audience was full of fans, and played to the room. He charmed them with jokes — several at his own expense — and opted to take questions, which resulted in a bit of a free-for-all involving suggestions, pitches, audience members trying to give him gifts and plenty of adoring screams as people jostled for the microphone.

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