Right now, if you want to send people or supplies up to the International Space Station, you don't call NASA. You call a company called SpaceX that Elon Musk started from scratch and built into a success.
No one has to be told about Musk's entry into the electric car business.
People have always told me there are two problems with electric vehicles: They are too expensive, and they don't have enough range. Musk, who was also the co-founder of PayPal, has solved one of those problems. Now all he has to do is get the costs out of his vehicles and he'll have a real barnburner.
And what an appropriate name for an electric car company: Tesla, a tribute to a man who was at the forefront of innovation in electricity. Nikola Tesla was an outstanding competitor and colleague of Thomas Edison who many thought should have gotten the lion's share of the credit for the electrification of America.
And now Musk is proposing to revolutionize intercity travel with a system of pods zooming through tubes on a cushion of air, at nearly the speed of sound. Ridiculous? Maybe. Bizarre? Of course. But that's what they said about the Wright Brothers.
The idea reminds me of the pneumatic-tube systems that we used to see in large department stores. Inside the tubes, a gust of air would propel capsules filled with papers, small packages or cash to points around the building, faster than a courier could make it on foot.
I don't know Elon Musk, but I wouldn't bet against him. As a society, we should be embracing all the entrepreneurs we can find these days. These folks aren't necessarily going to be loved or revered by everyone. They march to the beat of a different drummer.
But if we dismissed people like them, we wouldn't have the Henry Fords, Gottlieb Daimlers, Soichiro Hondas or any of the past century's inventors -- successful and unsuccessful -- whose crazy ideas ended up changing the world.
For me, one such man was Johannes Gutenberg, who invented movable type and allowed a person to produce in minutes what used to take years to copy by hand.
All of them belonged to a category of people who simply loved to run against the stream. Musk, too, takes great delight in bucking the status quo, even when it costs him a lot of money and risks slowing down the success of his vehicles. That is just the way he thinks.
I have no idea whether his latest venture has a future. Just don't bet against him.