I have rewritten the lede of this newsletter eleven times, trying to find the words to encapsulate an unavoidable truth: Elon Musk is dangerous to society. As a result of our market-driven government and compliant media, Musk has caused (and will continue to cause) human suffering and actual death in his pursuit of fame, power, and capital. It is time to stop treating him as “just” an entrepreneur, investor, executive, or industry blowhard, and see him as a man who has used his incredible wealth and status to twist the world to his petty, ignorant, and selfish desires.
It was disappointing that your most recent 15 Minutes in Hell guest Neil deGrasse Tyson couldn’t even bring himself to say anything more direct about Musk than he can compartmentalize Musks behaviors.
> The problem with Musk is that there aren’t any quick or obvious solutions
Great piece, but I have to disagree with this. Very quick, obvious, and exceptionally funny solution is apparent. And that's all I'll say to that.
A very detailed piece as usual. Always appreciate the volume of source links you put into these pieces Ed. Been trying to emulate that practice in my own writing on here. Musk's spiral seems to have really accelerated since buying Twitter on top of all of the other well documented awful behavior. The recent NYT piece about just how much of the sky Starlink controls was staggering. We're going to look back in history on that point in particular as a massive failure of government.
While Musk has indeed captured enough of our industrial capacity to behave as a great man of history, the thing that keeps bugging me about all of what gets written about Musk is that people are treating the development of electric cars, rockets, and brain chips as a consequence of the actions of great men of history, rather than it being the other way around. It's no coincidence that the SV set want to revive this theory of progress, just like any other elite in history that needed a way to self-justify their political dominance. Elon Musk did not make these things. He was not required. Not a single thing he wants to see built by other people was an idea that came from him. They are all ideas that predate his birth. If anything, he slowed us down, if we treated these things as the public goods they are rather than giving in to decades of right-wing privatization, we would have seen all of these ideas become physical reality much sooner. He merely is a political operator that convinced our retreated government to allocate resources to the engineers he hires. If you read any of what the SpaceX people divulge, that is what they actually see him as useful for: getting them the money they need to actually make the stuff. Beyond that, they have to manage Elon to prevent him from fucking the whole thing up, which he sometimes still does.
Again, he did not actually do any of this. The very same engineers would have made the same stuff (but probably better!) working for somebody else. That somebody else could be all of us, through employment in public agencies. Or it could be for some other "great man" that managed to emerge from the chaos of government retreat. Our world was not made by Musk, he took advantage of the world that somebody else built. It is a mistake to pretend that progress is a result of having those great men, rather than those great men being a result of progress under the condition of nonexistent public goods. And I really wish that this came up more. A biography pushes this false notion, because by design it focuses on individual action rather than structures and collective effort. When talking about innovation, choosing to record our history in this way obscures the fact that it takes thousands of people to accomplish these things, not one.
There doesn't seem to be any solution, because our cult of individualism has blinded us to any other interpretation of what has happened over the last 30-40 years. If Elon hadn't been born, who knows, maybe the kleptocrat who rose in his place would be even worse. But the truth is that progress itself would have taken place with or without him, and it sucks to pretend that we owe him for this world, because we don't. We owe ourselves, and as far as the rockets and all that goes, we owe the employees who managed to manipulate him into "making" decisions that would produce the end product that they (and we) would like to see.
Your writing looks like it’s only for people who already agree with you. I like your writing, but you should consider better topics
I’m planning on unsubscribing from this Substack. I thought I’d say why and see if Ed wanted to convince me that I’m wrong. I’m not suggesting that he has any responsibility to do so -- he writes for his own pleasure and will do as he pleases without any need for my permission!
The paragraph that stopped me in my tracks was the one with links to various accusations about Musk. I think the first one said that he hates trans people. What I saw throughout this paragraph was a mix of things that I didn’t like:
(A) accepting unproven allegations as true
(B) repeating those allegations as true without any apparent attempt to validate them further, ask if there are two sides to the argument, or examine nuance
(C) the ad hominem attack was oddly part of the whole point of the article (that Musk is dangerous to society) and also a divergence from the flow of the article (which had been working on the Crimea angle)
(D) the point of the article seemed to be that everything Musk does is bad, again without nuance
To be clear, I’m not a Musk fanboy. For years, I thought that Tesla was engaged is really questionable public statements about its prospects and that its stock prices were ludicrous. I think now that they were closer to the truth than I was on their prospects (but their stock price still seems ludicrous to me). Likewise, I kind of like how he ruined Twitter (which seems like it deserved ruin), but am pretty appalled by how he seemed to stake his financial future on what seems like indulging a spur-of-the-moment whim. But I don’t study the man, so I recognize that I’d need to do a lot before publishing something about him as truth rather than how it seems to me based on reading that I think is inadequate for a judgment.
And that’s my problem with this article. I read it as caricaturing a man in his entirety, without exception, as wholly bad. I have no doubt that he’s done things worthy of criticism and derision. But my list of people who I firmly count as 100% bad is pretty short. (Stalin being a good listener doesn’t lower his score.)
I originally subscribed here because I found some of Ed’s arguments interesting. I don’t share his politics, but I think you learn more from listening to people with whom you disagree than from those with whom you agree. But I don’t think I learn much from listening to a caricature.
So I’ll unsubscribe in a few days, unless Ed says something interesting in response. Again, he has no obligation to me: a response from him of “don’t care, fuck off” is entirely fair.
I agree with most of your article but a 1991 vote of 54% isn't really a slam dunk argument and I don't think there's a realistic future where Crimea returns to Ukraine, especially with how the war is becoming attritional (and the relative size of the two countries).
I also think it's a mistake to be overly blasé about the risks of escalation, implying that there are infinite red lines to cross just because previous threats didn't result in nuclear war. Russia attacked Ukraine and that's an obvious and grave war crime, but if large countries bullying smaller countries always resulted in justice then the world sure would look a lot better.
So many Tesla owners have buyers remorse these days. Owners of other e-car brands grin and say, "I did not buy a Tesla."
Your comments about Bezos remind me of this commencement speech he gave where he talked about “kindness is a choice” (https://www.princeton.edu/news/2010/05/30/2010-baccalaureate-remarks) - to me it said so much about who he is as a person, that he has to intentionally choose to be kind, it’s so not a part of his default brain process.
While everyone is free to have their own opinions, there seems to be a self-reinforcing “in crowd” that defaults to a musk is good because he’s doing all this Tony Stark shit, and won’t allow themselves to criticize him otherwise. It’s super disturbing how many people are simply willing to look the other way.
As a complete distraction on the Biden's corrupt influence on US foreign policy, father and son combo, now Senator Elizabeth Warren, pocahontas, is gunning for Musk. To wit: “The Congress needs to investigate what’s happened here and whether we have adequate tools to make sure foreign policy is conducted by the government and not by one billionaire,” Warren told reporters at the US Capitol on Monday.
> But what do you do about the man who has everything?
Clearly Elon Musk doesn’t have everything. The one thing he can’t buy is happiness. Why else would he be shitting on all our lawns like this?!? Elon Musk get off my lawn! Bad billionaire! Shoo!
Someone could always arrange for him to have an “accident”.🧐
Ed, have you ever read this magnificent thread?
All about Musk's upbringing and alleged education.
‘He is the Wish.com version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.’ Two of my least favourite things, perfect!
I have to read this over Ed. Usually I ignore everything related to Musk as he is both uninteresting and unfunny..
He comes off as a very stupid man with attention deficit...the press lionizes him unduly. The Trump of tech really. And I just don't buy the nonsense about his hardcore work ethic etc.
He is the son of a wealthy man who has poached ideas from other people. He managed to make a sexual harassment case against him disappear pretty fast. That Twitter Files stuff was just pathetic.
I signed up for this substack because I am curious about this stuff.
It is unfortunate that he is piling on to psychedelics as well-an industry I very much support :-/. He is everywhere...