Tommy Can You Hear Me? — I’m worried about Elon.
Believe it or not, until a few weeks ago, I had never sat in a Tesla
I see them all the time. Mainly because my kids spot them when we’re out driving around.
My kids are crazy for Teslas. I’m more of a Rivian man when it comes to EVs, but there aren’t very many of those out on the road yet. Nevertheless, I’m alerted any time a Tesla is in the vicinity.
“There’s an S!” shouts the 8-year old.
His big brother quickly corrects him. “Nah. That was a model 3. The S is bigger.”
And then they go back to their iPads. I don’t even know how they spot the Teslas because they’re always staring at their iPads. It’s like they have some kind of Tesla radar that goes off.
I see Teslas and they don’t do a lot for me. I think the coolest thing about the design is the logo. I don’t understand the smushed in nose. It’s like someone smashed the prototype into a wall and somehow no one noticed and it accidentally went into production that way. It’s weird. Is there an after-market fix for that?
But I had never sat in one or even really peeked in the window. I didn’t even know how to get in. But my friend was so excited about his new Tesla that he was more than happy to give me a full guided tour.
It began when he showed me his Tesla card.
“You get an entry card instead of keys,” he says with a big smile on his face as he takes it out of his wallet and hands it to me like it’s a precious relic.
“Neat.” I say and then carefully hand him back his card before I fuck it up somehow.
Meanwhile, I reach into my pocket and feel for my key fob.
I was a latchkey kid so I’ve got a thing about always knowing where my keys are. I’m constantly reaching into my pocket to make sure they are there. The jingle soothes me. It’s kind of like having a security blanket. I’m Linus, but with keys.
Plus, I still like the feel of putting the key into the slot on the steering column and turning it to start the engine. I’m not even a fan of keyless start. I don't want to just push a button. The key is a mechanical connection between user and machine. It’s tactile. I’d miss it if it weren’t there.
But that’s just me. I’m weird and I have hang-ups. I guess keys are one of them.
We get into the car and it’s a nice looking interior made with quality materials. It smells like a new car which makes me happy. I start to look for the thing that I like best in a car. The center console. For me, that’s the sexiest part of the interior. It’s where the knobs are. The buttons. The lights. All the cool stuff.
But it’s not there.
There’s nothing there.
There’s just a screen. A really big screen as a matter of fact.
It feels like you’re sitting at a desk in a brand new office building before the employees have had a chance to bring in all of their personal items. I don’t want to touch anything. I feel a little nervous like I did when he handed me the super-secret Tesla card.
It’s funny, when there are tons of buttons and knobs you have no problem touching them and twisting them even if you don’t know what they do. But when there are no buttons and no knobs you don’t want to touch a fucking thing because you could accidentally set off the self-destruct mode.
I could go on and on about how lacking in soul the car felt. For a disruptor brand it was the most corporate feeling product I’ve ever experienced. It’s completely sterile. It’s 100% technology— devoid of any human craftsmanship or artistic aspiration.
It makes all the sense in the world that Tesla is working so hard on driverless technology. The car gives you the distinct feeling that it would really prefer to do the driving. It doesn’t want you to fuck anything up with your unpredictable human brain. It has an algorithm, thank you very much.
To be fair, a lot of cars are switching to screens these days. It’s not because people enjoy navigating three screens deep to adjust their driver side lumbar support. It’s because they’re cheap. It’s a whole lot easier to stick one big screen in the middle with a little software that controls everything than it is to hook up all the knobs, buttons and lights with wires and fuses.
It concerns me.
But what concerns me more is the man behind it all. Elon Musk.
Because I have zero desire to buy a Tesla and pay absolutely no attention to celebrities on Twitter, he’s never really been very high on my radar. But lately, with all the news that’s swirling around him, it’s hard not to be curious.
And frankly, after a modicum of digging, I’m kinda worried about Elon.
Where to begin?
His cars are from a dystopian future with no knobs, no keys and eventually no drivers. His company OpenAI describes itself as “an artificial intelligence research laboratory developing friendly AI in a way that benefits humanity as a whole.” I copied that straight from the web. I didn’t bold the word friendly. They did that. They really, really wanted to make sure that we know they’re not working on AI with bad manners.
Then there’s Neuralink. They want to put computer stuff in our heads. The medical possibilities for this type of technology are exciting and endless. But other possibilities exist too. And they’re less exciting but just as endless.
His childhood is interesting. His father was a wealthy property developer and owner of a Zambian emerald mine. His parents divorced and Elon elected to live with his father. A decision he’s publicly stated that he regrets and the two are now estranged from each other.
He got bullied a lot when he was a kid. He recently revealed that he has Asperger’s. I can only imagine how difficult that is to deal with when you’re a kid. One of the characteristics of Asperger's is an inability to understand conventional social rules. Which might explain why he was hospitalized once after a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs.
His other company, Space X, is interesting too. It started with a non-profit called the Mars Society. Their goal was to place a “growth chamber”, which is probably just a fancy word for greenhouse, onto the Martian surface.
I’m no aerospace engineer, but even I know if you want to get something on Mars, you’re gonna need a rocket. Elon is a ton smarter than I am so he probably already knew that which is why he decided to go to Moscow and meet with some people who had refurbished Russian ICBMs for sale.
Just to reiterate.
Elon Musk went to Russia to try and pick up some reasonably priced, used inter-continental ballistic missiles. That’s an interesting shopping trip. He wasn’t successful though because the Russian arms dealers thought he was a loon and wouldn’t do business with him.
I don’t know about you guys, but in my mind when you get turned away by a Russian arms dealer for being kind of kooky, you really need to stop and give yourself a look in the mirror.
SpaceX got formed because he was so embarrassed by getting dissed by the Russians, he basically said, “Fuck you guys. I’ll just make my own.”
I respect the DIY sentiment behind it, but it makes me nervous when people start applying it to rockets.
In 2018, when all those little kids were trapped in a cave in Thailand, Musk called the man who rescued them a “pedo-guy”. Most people called him a hero, but I guess Elon felt otherwise. He got sued for that but won the case because he argued that when he was a kid growing up in South Africa it was very common to call a weird person a “pedo- guy”. Somehow that got him off. That’s a hell of a lawyer he must have had.
He seems to get married and divorced quite a bit. And he really likes having kids. I don't know how much he likes raising them but he seems to really enjoy making them and has several.
One of his kids just went to court in order to change her name and be legally unassociated with him. And in 2020, he and Canadian musician Grimes had a son. They named him X Æ A-12, however, the name would have violated California regulations as it contained characters that are not in the modern English alphabet. So they changed it to X AE A-XII. Which I think was a good decision.
He was a Covid denier. Until he got Covid.
He pushed chloroquine as a remedy. So maybe Donald Trump really is a stable genius.
He also refused to close his Tesla factory in Fremont, defying the local stay at home order and warned employees that they would be unpaid if they refused to come to work.
In March 2020, he promised Tesla would make ventilators if there was a shortage. Which there was. When his offer was accepted, instead of sending the invasive mechanical ventilators, Musk sent them CPAP machines. Which are fairly effective for people with sleep apnea but won’t do shit for someone who is slowly drowning to death in their own lung juice.
He gets in trouble all the time with the SEC. Mostly for the stuff that he tweets. Maybe that has something to do with him wanting to buy Twitter. Which, supposedly, he’s not doing anymore but that could change by the time you’re finished reading this.
On top of all that he’s got a company tunneling beneath major cities and another company that builds hyperloops.
By this point, it’s probably feeling pretty clear that I’m not a huge fan—but damn, you gotta respect the guy’s hustle.
Never-the-less, my point is this:
I’m actually fine with all of his shady shit, weird baby names and soul-less cars. I say, live and let live.
But the thing that worries me most is when you start to line all of the stuff up, step back from it and look at the big picture— Elon Musk’s life seems to follow dangerously close to the origin story of just about every major evil super villain ever created.
He’s like The Joker, Doctor Doom and Venom if they had been a shy, socially awkward and frequently bullied South African kid who resented his father for spending too much time at his Zambian emerald mine.
Plus, only an evil super villain would smoke weed with Joe Rogan. That was weird and wrong and that weed deserved better.
It just makes me nervous because we fetishize technology so much. And right now, Elon Musk equals technology.
We’ve gotten to the point where we seem to frequently place all our eggs in the technology basket. We don’t do shit about climate change because everyone assumes that surely, before we cause our own extinction, someone will come up with a gadget or an app or something that will somehow fix it.
We don’t take a global pandemic seriously because we just assume that they’ll come up with a pill or a patch that makes it all go away.
We get all jazzed over electric vehicles, which I do believe are the future, but we pay zero attention to the fact that the actual electricity is still coming mostly from fossil fuels.
We believe technology will always come to the rescue, so it’s only natural that we worship the ones who claim to understand it best.
It's like we're all deaf, dumb and blind and can only see when we stare into a computer screen.
I like technology. I’m not anti-technology and I’m certainly not anti-science but I’m just saying you have to be really careful about the people who are behind it and what their motivations are.
Because if you’re not then you wind up with Lex Luther as the world’s richest man. And if he’s got an axe to grind, you’re gonna need Superman to come save your ass.
Right now, Elon Musk is the world’s richest man. He’s into autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, bio-implants, building rockets, populating Mars and impregnating women at the drop of a hat.
And I just get kinda nervous that if he gets really pissed off at the world, he will start drilling holes right beneath our cities, suck up all our kids into his hyperloop and put them on rockets to Mars where he’s planning to terraform the surface using nuclear weapons.
But hey, that card thing is neat.
Thanks for reading. I'll see you again real soon.