Elon Musk and tech-bro futurism

Illustration by Ariel Walter | The Signal

Technology has played a crucial role in the development of human society. Many of the wide-scale cultural and societal shifts that have taken place throughout history came from developing those new technologies. 

The Industrial Revolution, which introduced several engine or motor-powered devices that significantly improved technological production, was the start of the celebrity inventor. Since then, the people credited with inventing new and essential technologies have become superstars. 

In the early 20th century, people celebrated figures like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford for their intellect and creativity pushing the world forward. Though times have changed, society still loves these enigmatic inventor types. 

Recently, tech industry giants like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have quickly filled that role. Of this particular mold, however, the most recent and widely known incarnation is easily Elon Musk.

Musk is well known for being the CEO or founder of a few different companies, including The Boring Company, SpaceX and Tesla. Elon has differentiated himself from other billionaire types with his comparatively jovial attitude. 

Unlike Warren Buffet, who plays to his professionalism and wisdom, Musk’s persona is more akin to a combination of Tony Stark and Alan Turing if they used Reddit. 

While Musk’s name is synonymous with technological advancement, his utility to these projects is minimal. 

As an example, he bought the right to be named founder of Tesla after purchasing the company. His inputs on his creations also range from short-sighted to downright unscientific. 

One of Musk’s brain-rotting ideas for the future is the Hyperloop, a proposed public transit method in which a train would move throughout the country at airline speeds. Musk has previously criticized public transportation for not offering enough agency to the individual and its shared nature. 

The most glaring design flaw of the concept is that shooting an object with people inside it through a high-velocity vacuum tube would most likely destroy the vehicle, killing everyone inside. 

Even if Mr. Musk’s feelings about the death toll of his products were not already in question, several infrastructural issues would arise from the creation of this system. 

Musk claims the project will cost a whopping $17 million. However, a feasibility analysis by the Department of Transportation suggests that it could cost ten times that. 

There is, of course, the main issue of usability when it comes to The Hyperloop. The trains only serve around 23 passengers, making them more expensive than our current train technology. 

Public transit efforts require the organizational structure of centralized public authority to build the groundwork for such improvements, as public transit projects are notoriously large and expensive. 

It is telling that Musk’s ideas about public transit in a country where budgets for transportation are perpetually bleeding and ignore urban areas cater to the rich. If Musk truly cared about the necessity for more transit options, he would invest in proven solutions.

When considering Musk’s visions, it is vital to understand the power and influence of being a billionaire and a significant player in the technologies industry. This influence is evident in the fact that the price of Dogecoin is, at times, dictated by when he talks about his support of a coup in Bolivia for lithium extraction.

Besides The Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s other wide-sweeping plan for humanity is the continued exploration of space and the colonization of Mars. Musk and other advocates for Mars colonization reason that we need to find somewhere else to live due to the catastrophic effects of climate change that have and will continue to happen. 

This line of thinking seems to be the most doomed manifestation of climate grief, which legitimately posits that as a species, we cannot and should not try to improve conditions on the planet we already inhabit. 

The reality of the situation is, the colonization of Mars will inevitably be very difficult. It will take a long time, it will be expensive, and it will be dangerous. 

Seven billion people cannot afford to wait decades and have to pay to go to a planet alien to us and utterly unsuitable for survival. Musk is most likely aware of the criticisms people have levied at his ideas and character and does not care. 

I doubt the idiocy of his ideas is lost on him and might even go so far as to say it is intentional. Creating an entirely new public transit method is so obviously superfluous, and Elon’s hangups with current public transit methods are either so shallow they aren’t worth addressing or, like most public services in the US, aren’t worth addressing not being funded enough. 

It is entirely possible that Musk’s project is intentionally inaccessible and unprofitable, as it would mainly serve as a fun toy for other wealthy elites to try out, safe from any unwashed masses they may have to encounter. This idea goes double for his Mars mission plans. 

Most working people can barely afford a plane ticket to go to another part of our planet. It is unlikely that those same people will have the money for a visa to Mars! 

Mars colonies will, without a doubt, be a haven for the rich as they continue to worsen our current climate conditions because they can afford a safer option. 

They will, of course, not experimentally see the place for themselves as that would be dangerous (we can, however, accurately predict the socioeconomic status of the people who will be doing so). 

In Elon’s world, the rest of us will stay here on Earth and die with it. Individualized solutions for select people cannot be what saves our species. 

If we hope to end our struggles with our climate, it will require a massive reconfiguration of our lives and production. Our current capitalist modes of production are unsustainable, and we cannot take pointers from one of the men who perpetuate it. 

Elon Musk is a billionaire who laments the life of privilege he inherited through  Zambian emerald mine earnings. He is simply too disconnected from the general populace on a material level to have a coherent solution to the problems that affect us possibly.