Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Debunking Musk

The internet turned on Elon Musk when we found out he lied to us.

The mythology of Elon Musk is something Elon Musk spent a lot of money creating.  He founded PayPal.  He invented the Tesla and the SpaceX rocket.  He created rooftop solar.   He's the richest man in the world!  It turns out, none of those things were actually true.

He was just a rich kid who got lucky, and parlayed some early investments into greater investments by barging into companies that were at the vulnerable "vulture capitalist" stage, where the company is starved for cash and has to give away a big chunk - often a majority - to investors, just to keep going.  It is a silicon valley story told again and again - the founders are eventually forced out and the money people move in.

But mythology sells - in our era and throughout history.  As a kid, we learned about the "great inventors" - who were all Americans and donchuforgetit!  Henry Ford invented the automobile, Edison the light bulb and phonograph, Bell the telephone, Morse the telegraph, Marconi the Radio, and the Wright Brothers the airplane.  Years, decades, and a century later, we learn that these folks were trying to "invent" things that many other people were working on as well.  No one invents in a vacuum - the availability of technology and particularly materials science, often drives invention. 

It is no coincidence that Ford and the Wrights started out as bicycle mechanics - the invention of the safety bicycle created a plethora of parts and materials, as well as a lot of curious farm-boy mechanics with a lot of time on their hands.  The Wright flyer used bicycle chains to drive its propellers.  The original Ford "Quadricycle" had bicycle wheels on it (and was named as such!).  Both were built by former bicycle mechanics and enthusiasts.

But mythology sells.  Maybe at the mid-century point, the myth of "great inventors" receded somewhat. It took large corporations with deep pockets and armies of Engineers to create new products.  There was no room for the solo inventor tinkering in the back room - or the mythology thereof. Faceless, nameless men in grey suits ran the world and CEOs were not pop stars. Corporate America pushed aside the myth of the solo inventor - it wasn't good for business.

Enter the Personal Computer era.  We are told that Bill Gates "invented" DOS and Windows and Steve Jobs "invented" the PC, the iPod, and the smart phone.  The reality is, of course, that these were business-people who had armies of Engineers working for them, and it is well-documented that neither really invented anything.  In fact, they pretty much stole their ideas from others.  Bill Gates hired another programmer to write DOS.  Jobs leaned on Wozniak to do the hardware for the Apple 1 computer.  And both Gates and Jobs swiped the concept for the GUI from Xerox PARC.  Inventors and innovators - indeed!  And of course, smart phones existed before the iPhone - they were just more primitive and clunky and didn't have a brand cult following.

Enter the modern age of Internet websites and apps - the new "technology" of our Century where "Engineers" no longer calculate bridge stresses or electrical loads, but instead write code for apps or even are "social media Engineers" which makes about as much sense as garbagemen calling themselves, "Sanitation Engineers."

We have a new era of "invention" and a new slate of heroes - and villains. You know of this rogue's gallery, of course - the "big 3" of Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Musk.  They claimed they were going to liberate us in this new age of automation, social media, and electric cars.  But what they've really done is make themselves fabulously rich at the expense of others, particularly their employees.  And the media jerks off to them as well (particularly the media they own) and of course, an army of bots patrols the Internet, perpetuating the myths.

The media treats them like holy oracles and asks them for their learned opinion on futurism, much as they did with Bill Gates (who now is inexplicably the villain of Qanon supporters, long after he has lost relevancy in this post-Personal-Computer age).  Gates, the one who once said the Internet was a fad - actually reissued one of his "visionary" tomes to edit out that part.   In the second edition, it seems, he saw the value of the Internet from the start!  You see how they groom their image.

Of course, none of them invented anything.  Zuckerberg was in the right place at the right time when MySpace cratered and people wanted something new.  Bezos parleyed his used book business into a retail colossus, mostly by accident, when he discovered that the retail book platform he built could be adopted to sell everything including the kitchen sink.   Yes, there was hard work involved and talent as well.  But there is a lot of luck involved, too - luck that elevates one company to greatness while another company with the same or similar products and ideas, fades to obscurity.

And then there is malfeasance.  The above video illustrates what I have mentioned before - that Musk isn't really the "richest person in the world" unless you count specious market evaluations of Tesla stock, which is not driven by investors, but by bots hyping the stock online, and blatant stock price manipulation, which leads to the fanboys buying it. These are the same idiots who buy Bitcoin and tell you it is going places - like the dumpster.   The video also points out that half of this stock is pledged as collateral for loans - loans that will be called if the share price drops below a certain level.  Bear in mind that the 50% number was before he bought Twitter.

Inventor of PayPal?  It didn't exist until long after he was fired from the parent company (which ironically, happened to Steve Jobs at one point - Apple groupies are quick to forget!).  Musk still had a huge chunk of stock, though, and used that to take control of Tesla, throw out the founders and then claim he founded the company.  I am sure it is only a matter of time before he claims he invented Twitter as well.

What the hell is wrong with Musk?  How did he becomes such a raging asshole?  Or was he always one? It is hard to say, but I have seen "memes" on the Internet suggesting he may be taking supplements, particularly testosterone, based on his changed appearance over the years (he does look like shit lately, all puffy and bloated).  If so, this may explain his transition from electric car liberator to far-right-wing Trump supporter.  Kind of ironic that a guy pushing a product and agenda that the right-wing GOP despises has moved so far to the right.  But testosterone may explain a lot, including a lot of belligerent behavior.

And I am not kidding about this, either.  On our island, it was legal to drive golf carts and NEVs on the road - electric golf carts.  The idea was to push this eco-friendly agenda, what with our turtle hospital and preserved dunes, acres of protected forest and wetlands, 20 miles of bike trails, and all.  Well, it is funny, but all my Republican friends have ditched their electric carts and NEVs in favor of noisy and smelly gas carts, that don't go any faster or further than the electric kind.  Driving an electric car is seen as some sort of unpatriotic act - marking you as a member of the "woke" who, rightfully, should be deported, imprisoned, or killed.  According to them.

So I wonder how much longer Tesla can stay around, if Muck continues to align himself with the far-right.  There are plenty of other options for electric cars out there, particularly when Tesla has so many issues with quality and safety.  Perception matters, too.  Volkswagen has gone to great lengths to scrub its image over the years - to make people forget about "Hitler's car" and whatnot. At least they can successfully argue that the affiliation was in the distant past and that today, they have nothing to do with Nazism or Fascism. Musk, on the other hand, is embracing Fascism with both arms.

But like any house of cards, eventually something has to give and make it all fall down.  Could Twitter be Musk's Waterloo?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Because like Howard Stern, it seems that people who hate Musk give him more attention than those who love him. And decrying Elon Musk and his takeover of Twitter by posting snarky comments on Twitter is entirely missing the point.  And yea, I'm looking at you, Ms. AOC.  One more Twitter post about how you hate Musk and you make Our Miss Margie (MTG) look like a freaking genius.  You can't use Twitter as a means to denounce Twitter and social media in general.  It would be akin to staring a Facebook group called, "I hate Facebook" and then spend 10 hours a day on Facebook posting messages about how rotten it is.

Maybe that is the plan.  Maybe Musk is a real genius!  He realizes he can literally (and I mean literally) "own the libs" with Twitter.  They are so addicted to it, they will never leave, even as it turns into a toxic waste dump and Trumpian nightmare.  They will stay on, convinced they can tweet their way to goodness and light and convince Qanon followers that the election wasn't stolen, using logic, reason, and evidence.  Ms. AOC will be first in line with her eight bucks in hand, desperate to show Elon what for!

Yes, liberals can be really stupid on occasion.  That's why they lose so easily.

If you dislike social media - get off it!

UPDATE:  This "Debunking Musk" finale video is interesting, but spends an hour discussing whether he has Asperger's syndrome or not.  Who cares?  Apparently Asperger's folks are insulted he claims to be one of them.   But I think the issue is moot.  Mental illness is not an excuse for being an asshole.

Videos like that fuel the "Musk derangement syndrome" argument.  You recall they tried this with Trump - any criticism of him (and there were many, most justified) was deemed "derangement".  You see how this game is played - you cannot make valid criticisms of a bad person without being called a bad person yourself.

Projection!  The hallmark of modern GOP thinking.