I Support Elon Musk

Posted on Aug 20, 2018
Durham, NC

I like Elon Musk. I can look past his personal failings because he is someone who, unlike many of the naive idealists who seem to only talk about solving collective problems, doesn’t believe we have time to wait before trying some new ideas out. It’s surely an unsettling sight to see people concerned about the environment criticize Musk as a degenerate asshole, as who has done more innovative work, changing the parameters of the space and environment debate, than Musk has? Automobile emissions compose the highest proportion of CO2 emissions in the US and many other countries. Prior to Tesla’s founding, no major automobile manufacturers was building an electric car. Then Tesla arrived to disrupt the market and within a decade these manufacturers have a planned automobile roster compromising over fifty battery-powered vehicles. This is undoubtedly good for the public, and Musk’s personality should weigh little when compared with his work for the public good.

Most business leaders would be content to have one good idea and work on making it become a reality. Not Musk. In an interview on Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast Star Talk, Musk was asked how he gets ideas about what to work on. His (paraphrased) response was telling: “I looked at what the largest problems I thought humans were going to face over the next hundred years and decided to pick one.” The success of PayPal has given him the financial resources to concentrate not just on one of them, but all of them. Most people don’t do that, and perhaps it spreads Musk’s attention too thinly, but it also demonstrates just how special Musk is.

I’ve also recently read much commentary about how Musk’s recent New York Times interview demonstrated he’s become unhinged and needs a break. The latter’s probably true; he needs a break. He reportedly doesn’t take any vacation and works all the time. This is understandable, given the number of companies he’s involved in. I support him taking some time off for as long as he needs to recuperate and rejuvenate, because he’s correct in when he claims there’s probably no one as good as he is to run these companies. At a minimum, he should shelve his work in the boring company and concentrate on his largest current ventures.

In the end, I support Musk–with all his warts–because I believe in the mission he’s articulated and his ability to do and create things that no one has before. I hope that he succeeds and, in a time when the federal government is withdrawing the US from the Paris Treaty, seeks to undermine California’s ability to regulate auto emissions, and believes that what people need is more coal power plants, anyone who cares about the environment and earth’s future habitability ought to, too.