For any interest I have or any new subject I get into in the last few years, if I get online to research it, I find Elon Musk on my feed with a frequency that simply begs to be noticed.
Actually usable electric cars? Check.
Solar power and other renewable energy sources? Check.
AI, machine learning, neural networks? Check.
Universe as a simulation and philosophical consequences? Check.
Compulsive reading, Asimov, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Yeah. Check.
Coming across mentions of him left and right, one issue started bothering me quite severely recently: a cult of personality – more precisely, a cult of Elon Musk’s personality – that the Internet seems to be displaying.
What I mean are statements like “Elon Musk revolutionized car industry”, “Elon Musk developed a rocket to put us on Mars”, “Elon Musk designed a solar roof tile” – now, my initial estimate was that most of the mentions of his companies’ achievements were formulated this way. Thankfully, I fell a victim of a confirmation bias: most professional articles seem to use a more appropriate formulation of “Elon Musk’s [company name] [achievement]”, however – unfortunately – a lot of the fan base seem to be (consciously or not) attributing all the deeds to the man himself.
Why this bothers me is because a cult of personality is not a minuscule thing; it is a toxic, crushing ideology employed by history’s most detestable figures like Jozef Stalin or the Kim dynasty of North Korea, a deeply amoral, unethical way of – in this context – stripping other, often more hard working, better equipped people of their accomplishments an attributing them to oneself; it creates a near-godlike in statue personas with false authority gravitas that is often impossible to oppose (as many people seem to mistake authority with infallibility).
This is why I was extremely pleased (and quite pleasantly surprised) when, after researching the subject only just a tiny bit, I discovered that despite this fan evocation, Elon Musk himself is actually more humble about the issue and in interviews, he does not use the magic I, but instead the real, fair we:
SpaceX has got 5000 people and I get a lot of attention but they really do the work.
– Elon Musk
Good guy Elon Musk.
Be like Elon!