I saw these two tweets the other day, in reaction to Elon Musk’s widely publicized dictum that his employees have to put in their 40 hours a week at the office, no ifs ands or buts, no refunds returns or exchanges, that’s just the way it is, because something something gazpacho:
All this stuff about the conditions at Tesla…listen, you can’t call yourself a futurist if the only thing you’re interested in is neat new gadgets. What future do you envision for the people who use those tools? Because my vision of the future doesn’t include exploitation
— Louisa 🌈👭 (@LouisatheLast) June 3, 2022
I like it when someone comes along and succinctly says something that I’ve been struggling to crystalize in my own mind. Elon Musk is largely feted because he’s apparently a vanguard of our wonderful future…or, at least, that’s the pleasant veneer that has been applied to him. But when you really get down to it, that’s not at all what he is. He’s just a rich capitalist with a shiny thing to sell. That’s it. That’s all he is, all he ever was. He stands on the shoulders of giants and with his piles of money convinces millions that he got there by virtue of some special genius unique to him.
But then he says stuff about his businesses and how he wants his employees to behave and be forced to work, and you get a glimpse under the hood. And you realize there’s nothing new there at all: he’s nothing more than a railroad tycoon, maintaining absolute control over his giant well-moneyed empire.
Elon Musk is no futurist. He has said nothing about improving the human condition in any way other than the same old idea that rich people should just be allowed to keep doing rich people things, that humanity is best served by letting rich people prosper and that their underlings should be happy to work, work, work for the greater glory of The Company and the CEO.
Elon Musk’s future is pretty much the same as the world we’re in now, only with different insignias in chrome on the backs of the cars. It’s a world where the pursuit of wealth is the paramount human concern, where the entire economy is propped up on the illusion of work as the paramount function of the individual, where life must be earned through work. There is nothing new under the sun in Elon Musk’s worldview. Nothing at all.
We need better futurists.
UPDATE: I wrote this post yesterday and scheduled it for this morning. Then, I see this:
This guy might not be entirely sane pic.twitter.com/j0NhNLkHSB
— Stonekettle (@Stonekettle) June 5, 2022
The way Elon Musk wildly vacillates between “Rich Capitalist Overlord Who Demands Loyalty And Labor From His Underlings” and “Aging Stoner Using Star Trek Action Figures To Play-act His Future Visio” really ought to give more of us pause….