How a love of sci fi drives Elon Musk and an idea of ‘extreme capitalism’ : NPR

Elon Musk attracts lots of inspiration from sci fi, says historian Jill Lepore.

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Elon Musk attracts lots of inspiration from sci fi, says historian Jill Lepore.

Pool/Getty Photos

Elon Musk’s headline-grabbing supply for Twitter is the most recent in a collection of high-stakes strikes for the world’s richest individual. Musk has made a reputation for himself as a bombastic CEO who instructions consideration from a legion of followers whereas additionally courting controversy.

However he is greater than a star — he is arguably the writer and avatar of a brand new political financial system. That’s how Harvard College historian Jill Lepore explains his significance in a brand new podcast collection, The Night Rocket.

In an interview with All Issues Thought-about, Lepore discusses the roots of Musk’s imaginative and prescient, his love of science fiction and what “Muskism” means within the modern-day.

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

Interview highlights

On Muskism and excessive capitalism

I consider Muskism as an excessive, extravagant type of capitalism, actually extraterrestrial capitalism. I feel [extreme capitalism] is a sort of unchecked capitalism that insists that the federal government actually has no function within the regulation of financial exercise, on the sensible degree. On the cultural degree, it truly is engaged with promoting the general public on the concept of futurism as a technique to impose financial situations that come from the very deep previous.

I consider Muskism and its imaginative and prescient for colonizing Mars as relationship from the age of imperialism when British imperialists have been colonizing international locations all over the world and science fiction writers like H.G. Wells have been indicting British imperialism by telling tales about house colonies and the way incorrect that might be to take different individuals’s land and enslave the individuals there.

And for Musk, in some way, you’ll be able to resurrect these tales with the intention to justify colonization. So Muskism all the time has inside it this excessive capitalism, all the time has inside it virtually a sort of ironic twist. Like, “You assume that is dangerous? We’re gonna return to when issues have been worse.”

On how Musk’s love of sci fi interprets into his imaginative and prescient for the way forward for expertise

As a historian, one of many issues I discover so fascinating about Musk and Muskism is how a lot of the fantasy of invention, particularly “disruptive innovation,” boasts itself as a part of a tradition of futurism. All the things is forward-looking and an abandonment of the previous — in actual fact, a disavowal of the previous, since you actually should all the time be ranging from scratch.

However a lot of what the tradition of Silicon Valley produces has its origins in science fiction, as I feel lots of these individuals would themselves acknowledge. However what they would not see is that the origins in science fiction is definitely an origins in dystopian science fiction.

On whether or not Musk sees himself as a real-life Tony Stark

I feel there was a interval in his life when he was actually into being Iron Man and being Tony Stark, and the press cherished that and he was on the duvet of each journal. He appeared in one of many Iron Man films with Robert Downey Jr. So he has a sort of movie star iconic standing. I imply, he is the man who was on SNL, proper? And it is a part of the boyishness that “Musketeers” actually love about him.

Elon Musk’s cameo in Iron Man 2

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He might be very humorous. He might be very witty on-line. He is extraordinarily sensible man. And there is a playfulness round that. One of many issues that is distinctive about Musk, within the sense that he is the most effective at this, is depicting your product as saving humanity. This additionally grew to become a factor in Musk’s actually early years. Even the Twitter bid in Musk’s language is in some way about saving civilization.

On Musk’s political beliefs and wishes for Twitter

I feel Musk’s politics are elusive for a cause. And I feel the easiest way to find them is to have a look at what he says about science fiction. You realize, Musk grew up in South Africa, beneath apartheid, and left to keep away from serving within the army that enforced that regime. He left when he was 17.

However his favourite e book as a baby was Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Information to the Galaxy, which he cites virtually as a sort of information for residing, his sort of bible. However the Hitchhiker’s Information, which was a radio play put out by BBC Radio 4, is definitely an indictment of luxurious capitalism. So, he is in some way extraordinarily snug and virtually sort of delighting, I feel, in getting previous a credulous viewers the concept he needs to do good on the planet.

Musk supplied to purchase Twitter, however the firm took a “poison capsule” method to cease the transfer.

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So I feel to attempt to deduce what Musk is in search of in making an attempt to purchase Twitter, you would be properly suggested to search for proof of different public-spirited exercise. There’s simply actually not an entire lot of proof that his large precedence is wholesome, democratic society. So I feel you may most likely put aside the kind of wrapping on that package deal and ask your self: What’s it that he actually needs, apart from extra consideration from Twitter?

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