Elon Musk Is Only Human

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First, make sure you have read “Random Thoughts On Elon Musk, The Fremont Factory, Liberty, & The Coronavirus” by CleanTechnica’s own legal scholar and moral guide, Zen lover Steve Hanley. These musings below are inspired by that article.

Elon has a big problem. He is brilliant, a genius, a polymath. That gives him very problematic experiences in life. The most problematic is that when someone or even everyone disagrees with him, that someone or even everyone is usually wrong and he is usually right.

Before he has formed an opinion, he is as susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect for smart people as any other smart person. That is, smart people under-estimating their knowledge and over-estimating the knowledge of others. Educated people tend to qualify their opinions. Less educated people are sooner inclined to state their thoughts in absolute terms. This is a constant source of confusion to the very smart. Normally, Elon’s defense is that he is going back to first principles.

For some reason, Elon has been in an echo chamber with people who ridiculed the coronavirus that recently came out of China. Somehow, he internalized those thoughts without critically evaluating them. That is my reading, at least.

This came at the same time that he was preparing for his big triumph. After the production hell of the Model 3, followed by the logistics hell caused by a trade war and poor preparations, he was going to reap the fruits of all of that and Giga Shanghai, conquering the Chinese market, all while the Model Y was reaching showrooms in the USA half a year sooner than anybody expected. As a cherry on the pie, there would be huge payouts from FCA so that they could avoid European CAFE penalties.

It was not to be. First, the China factory was closed because of a local epidemic in a city 1,000 miles away. Next, the virus attacked the source of his expected European payouts in Northern Italy, where the Fiat factories are located.

Something very un-Muskian happened. The fact-collecting, logical, analytical machine we know as Elon Musk broke. Emotion took over. This was so unfair; he was prepared for the happiness of a very profitable Tesla and a new baby. And then that world turned into a house of cards that was tumbling down.

He did what many people do — he turned his emotion into an opinion and rationalized that opinion with all the pseudo and wrong opinions he had heard in the echo chamber.

He did not collect the facts. He did not read up on the science involved. He did not build a logical view based on first principles. And his experience told him, unsurprisingly, to not listen to all those nitwits who didn’t agree with him.

In some moments, we did see glimpses of the real, compassionate Musk. You need ventilators for this non-threat infection? Here, I’ll get some for you. But mostly, when the coronavirus and the lockdown were discussed, his anger and prejudices took over, giving us incoherent rants about fascism and freedom on Twitter and on the last Tesla conference call.

Last week, this culminated in his fight with the Alameda Health Officer and the threat that Tesla would leave California.

Nobody has to tell Musk he made some mistakes regarding the coronavirus. He is too smart not to realize it himself, given some time.

What Musk did show is that the indefatigable machine that build Tesla and SpaceX against all odds is only human.

Let us just congratulate him and his girlfriend on their young child.

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Maarten Vinkhuyzen

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric.

Maarten Vinkhuyzen has 280 posts and counting. See all posts by Maarten Vinkhuyzen