Elon Musk’s critics get vocal about a whole range of issues, some of which have factual basis, while others are pure hyperbole designed to diminish Tesla’s all-electric impact on the future of transportation.
For example, as the NHTSA investigates Tesla’s Autopilot system, primarily focusing on why cars engaging the feature crashed into stopped emergency vehicles, Musk’s critics get vocal. The clamor around Full Self Driving (FSD) has also reignited Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s detractors. It may be irrelevant that select Tesla drivers have praised FSD, that FSD updates are imminent, and that detailed analyses point to FSD as “impressive.”
Negative press about Tesla and Elon Musk stall the inevitable: legacy automakers are confronting a profitability shift as they see their investments in engines and transmissions dwindle and as they attempt to catch up with Tesla’s production costs, efficiency, and volume.
In the meantime, when critics get vocal and make Tesla CEO Elon Musk a target of their antagonism, they shift the narrative from a sustainable transportation future to personal attacks. In doing so, they enable legacy carmakers, fossil fuel companies, and the associated supply chains to stall the inevitable reconfiguration of internal combustion engine (ICE) business models — all the while delaying our necessary conversion to a zero emissions world that can, hopefully, stabilize the climate crisis.
Is he quirky? Sure, but, then again, aren’t all geniuses? But Musk’s critics get vocal over a lot of issues. Let’s slow down and look at some of their concerns, using the opportunity to deconstruct and to separate the human from the product. In doing so, maybe we’ll see opportunities to stand up for Elon in the same way he’s put his reputation on the line to create a better tomorrow for us all.
His accomplishments are impressive.
Musk turned 50 in June. Think what his resume looks like at the half century mark!
- Musk is brilliant — a person who dually studied business and physics and who has been called “measurably, scientifically, clinically, and demonstrably the smartest person in any room anywhere” by novelist Douglas Coupland.
- He has created 3 multi-billion-dollar companies in 4 profoundly difficult fields — and traditional gatekeepers didn’t help him along the way.
- Today, he leads the major transportation companies of Tesla and SpaceX.
- He begged legacy carmakers to join him and collaborate with Tesla for a common EV charging network, and they laughed in his face.
- Now, with Musk’s vision and leadership, the global auto industry seems to want to accelerate the electric car rollout by 7 to 10 years.
His Master Plan, Part Deux vision for a sustainable planet and future is becoming reality.
- Tesla, with Musk at the helm, builds not only all-electric vehicles but also scalable clean energy generation and storage products in a flywheel effect — all part of a business model that prods the world to stop relying on fossil fuels and to move towards a zero-emission future.
- The outline of energy generation and an accompanying energy storage business is happening right now across global various locations.
- By adding the Model 3 and Model Y to the Tesla catalog, Musk and company have opened up the most renowned all-electric transportation to middle and upper middle class individuals.
- Tesla continues to refine production specs for both an electric heavy-duty truck and pickup — the Semi and the Cybertruck.
- Tesla’s foray into autonomous driving will make driving “10 times safer” than it already is, according to Musk, even though his critics get vocal every time the notion is mentioned.
His understanding of AI is beyond most of us.
- Another company he co-founded, Neuralink, is developing ultra high bandwidth brain–machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.
- He’s said that this brain-to-computer interface company is on the brink of letting people achieve what he calls “AI symbiosis,” in which the human brain will merge with artificial intelligence.
- AI Day baffled most interested viewers: “You initialize a raster of the size of the output space that you would like, and you tile it with positional encodings, with sins and cosins in the output space. And then, these get encoded with an MLP into a set of query vectors. And then all of the image and their features also emit their own keys and values….”
He’s accused of …
- having goals strictly to make money. He’s the second richest person on Earth, so that is kinda hard to argue, but he has made clear many times that what drives him are the missions he pursues to help humanity and have fun along the way, not the money.
- being a tough boss. He’s incredibly smart and expects the highest level of performance from his employees. He is also single-minded, while a labor force that expresses concern over working in an unsafe and triggering work environment does need to be heard.
- selling unsafe vehicles via self-driving technology. But most media stories about Tesla Autopilot crashes are designed to make headlines and sell ads, while intentionally or unintentionally missing key points. They also don’t focus on crashes from ICE manufacturers in any degree of relation to the stories they publish about Tesla.
He has good intentions.
- He always reinvests in his own ideas.
- He rejects a future where fossil fuels prevail as an energy source.
- He’s intent on making big dreams into reality.
- He has mild Asperger’s, which prevents him from seeing nuance in some details and occasionally prompts him to attempt new things without adequate forethought.
Musk practices what he preaches.
- He spent his 47th birthday in his factory fixing robots for 24 hours.
- He’s not political. He sees party binaries as archaic and focuses his altruistic energies on ecology and invention. He donates to both US political parties as the cost of doing business in the US.
- He has sold his palatial residences and lives in a tiny house.
My primary home is literally a ~$50k house in Boca Chica / Starbase that I rent from SpaceX. It’s kinda awesome though.
Only house I own is the events house in the Bay Area. If I sold it, the house would see less use, unless bought by a big family, which might happen some day.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 9, 2021
He does pursue some weird stuff.
- Colonizing Mars so humans can be multiplanetary.
- Self-driving cars where occupants engage in non-driving tasks, which seem like something out of The Jetsons TV sci-fi cartoon.
- Tunnels under congested roadways.
Sometimes his actions are questionable.
- He can influence markets and stocks with a single tweet. Cryptocurrency is a topic in which Musk’s vacillating fascination seems to mess with people’s minds.
- He takes control of company publicity, sometimes with a negative result.
- In 2018 his tunnel-drilling company, The Boring Company, sold 20,000 novelty flamethrowers as a publicity stunt. They now sell on eBay at an average of $3,000 and have been a matter of lawsuits since they got around the designation of flamethrower simply via the name Not-A-Flamethrower.
His personal life is filled with family.
- He seems to be a good father with 6 sons: triplets, twins, and one solo. A first son died of SIDS at the age of 10 weeks.
- Okay, the name of his recent child X AE A-XII Musk did raise a bunch of eyebrows, but Frank Zappa named his kids Moon Unit, Dweezil, and Diva Thin Muffin. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their child Apple. Rapper Rick Ross named his newest offspring Billion.
- Musk loves his mom, as shown during his stint as host on Saturday Night Live earlier this year and in numerous other instances.
It seems clear that Elon Musk is the top visionary of our generation. Lucky for us, we don’t have to wait until he’s passed to see the results of his dreams.