by Daniel Kalder
Saturday, 12
November 2022
Analysis
07:00

You’ll miss Elon Musk when he’s gone

The new Twitter CEO isn't like other billionaires
by Daniel Kalder
The troll billionaire. Credit: Getty

Even before he bought Twitter and started trolling AOC, expressing disdain for Elon Musk was regarded as a sure sign of sophistication among all correct-thinking people. All that had to be done was point out that his dad had owned an emerald mine and that he wasn’t the founder of Tesla. Richest man in the world? Anyone could do it.

Certainly, Musk is different from previous holders of the title “World’s Richest Man”. When I was a boy, the richest man in the world was the Sultan of Brunei: a boring little guy with a lot of oil. Later it was Bill Gates, the first billionaire computer nerd. Then it was Carlos Slim; nobody knew much about him. Eventually Jeff Bezos, the hard-headed businessman controlling a third of the world’s cloud computing infrastructure took the crown. Bezos is stranger than he seems — he is paying for a giant clock to be installed inside a mountain that will tick once a year for the next 10,000 years. But if people dislike him, it’s not because of his clock: it’s from a fear that he is too successful, that he controls too much.


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Most billionaires, in fact, are not weird. As a rule, the key to becoming mega-rich is to control an obviously essential resource or piece of infrastructure. Billionaires are conformists, who crave status and pursue it through predictable means — by donating money to an elitist institution in exchange for a name on a building; or buying a formerly prestigious magazine trading on past glories; or establishing a charitable foundation. And so on.

Musk, however, is different. There are other tech nonconformists who have become very rich — Trump-supporting Larry Ellison of Oracle, or the guns, drugs and yoga enthusiast John McAfee. But Ellison built his fortune on databases — information infrastructure — while McAfee created that spammy antivirus software you dis-install every time you set up a new PC. Musk similarly began in the realms of the obvious — payment processing — but then switched to making bets on the future, on space rockets, luxury electric cars, digging holes under cities, satellites. Recently he unveiled a humanoid robot.

There’s something unusually volatile about his wealth, which is based largely on Tesla’s trillion-dollar evaluation. Even Musk thinks that’s too high. After all, why should a luxury electric car company be so valuable? The last richest man in the world whose wealth was based on cars was Henry Ford, who took the opposite strategy: ugly-but-affordable cars for the masses.

But in this era of confusion and doubt, of leaders who are so obviously lost, where one age is dying but the next is yet to be born, it seems fitting that someone should become the richest man in the world by selling a dream of the future. After all, Musk’s gambles are also our gambles. Governments proclaim the goal of “net zero” and 30 countries have pledged to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040, but the world could face lithium shortages as soon as 2025, much of the supply chain is concentrated in China, and hydrocarbons still account for 84% of the world’s energy. So we should enjoy this Weimar Cabaret while we can, because whoever follows Musk as richest man in the world will almost certainly be much less entertaining, while the rest of us will be considerably poorer. You’ll miss him when he’s gone.

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Roy Mullins
Roy Mullins
26 days ago

Thank goodness we have leaders/entrepreneurs who are imaginative and not in the ( boring and ) predictable mainstream. It is ironic that Musk is criticised when his huge contributions to electric cars and battery technology are leading the charge to the elites beloved ‘net zero’.
If anyone can make twitter attractive and profitable then Elon can

Last edited 26 days ago by D M
Carol Moore
Carol Moore
26 days ago

I love Elon Musk for his fearlessness, his imagination and his unpredictability. I will defo miss him if he recedes into the grey backstage of modern life stories.

polidori redux
polidori redux
25 days ago

Why is the chatterati so obsessed with Twitter? Is it where it goes to stroke its own ego?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
24 days ago

What’s striking about to me is just how normal Musk is with his common sense views and slightly Monty pythonish sense of humour. I suspect it’s that which makes him so hated by the banana-straighteners.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
26 days ago

With respect a very boring article

Last edited 26 days ago by Richard Calhoun
John Riordan
John Riordan
26 days ago

Why, is he going somewhere?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
24 days ago

People like Musk for the same reason people liked Boris. They upset all the right people.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
26 days ago

Interesting paean, which I originally thought was referring to his kamikaze takeover of Twitter which, if bombs, will indeed leave us all ‘considerably poorer’, and, yes, we’ll ‘most certainly miss him (and an unfettered Twitter) when he’s (they’re) gone’.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
26 days ago

Hang on just one second! I’ve used McAfee LiveSafe for the last 6+ years, and have never had a problem with it, nor have I had even 1 virus, spamware, trojan horse, or what-have-you infect my system. I could not be happier with McAfee, and I resent your casual slur on a top-of-the-line, rock-solid product, thank you very much. Try doing a bit of research before mouthing off in that way. (As for your article – meh!)

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
24 days ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Try removing it and enjoy the massive performance boost.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
18 days ago

Here’s why Musk is a bell-end:
https://ayenaw.com/2022/11/13/musk-is-an-asshole/