We need Elon Musk much more than he needs us
BY BEN LAMM, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR,
More so than any time in our history, we are inundated with existential threats to our way of life. The future of the planet depends on our ability to accelerate scientific discovery and deploy new technologies, and that's precisely what Elon Musk is doing.
Musk has committed literally all of his considerable resources, and all of his talents, to addressing those threats. He doesn't need the money, he doesn't need the fame, and his legacy is already a lock. Yet, he's facing a societal firing squad that has decided that he's too eccentric to be allowed to solve these problems for us.
One tweet from Musk about taking a company private and the Department of Justice opens up an unprecedented investigation into him. A delay in production of a radically new type of vehicle and his stock goes tumbling.
What's next? Should we dock the pay of everyone working on the Cancer Moonshot for every month we go without a cure?
“As concerned as I am about the problems we face in energy, climate, transportation, and the new space race, there's one overarching problem that scares me more: We don't want modern heroes to succeed in their efforts to tackle these challenges on our behalf.”
Musk has been given every reason to call it quits, buy an island and retire. That hasn't stopped him yet, but it's pretty clear the absurd behavior of an ungrateful public is taking a toll. If you care about the future, it's essential to put the work of our future-makers in the appropriate context.
Overly eager critiques
Few people realize it, but Tesla is not a luxury car company. The stated mission at Tesla is: “to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.”
Consider that for a moment. A car company took it upon itself to enact a much larger societal shift to a better form of energy. The luxury car is just a beachhead market for the underlying technology. And you know what – the cars are great! It's a phenomenal product, with diehard fans and loyal customers.
Tesla could have stopped there and would get all the respect in the world. Even just building a new car brand in this era is accomplishment enough, but Musk himself made the choice to dedicate Tesla to the even more ambitious mission with enduring societal impact.
Instead of marveling at the ambition, we've fallen into the habit of chronicling the inconsequential delays in Model 3 production on a weekly basis. A recent Fortune article opened with, “Tesla CEO Elon Musk is known for setting ambitious goals and timelines for the electric car company, but he isn't known for hitting them.”
When is it enough? Read More