Good Elon, Bad Elon: A Tale of Two Elons

MUSK: And — you know I wasn’t born in America — I got here as fast as I could

Elon Reeve Musk (/ˈiːlɒn ˈmʌsk/; born June 28, 1971) is a South African-born Canadian-American entrepreneur, engineer, inventor and investor.[7][8][9][10][11] He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors and chairman of SolarCity. He is the founder of SpaceX and a cofounder of PayPal,[12] Tesla Motors, and Zip2.[13][14][15][16] He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop and has proposed a VTOL supersonic jet aircraft with electric fan propulsion.[17] __ Wikipedia

Like everyone else, Elon Musk is a jumbled bag of contradictory actions and goals. At the Al Fin Institutes for the Future, we are mainly interested in Musk’s impact upon the human future: Will Musk’s enterprises lead to a more abundant and expansive human future, or will they speed the decline of humans to a global Idiocracy and dysgenic collapse? “Good Elon” is the part of Musk that is based upon developing disruptive technology that will lead to a better human future. “Bad Elon” is the corrupt part of Musk that will lead toward human decline and a dysgenic Idiocracy.

Good Elon

SpaceX: Musk’s SpaceX is a rapidly advancing provider of space launch technologies and cheaper access to low Earth orbit. It is helping to fill the gap left by the retirement of the space shuttle, and by the large number of launch failures experienced by the Russian space agence. SpaceX has had a steep learning curve, but it has developed completely new and more affordable space launch technologies. Musk dreams of sending a manned ship to Mars in the not-too-distant future.

Tesla Motors is a manifestation of what we call “neutral Elon,” but many useful technological spinoffs are likely to come from the pursuit of neutral technologies, such as the electric car.

When Musk is “thinking outside the box” he is usually being “good Elon.” And good Elon is helping to midwife a better human future.

More about Elon Musk, the person, from a PBS Interview:

MUSK: SpaceX is developing markets for taking satellites and people to orbit and beyond. So, we�ve finished development of and done a few test launches in our small rocket, which is the Falcon One, which you see part of over here.
And we have in development a big rocket which is the Falcon 9. And that�s intended to service the space station, as well as deliver very large satellites to orbit.
WATTENBERG: Did you design these or are they your concept?
MUSK: Yes, I�m the chief designer in the company.
WATTENBERG: — designer and the businessman.
MUSK: Yes.
WATTENBERG: A good combination.
MUSK: Yeah, I think it is a good combination.
WATTENBERG: And as I understand it — so you make your money on these by taking up other people�s satellites to —
MUSK: Yes.
WATTENBERG: Satellites are used for communications, business, military, whatever?
MUSK: Yes.
WATTENBERG: Now, you want to go to Mars?
MUSK: I wouldn�t say — I mean, I wouldn�t say it�s a personal interest of mine to go to Mars, but really my interest in going to Mars is from the standpoint of the extension of life beyond earth. To the best of my knowledge life exists only on earth. And this is the first time in the 4 billion year history of earth that it�s possible to extend life to another planet….

MUSK: We started with no government help. The government is a customer but we also have main commercial customers as well.
WATTENBERG: Who�s your customer? Defense and NASA and —
MUSK: Well, we have — assuming NASA is probably our single biggest customer — the Defense Department, particularly DARPA is a customer.
But then we also have McDonald Detweiler, a Canadian company, a customer we recently signed up for this commercial geo [unintelligible] satellite launch contract with Avanti which is a — the UK commercial satellite operator.
WATTENBERG: Do you find yourself at a disadvantage or advantage dealing with these great big industrial behemoths, where you�re competitors are Boeing and people like that?
MUSK: I think the advantage, because it�s very hard for those large companies to track the best engineers. They�re really not great environments to work in.
So — you know we�ve been very successful in recruiting the top people out of those organizations. And they�re just really inefficient — cost inefficient…

MUSK: … and so I�m chairman and principal founder of Tesla, which — Tesla motors, which is making a revolutionary electric sports car. It�s all electric, it has almost 250 miles range. It has acceleration which is less than four seconds to 60 miles an hour. And it�s about 100 thousand dollars, so it�s a compelling price for car of that performance.
WATTENBERG: Will the price go down as the production goes up?
MUSK: Well, the sports car will probably remain at that price point. But Tesla is developing a lower cost car, which is a sedan, it�s five passenger, four door sedan, quite large and it�s intended to be something that could be a family sedan or it can replace a small — smallish SUV. It�s going to be in the 50 thousand dollar range. We�ll be producing 10 to 20 thousand of these a year.
Then we�ve got Model which will be after that and that�ll be hopefully in the 30 to 35 thousand dollar range and we�ve got 100 to 200 thousand [unintelligible] volume.
So, we try to do higher and higher volume and they become more and more affordable over time. The Tesla Roadster, the sports car, is really the beachhead of the technology. It�s the introductory product, allows us to refine the technology and make more affordable over time.
WATTENBERG: What is the purpose of building an electric car? Can it ever be as economically competitive as a vehicle powered by fossil fuel?
MUSK: Yes, actually I think the long term electric cars will be more economically competitive than the — than the gasoline car. Also, the price of gasoline is going to rise over time given finite supplies and rapidly increasing demand, particularly from China and India, as we�ve seen._ PBS Interview Elon Musk

Much more at the link above.

We are seeing a great deal of good Elon and neutral Elon. What about “Bad Elon?”

Bad Elon

Please don’t misunderstand me. I admire some of the technology that has been created in Musk enterprises. Pay Pal is one of my more frequently used banking tools, and I think that the battery configuration for the Tesla is nothing short of a brilliant use of high volume production and exceptional control technology along with a keen understanding of the importance of weight distribution in an automobile.

However, Musk has been an enormous beneficiary of government largess and some of his enterprises would close their doors tomorrow if the subsidy spigot that supports them was turned down even a little bit.

…. In contrast to the nearly $5 billion that Elon Musk has collected from taxpayers — largely on the promise [dream?] that his enterprises will produce sustainable jobs for people engaged in the admirable enterprise of lowering CO2 emissions and reducing fossil fuel dependence — the widely touted Department of Energy small modular reactor (SMR) grant program is worth just $452 million over a six year period split between two grant awardees.

__ Bad Elon

Nuclear Engineer Rod Adams is critical of Musk on the basis of Musk’s rent-seeking green corruption tendencies. Just like Warren Buffett and other opportunistic “green billionaires,” Musk has seen an opportunity to harvest government subsidies in large numbers, thanks to abundant Obama green corruption in high places.

Al Fin blames Elon for wasting his talents by running around collecting corrupt green subsidies, when he could be developing even more world-changing disruptive technologies.

Here is where Elon Musk displays a most unsavoury side of himself: When criticised for his corrupt green rent-seeking, he petulantly defends himself, using deceitful green catch-phrases which do not stand up to scrutiny:

“If I cared about subsidies, I would have entered the oil and gas industry,” said Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and the chairman of SolarCity. __ Treehugger Defends Green Elon

Musk’s absurd claim that the oil & gas industry receives more direct subsidies than the corrupt green industries makes him look dishonest. He does not want to look dishonest, as an entrepreneur offering new technologies. Dishonesty pushes him back into the “Bad Elon” category.

I agree in one respect with Treehugger’s defense of Elon: When SpaceX sells space launch capacity to the government, he is acting as a straight-up contractor. Since SpaceX also sells launch capacity to commercial interests, the company should not be singled out as an example of “corporate welfare” on that basis.

No, it is on the basis of his “green rent-seeking corruption” that Musk should be called out and made to face the music. Solar City is an energy loser. Read this analysis of solar energy carefully, and you are likely to agree.

Pushing large scale solar energy onto North American power grids is corrupt and destructive. And that is why Musk can sometimes be seen as “Bad Elon.”

Google (Sergey Brin) is just as bad.

More Reading:

Click to access factsreport2010apr.pdf

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5 Responses to Good Elon, Bad Elon: A Tale of Two Elons

  1. Dan_Kurt says:

    Elon Musk has the gift of riding the wave of fashion. He also has a visceral knack to get government funding. He is unlikely to keep his racket going long term. There are two of his “inventions” I especially find to be uneconomic and destined for failure: 1) a first stage that returns to earth and lands on its tail end like Heinlein’s Destnation Moon’s rocket, and, 2) dangerous lithium batteries placed in one’s home or garage to store power.

    Dan Kurt

    • alfin2101 says:

      I don’t know. Someone needed to develop a cheaper and more reliable approach to space launch. If that person wants to try to build a first stage that safely, automatically, and precisely lands itself on its tail — who am I to naysay that?

      I haven’t studied Musk’s approach to lithium batteries, so am not certain whether he has made safety improvements or not.

      My main criticism regards enterprises which have not a snowball’s chance in hell of returning value to the taxpayers who fund them, such the several that Obama’s cronies used to cheat taxpayers of $billions. Clearly big wind and big solar “power” enterprises such as Solar City fall into that category.

      If government invests in a useful technology or enterprise and it pays off, that is a different story. Someone must be made to pay for all the hundreds of $billions which will eventually be wasted on the green scam.

      We are going to need a lot more guillotines!!! 😉

      • Dan_Kurt says:

        Dear Al Fin,

        re: Reusable first stages check out this web page from the U of Michigan which describes a lecture on the subject by A. Elias . Then search on YouTube for the lecture titled Space Transportation, Past, Present, and …..? Elias shoots down the idea of reusable first stages as well as single stage to orbit.

        re: Lithium batteries. One of my degrees is in chemistry and another was immersed in chemistry. Lithium is nasty. Find a friend who is a chemist with inorganic experience and ask about the hazards of lithium.

        Dan Kurt

  2. Dan_Kurt says:

    Didn’t take the HTML.
    Try again. Remove brackets.

    Dan Kurt

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