By Chet Yarbrough
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Written by: Ashlee Vance
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
Ashlee Vance writes about launching dragons in a biography of Elon Musk. Like the mythical fire breathing beast that destroys civilizations, Musk’s fire-breathing ambition levels two of the most powerful organizations in the world; e.g. the auto industry and government bureaucracy.
Tesla Motors is the first automobile manufacturer to receive a unanimous vote as the best car of the year. SpaceX is the first private rocket manufacturer to successfully transport satellites and cargo into space. The principal behind these extraordinary feats is Elon Musk, a combination of the fictional Tony Stark and a real Thomas Edison. Not since the 1920s has anyone successfully launched a new automobile manufacturer. Never in history has a private company launched rockets into space to service the international space station.
Vance shows that Musk has an optimistic vision of the future of America and the world. His willingness to risk everything for alternative energy sources, and reduction of carbon-based energy consumption are astounding in the recurrent era of capitalist greed. Musk’s focus is on transition from traditional industrial methods of production to technological innovation. His methodology is a combination of traditional cost-based negotiation, vertical business integration, and hard work. The methods are not new but Musk’s extraordinary intelligence and his personal commitment are reminiscent of great inventor/innovators in history.
Vance clearly illustrates that Musk is not perfect but his story will eventually, if not now, be recorded as historically important. Musk exposes the lie of Trump’s vilification of immigrants. Musk is born as a South African who comes to America through Canada. He becomes an American job producer and manufacturer when both are sorely needed to revivify the, largely mythical, American dream. Musk gives America hope.
Musk faces many obstacles in his life; just as all humans do. One advantage for Musk is in being white; oh, and being blessed with a prodigious memory, extraordinary cognitive ability, and an immense drive to succeed. Musk relentlessly pursues what he believes in. Fortunately, Musk’s natural advantages work toward the best interests of humanity; i.e. a cleaner environment and exploration for colonization of other worlds.
Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords is reminiscent of ignorant industrial luddites. Innovators like Musk pursue an opportune future while Trump and others pursue the mythology of the past. Both Musk’s and Trump’s errors are human, but their consequences are hugely different. Vance’s biography of Musk shows releasing dragons can benefit society. Trump’s dragons are only likely to harm society. In history, Musk will be remembered fondly; Trump will be recalled sadly.