If you’re the least bit interested in trust and how our ability to maintain a functional society depends on our ability to rely on other people’s willingness to abide by general cultural norms, Elon Musk provides an almost endless source of material to work with.
Whether it’s the convoluted twists and turns of his Twitter deal, making sure Tesla owners don’t upgrade their cars without permission, or downplaying the fact Starlink satellites can be hacked with $25 worth of gear, there’s plenty going on that can lead the average, everyday person wondering about the outsized role this one individual has in our culture. Social media, electric vehicles, and national security are currently somewhat subject to the whims and fancies of an individual known to be petty and capricious.
Are Geniuses Inherently Trustworthy? Just Ask Mileva
There are people who will tell you Elon Musk is a genius. And I have to tell you, they may be right. There’s a lot going on in terms of innovation, industry disruption, and, frankly, truth telling, that’s well worth paying attention to. No matter how the situation has evolved, Musk did something hugely valuable by calling Twitter’s data into question. His methodology is somewhat chaotic – but so too is the approach of the archetypal figure The Fool – the one who is willing to aim high, take great chances, and suffer failure time and time again.
The reason the Fool is so willing to boldly take chances is that the consequences of bad outcomes generally are suffered by someone other than the Fool. This willingness to externalize negative costs is something Musk has mastered as well. Scandal after scandal follows Musk’s endeavors, but he just keeps carrying on. It is possible to be rich enough to escape meaningful consequences, and Musk consistently does.
Here’s Where the Robots Come In
Now, Reuters reports, Musk is planning to build thousands of autonomous robots to work in Tesla factories. This is only the beginning, apparently, as Musk says these robots could eventually be adapted for home use, doing chores for the elderly like meal preparation, lawn care, and, of course, cleaning up after the grandkids.
What could possibly go wrong? And when it does, do you trust Elon Musk to make it right?
Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” We are far too late for that – but it’s not too late to have the conversations so critical about trust, innovation, and society that Musk provokes. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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