September 28, 2022

Musk Backlash continues with Time Magazine calling out the idea of ​​Hyperloop as a spoiler for high-speed rail

The same publication that named him Person of the Year last year, Time Magazine, has now published an opinion piece on how we all need to ‘look beyond’ Elon Musk and stop thinking that he is the singular visionary that he has convinced many that he is.

The timepiece, by Canadian tech writer Paris Marx, claims that among Musk’s other less impressive qualities, he’s been a bit of an opponent and spoiler for public transit and all the infrastructure projects that might actually be doable, if they happen. don’t fit his notion of what the future should look like. In particular, Marx concludes that Musk’s Hyperloop proposal was specifically designed to derail and possibly stop California’s high-speed rail project – even though Musk and his companies never had any real plans to build a Hyperloop. from San Francisco to Los Angeles or anywhere.

“He has a habit of offering false solutions to the downsides of our overreliance on cars that stifle efforts to give people other options,” Marx writes. Marx is also the author of a book, The Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley is wrong about the future of transportation, and in it he quotes Musk via his biographer Ashlee Vance about his hope of influencing AC lawmakers.

The piece is part of a recent flurry of negative press on Musk that appears to be a collective rehash of how he was so publicly adored for being rich and smart and beyond reproach.

We’ll set aside Musk’s infuriating battle with Alameda County to reopen the Fremont Tesla factory in violation of COVID safety protocols, and the multiple allegations of racism and sexual harassment condoned on factory floor. The Great Musk Backlash began in earnest this spring when, after launching a hostile takeover of Twitter, Musk began monitoring the company, halfway through a merger process, about the number of spambots on the platform – apparently in order to withdraw from the agreement which he himself proposed and signed without too many reservations.

Tesla’s stock price took a hit in the process, and with it Musk’s net worth, and then we had the arrival in May of accusations of sexual misconduct from a SpaceX flight attendant who claimed Musk exposed himself during a massage — which Musk dismissed outright as some kind of Democratic Party “dirty tricks” campaign, using the term “Elongate” as a joke.

After Twitter sued Musk in the Delaware Chancery Court, Musk was pretty much dragged in the press and on social media — but not by his most loyal fanboys — into this whole seemingly ill-thought-out business debacle. As Twitter lawyers were able to point out in a response to a counterclaim by Musk last week, the source of Musk’s claims about spambots was allegedly a publicly available tool called Botometer which itself considered Twitter’s own account. of Musk as a probable bot.

New York Magazine has a whole bunch of stuff this week on Musk, none of which is super flattering, with Lane Brown writing in the intro piece“[Musk] has always been sui generis, but [Tesla’s recent rise to a $1.3T company] it was when he became the Elon Musk we know today – a master of atoms, bits and bullshit who begs our admiration, skepticism and irritation in ever-changing proportions and whose record fortune never is perhaps the tenth most interesting thing about him.”

There’s another NY Mag article about how The Boring Company, another one of Musk’s seemingly joking business ideas that came out of nowhere in response to his hatred of LA traffic, is his “biggest mess”.

Jalopnik made hay last year on the opening of The Boring Company’s first “hyperloop” tunnel, a 1.7-mile hole in the ground under the Las Vegas Convention Center in which 11 Tesla Model 3s are now capable of traveling at a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour, “which is about 10 mph less than the top speed of a 1908 Ford Model T.”

Indeed, when Musk dreamed up the Hyperloop as a thought experiment a decade ago, he was reacting to the relatively slow and expensive technology used in the multi-billion dollar high-speed rail project, overdue and above. of the California budget.

“How come the home of Silicon Valley and [NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory] – doing incredible things like indexing all the knowledge in the world and putting rovers on Mars – would build a high-speed train that is both one of the most expensive per kilometer and one of the slowest in the world? Musk wrote in 2012 about the bullet train project.

His idea ? Pods that would transport people in four-meter-wide vacuum tubes at speeds of up to 700 miles per hour. Does that sound fantastic to you? Well, it was, and Musk admitted at the time, “While we’re not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we want to help expedite the development of a working Hyperloop prototype.”

Jalopnik followed with Vance, who said “there’s no part of me that believes Elon was trying to kill public transit to keep people in cars.” And Vance thinks the whole thing was something Musk just “dropped” over a really intentional spoiler for a real project.

In the Time article, Marx links Musk’s outlandish proposals and his Mars fixation to the science fiction of decades past, and how Ursula K. Le Guin dismissed much of it as “imperialist” and promoted the notion. that “space and the future are synonymous: it is a place where we will arrive, invade, colonize, exploit and commoditize.”

Le Guin believed that science fiction was not about the future, but about our current dreams and fantasies, and the problems arise when “we succumb to wishful thinking and escapism, and our science fiction becomes megalomaniacal and thinks ‘instead of being fiction, it’s prediction.’

Megalomania is certainly something even Musk probably wouldn’t deny being vulnerable to.

Marx concludes: “For years, Elon Musk has sold us fantasies to distract us from the reality of the future he is trying to build and to get people to accept his growing belligerence. What we really need right now moment, it is not more cars, dreams of colonization and technokings, but a collective project to improve the lives of billions of people around the world while addressing the immediate challenges we face, whether it generates or not corporate profits. That’s something Elon Musk will never be able to achieve.”

Related: The ‘botometer’ Musk used to counterclaim Twitter spambots once deemed Musk himself a likely bot

Top Image: Elon Musk is seen at the 2022 Met Gala Celebrating ‘In America: An Anthology of Fashion’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by NDZ/Star Max/GC Images)