Ex-Reg man Ashlee Vance has written a warts-and-all bio of Elon Musk. We quizzed him on how he did it – and why. Reg: This book has an interesting genesis – Musk wouldn’t co-operate, so you decided to do it anyway. Then he agreed to interviews... Vance: I probably benefited from Elon turning me down, because it totally pissed …
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...Elon Musk is some sort of entrepreneurial genius when he's basically just a flim-flam man. As noted his business models are not reasonable nor rational. They are based on free government money - without which he'd be out of business in a heartbeat. He epitomizes the con man mentality not the entrepreneurial spirit. Electric cars are nothing new, Mr. Porsche and others built them a century ago. Solar energy generation and power bricks are not new, Musk is just trying to sell sand to the Arabs. History will show Musk for what he really is, not the perception that he sells to the media.
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Speaking of Hitler... the person Musk most reminds me of is Werner von Braun. Not just the rocket connection, but the ability to sell even a trip to the Moon, the instinct to take quick advantage of opportunities, and the intense unswerving drive towards a goal.
von Braun wanted to go to the Moon, and he did it over dead concentration camp bodies, WWII, and everything else. I agree with him, I'd set my own mother on fire for a week on the Moon. He took the entire Cold War and funneled it to getting governments to do what he wanted.
Musk doesn't do that, but I still wouldn't stand between him and the launch pad.
It's also interesting seeing the sidelight on Andy Beal who just straight out threw in the towel, like any other 21st century red-blooded man, and Elon Musk, who sued the USAF & the DOD and *WON*.
Bravo! That's an apt and insightful comparison - it's all too easy to lose WvB behind the Lehrer ditty and Dr Strangelove but as you say he went beyond "mere" rocket science to be an astute exploiter of bureaucracies, a marketer of visions, and to patiently play decades-long games. Very much the exemplar of Shaw's "all progress depends upon the unreasonable man"
>They are based on free government money
Like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, GM, Thales, BAE, every US airline, every bank then.
>Electric cars are nothing new,
Talking to people while moving is nothing new. Police cars had radios 90years ago so Apple Samsung and Nokia have done nothing.
As I understand it, the electric car subsidies came way after Musk had founded Tesla and got it off the ground. He may have been successful at lobbying for them, or they may have come along at the right time to save his bacon (mmmm baaacon) - but that's a different matter.
SpaceX is another matter though. He took a susbidy to get some R&D done - and he promptly did that R&D. Something some of our defence contractors could certainly learn from. So he showed determination in order to pursue his goal, and navigate the legal and bureaucratic maze to get where he wanted.
He then took a government contract to do a thing and did the thing. That's not a subsidy by the way, there's a huge difference. He also did the thing cheaper than everyone else, and with 100% success rate so far. The ISS has got its dinner within a reasonable margin of error (for space launches) every time. And he's never blown their Christmas presents up and scattered them over a launchpad (trashing it in the process), or just blown up and fallen into the sea.
Admittedly he has blown up some sea and dented a barge a few times, but that was strictly on his own time, and his own barge...
Now he's taken another NASA subsidy to do some R&D on a manned capsule. Is anyone here willing to bet against him getting that to work?
Note he's also taken a smaller subsidy for the same job as ULA, so yet again he's going to come out cheaper than the competition. Isn't he even going to come out cheaper than Soyuz (at least what the Russians are charging NASA per launch)? Even if not, Soyuz is looking a little less reliable at the moment, what with the deterioration in relations with Russia, and the recent spate of problems with the Russian space industry. My suspicion is that they've cut spending, while cronyism and corruption have increased, but it may only be one of those two.
The thing that does make you wonder about SpaceX though, is how few commercial launches they get. Obviously the commercial sector is going to want a nice track record - in particular for insurance. But given the reported lower costs, you could probably afford a few oopses, and so far the only payload he's lost was blown up because NASA made him, as a secondary launch on an ISS flight where a launch delay meant they didn't like the flightpath being too near to the ISS.
And it's true that lots of things could have scuppered it (if Kindall had been in the office, etc) But as well as lucky he was smart, indefatigable, ruthless, and unswerving in his drive. Given his luck I'd have taken it approximately nowhere, and these characteristics seem evident in Musk too.
I'm glad we have such people around, I hope the systems of law and society can (mostly) keep them on the side of the angels, but I don't think I'd like to be one.
Nill Gates and his father and uncle's monopoly licensing scheme slowed the advance of Personal Computing by 5-7 years, as well as devastating office-worker productivity levels for several years. I was watching closely at the time...
Let's face it. For every piece of history that we weren't around to actually live through, we hear about the sanitized, sound byte version. Everyone forgets how the Famous Visionary was mocked and criticized, their many failures and mis-steps. Historical figures are whitewashed down to Accepted Talking Points and the less-flattering bits forgotten.
Real people in Real Time are not the sanitized figureheads you might expect. Musk is a real human and not perfect, does not need to be. He's got the guts and determination to risk it all for his beliefs and vision. I respect and admire that, whatever he's like personally.
Edison electrocuted an elephant in Times Square, in front of a large crowd, to "prove" that Tesla was wrong, and that AC was in fact hideously dangerous and everyone should go with Edison's preferred DC instead.
Apparently he did this a lot at lectures/roadshows around the place - but saved cash by only electrocuting stray dogs.
I humbly suggest that Musk has a long way to go in the being a total dick stakes, before he catches up with Edison.
"I humbly suggest that Musk has a long way to go in the being a total dick stakes, before he catches up with Edison."
The worst you can say of him is that he does exactly what the MIC has done ever since Eisenhower warned about it, but in his case it is actually producing stuff the object of which is not to kill people. His cost to the US taxpayer is tiny. I'm never likely to buy a Tesla but if I ever do buy an electric car, I suspect his companies will have influenced the design.
Brunel persuaded people to invest in railways and ships that lost money, but in doing so he paved the way for railways and ships that made money and facilitated economic development. The parallel is obvious.
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I'm sure Musk is a right one, nobody gets to where he is being nice all the time. When I look at what he's achieved compared to what others with money have done though I can forgive a lot (bankers, I'm looking at you). As for it all being a scam to get get money out of the government, I doubt it very much. If anything it looks like some very shrewd investment by the government in what will certain be the future. Admittedly it might not look exactly like the things Musk is building now but it will be in that area. I'm just sorry our own government is so backward looking that we don't heavily invest in similar big ideas (the sabre engine for example - I know it's got some investment but come on this thing could be massive)
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