An American billionaire has been making headlines in the economic, industrial and “people” column for ten years now, due to his atypical character and that of the companies he heads.
When the same boss manages companies that produce nearly a million electric vehicles a year (not golf carts), that they cover the roofs with solar panels, that they allow via giant batteries to cut themselves off from the network or support the voltage fluctuations of an electrical network, when one of them manufactures rockets launched once a week (this year) and most of which return to Earth for reuse, sometimes landing a few hundred meters from their takeoff site, often in the middle of the ocean on a floating barge, when they dig tunnels, when they study brain implants to make us “cyborgs” capable of standing up to AI, we suspect that we are not dealing with the average citizen.
Who is Elon Musk?
A citizen of South Africa who emigrated to the USA to make a “fortune” there and strong in a conviction that has not left him, which is that it was the place to make his dreams come true.
He is an “Asperger”, with strong convictions and an extraordinary power of work. He has an atypical perception of risk, in the sense that he will describe a high probability of failure as a non-zero possibility of success.
His marked absence of allergy to risk could become a serious handicap which he compensates for by permanent activity. He is a workaholic who spends minimal time on sleep and probably on a private life and he is capable of having a catastrophic time within his company if he feels that his presence is essential to the success or the resolution of problems. ‘a problem. When Tesla, for example, had huge production ramp-up problems threatening the company, he spent a huge amount of time on the spot dissecting problems whose resolution should have been delegated to subordinates, sleeping in the company in a small office to be on the line in the early morning and see the problems concretely with his own eyes. He never gives up, he never gives up, as long as the laws of physics don’t prove him wrong.
He has an extraordinary ability to re-examine problems at the root and from all angles, without letting himself be fooled by “common sense” or what others are doing.
He is also an atypical billionaire, in the sense that he is only a tenant and only really owns a small personal plane for his travels between the East and West coast of the USA. Most of his fortune does not come from an inheritance (he started according to legend with $10,000 in his pocket), but essentially from his shares in the companies he runs or founded. The FED having largely had a policy of inflating stock values, his fortunes followed, but if a crisis tomorrow would send stock prices plummeting and he would drop very low in the list of the richest people on the planet.
He is one of the very few business leaders who will remain in the great history of humanity, who favored above all military leaders, political leaders and scientists, for all of his companies but above all one of her, her space transportation company, SpaceX. Failing to compare it to “007” we have already openly compared it to “Iron Man” as the character is out of the ordinary.
He is one of the very few influential figures on Earth who is able to understand that if humanity persists in keeping all “its eggs in one basket”, sooner or later it will disappear by its own hand or by external circumstances, one of the few also to understand that there is no possible sustainable development for the human species (in the modern sense of technological species) without having access to the resources of the solar system.
It is no coincidence that 60 years after the start of space conquest, the use of near-Earth space is marginal and the prohibitive launch cost prevents any democratization of access to space and any industrial development. The cost (using the means implemented by the States for 60 years) of transporting a load of one ton on the Moon or Mars is for example of the order of 1 to 10 billion euros or dollars . No economic activity is possible with such upstream investment costs.
However, space can only be used by drastically reducing these costs.
By taking up the problem at the base, he had the idea which has become a classic but nevertheless unusual rocket, which is the “Falcon 9” rocket, a two-stage rocket using the same engines and fuels, mass-produced at minimal cost and above all largely reused (the first stage and fairing are recovered, i.e. around 75% of the launcher’s manufacturing cost).
Not only did he conceive the idea but he understood very quickly, that to launch frequently you have to create your own market and he therefore also launched the “Starlink” initiative consisting in offering quality broadband internet on a planetary scale to from a constellation of thousands of satellites (produced in a chain in a company he controls) that his rockets launch at the rate this year of one launch per week.
2,000 first-generation satellites have been launched in 3 years and thousands more are to be launched and will need to be replaced.
Once mastered the manufacture of rockets and found a substantial source of income, he therefore decided to consider doing what no state in the world had ever dreamed of doing. Namely a rocket larger than the lunar rocket which transported the astronauts of the Apollo missions to the Moon in the 1960s/1970s, but entirely reusable (we refuel, as for an airplane before each launch) and which should ideally make it possible to send equipment to the Moon or Mars (about 100 tons for each flight) for an estimated cost of 200,000 euros per ton. Even if it were to be wrong by a factor of 10, at 2 million per ton it would gain a factor of at least 1000 in transport costs compared to the Apollo missions of the beginning of the space age.
It is a “lunar” version of its rocket which will land the next US astronauts on lunar soil within a few years. SpaceX has already launched 7 crews into space in two years and fully private flights are already booked on both the “Falcon 9” rocket and its successor, the “Starship”.
No one has yet really integrated the major impact of a reduction by a factor of 1000 in launch costs, associated with the volumes and masses accessible at launch (without comparison with what the industry was doing until then) and the production rates. flight (the minimum seems to be once a week but the multitude of launch pads already under construction suggests the possibility of one launch per day).
In summary, this figure widely known to the general public for his possible takeover of “Twitter” and his status as a billionaire is on the way to giving humanity the key to the real access of the human species to space.
And that’s where it goes down in history, because it also gives us the ability to counter a potentially exterminating asteroid impact. Everyone has seen an “Armageddon” type film at least once without thinking about the conditions that would allow us to actually counter such a threat.
We know this today thanks to studies which have shown that a large impact or a series of impacts (preferably years before a predicted impact) can prevent a potential impactor from hitting the Earth. The problem was that the mass thrown must be substantial and it must be physically possible to launch it (not to mention the cost). However, a rocket capable of launching 100 tons into deep space (thanks to refueling in low orbit), capable of frequent and low-cost flights is the only equipment capable of covering the whole range of risks to which we can be confronted.
Not only can his “Starship” rocket give us access to the mineral and energy wealth of the solar system (immeasurable on our scale), give us access to the colonization of other lands, other territories, but also save us from a threat cosmic today impossible to parry.
It is clear that without his personal ability to borrow, his ability to surround himself with brilliant people capable of realizing his visions of the future, his atypical view of the problems that are ours, he would not have started what he did. Of course he is a billionaire, which is badly perceived by a large fraction of society. Many use their ability to influence our collective trajectory in a way that is in their personal interest, much more than our collective interest.
But the fact is that he is the epitome of the “patron” billionaire who unlike many others (including States) does not devote his fortune to enslaving those less fortunate or brilliant than him, not to building empires or armies, but to advance our ability to project ourselves into a future that is not a dystopia due to a lack of means resulting from our lack of imagination and lucidity.
It is therefore the character who will redeem “Twitter”. Some are worried about it because he is a “billionaire”, like the others. Is he like the others? We can strongly doubt it in view of his other activities and his personality. He openly declared that a country practicing censorship (outside the law of course) is a country that is doing very badly and he seems to have set himself the objective of thwarting a major drift of serving the interests of the Democratic camp of the mass information apparatus in the USA.
The almost unanimous criticism of his project in the major media is an indication, pointing in the direction that it must represent a real danger for the interests in place, which are not obviously those of freedom of expression and access to information that is not rehashed state propaganda.
Moreover, if we remove it from the landscape, where are the checks and balances on a scale capable of countering this drift of censorship obliterating the possibility of obtaining information and expressing oneself in the world?
It is perhaps a little late to worry about the powers that he will concentrate in his hands once he has through the companies he controls the capacity to have a planetary internet infrastructure (potentially an internet bis) little vulnerable and a large media to defend the cause of free Internet and freedom of expression. No one cared so much when Bezos took over WaPo or when the other billionaires took over almost all of the mass media.
He is more than ever a character straight out of “Marvel Comics”, a mixture of ordinary humans with undeniable dark sides and “superheroes” defending causes that go far beyond his personal interests. He went so far as to say explicitly that he would dedicate his personal financial resources to carrying out his projects if headwinds were to prevent him from carrying them out.
For those who know him a little (hundreds of hours of video and articles available on the net, a few books too), a totally extraordinary character who will be part of human culture long after names like Macron or Biden n will mean nothing to anyone.