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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Ebook Overview: ‘Elon Musk,’ by Walter Isaacson

ELON MUSK, by Walter Isaacson

At varied moments in “Elon Musk,” Walter Isaacson’s new biography of the world’s richest particular person, the creator tries to make sense of the billionaire entrepreneur he has shadowed for 2 years — sitting in on conferences, getting a peek at emails and texts, participating in “scores of interviews and late-night conversations.” Musk is a mercurial “man-child,” Isaacson writes, who was bullied relentlessly as a child in South Africa till he grew large enough to beat up his bullies. Musk talks about having Asperger’s, which makes him “dangerous at selecting up social cues.” Because the individuals closest to him will attest, he lacks empathy — one thing that Isaacson describes as a “gene” that’s “hard-wired.”

But at the same time as Musk struggles to narrate to the precise people round him, his plans for humanity are grand. “A completely reusable rocket is the distinction between being a single-planet civilization and being a multiplanet one”: Musk would “maniacally” repeat this message to his employees at SpaceX, his spacecraft and satellite tv for pc firm, the place each determination is motivated by his dedication to get earthlings to Mars. He pushes workers at his corporations — he now runs six, together with X, the platform previously often known as Twitter — to slash prices and meet brutal deadlines as a result of he must pour assets into the moonshot of colonizing area “earlier than civilization crumbles.” Catastrophe might come from local weather change, from declining birthrates, from synthetic intelligence. Isaacson describes Musk stalking the manufacturing unit flooring of Tesla, his electrical automobile firm, issuing orders on the fly. “If I don’t make selections,” Musk defined, “we die.”

By “we,” Musk presumably meant Tesla in that occasion. However Musk likes to talk of his enterprise pursuits in superhero phrases, so it’s generally exhausting to make sure. Isaacson, whose earlier biographical topics embody Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs, is a affected person chronicler of obsession; within the case of Musk, he can often appear too affected person — a hazard for any biographer who’s given extraordinary entry. At one level, Isaacson asks why Musk is so offended by something he deems politically appropriate, and Musk, as common, has to dial it as much as 11. “Until the woke-mind virus, which is essentially anti-science, anti-merit and anti-human on the whole, is stopped,” he declares, “civilization won’t ever develop into multiplanetary.” There are a variety of curious assertions in that sentence, however it could have been good if Isaacson had pushed him to reply a primary query: What on earth does any of it even imply?

Isaacson has ably conveyed that Musk doesn’t actually like pushback. A few of his lieutenants insist that he’ll ultimately hearken to purpose, however Isaacson sees firsthand Musk’s behavior of deriding as a saboteur or an fool anybody who resists him. The musician Grimes, the mom of three of Musk’s kids (the existence of the third, Techno Mechanicus, nicknamed Tau, has been stored personal till now), calls his roiling anger “demon mode” — a mind-set that “causes plenty of chaos.” She additionally insists that it permits him to get stuff accomplished.

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