I have been a pretty ardent supporter of Elon Musk for quite some time now. He has been in my mind one of the finest examples of an ethical venture capitalist that our world has seen in some time now. Some people have signaled opposition to him for the amount of subsidy money that he receives from various governments around the world, but that has never bothered me. In a world where they exist, are accessible, and wont end anytime soon its hard to hold it against anyone who pursues them. I even like that he seems to be on the verge of making NASA obsolete.
How could such a dynamic game changer be vilified then? The Simplicity of the answer to this washed over me like a tidal wave earlier this evening. For all the good that he is doing for the world, I don’t think it can any longer be denied that he is the public, human face of corporatism both in America and world wide.
Some people might be inclined to say, so what? If not him then it would surely be someone else correct? While this is true I think its important that we address problems that are in front of us, and what we have in front of us right now is a series of very large very effective corporations that are not just contracting for the United States government but are more and more becoming deeply woven into its very fabric. We can not become dependent on any corporation or business man, just as we can not depend on and trust the government itself.
When these businesses become so entrenched in this manner they become useless to the public and in some cases even actively harmful. As these subsidies grow and expand the state becomes their primary client. When this happens they don’t need to provide goods or services to the public. The result of this is government protected and backed monopolies that ruin other wise useful markets. Anyone who is reading this is going to be smart enough to already know these things and understand these threats, so let’s talk briefly about Elon’s businesses specifically and the threats posed by them getting in bed with big government.
First, right off of the bat is SpaceX. The United States government already has its own failed space program in NASA. Now they are giving their space operations a shot in the arm by sub contracting to SpaceX. This money doesn’t come free though, the more and more given to them is that much more influence they will expect and probably be given in return. It is too late to stop this. What to be weary of is how this will affect and probably ruin the plans for private colonization plans on the moon and even Mars. If these operations can not be kept separate from state based influence then they might as well be cancelled because their greatest benefit will have been lost.
In a similar vein is Tesla and the myriad of projects managed underneath its umbrella. With all the subsidy money they have received is there any doubt that intelligence services will get a free back door into the self-driving software? That they might even theoretically have bought enough access to know how to remotely shut these cars off? Were these scenarios not enough I can’t help but wonder if Tesla will be gifted a mandate for their supposed green batteries and super efficient solar panels.
This is only the tip of the ice berg. Elon has projects touching on everything a person can imagine and probably more. How much of a say have the feds bought in the security measures for his brain-computer interface start up? Ditto his AI “school” the technically non-profit he set up to study just how AI thinks and learns.
I am still a believer in Mr. Musk. For now. But if he continues to climb further into bed with the federal government of the United States he will lose my confidence quickly. The work he is doing is far too important to have government strings attached to his dollars, but as we have seen it may already be too late.