Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has not been smooth. Given the current frenzy in the financial world, should we be surprised? We bet that this case will probably not remain isolated.
On October 27, Elon Musk struck hard: by buying Twitter, he laid off around 50% of the 7,500 employees, mainly managers and marketing and design employees, in order to “to improve the health of the company” which was losing more than $4 million a day. American method for the lucky ones: access badge deactivated, mailbox deleted, but still three months of compensation offered. It’s true that in the USA, we move as quickly as we hire, it’s cultural, but culture or no culture, the pill is hard to swallow for the “thanked” employees of Twitter. As for the (happy?) remaining employees, their productivity will be judged by Tesla developers involved. Dream atmosphere guaranteed at Twitter for the next few months. Hence the tweets on Twitter taking up the poster of Terminator 2 where Arnold’s face has been replaced by that of Elon (hard to say which of the two gives the coldest in the back).
That’s not all: as Luc Ferry pointed out on Radio Classique on November 7, the morality of Twitter was increasingly in the hot seat due to messages with racist, homophobic or other content and less and less controlled, and if Elon Musk brings order to it, via a “content moderation council”, so much the better. But here it is: Musk promised at the same time to reduce the restrictions put in place by Twitter on the contents. Some are therefore already worried about the type of control, for example Naomi Oreskes, historian of science at Harvard and author of studies relating to disinformation on global warming, who said: “If Elon Musk blocks any attempt to moderate the content of tweets, there is a fear of a resurgence of misinformation, as well as an increase in both misleading greenwashing advertisements and hateful messages towards climate scientists”.
As I have pointed out more than once in this blog, Elon Musk is a genius and charismatic character. He managed to overcome (at least until now) with undoubted brilliance all the development problems of SpaceX and Tesla, both technical and financial. But he is also an odious dictator and without any human consideration, those who worked for him can attest to that (a few did). Woe to anyone (even in a high position) who disagrees with him: the door is wide open. As his lawyer put it bluntly in a recent sexist case: “Anyway, he’s the boss and he does whatever he wants.”
But I’m afraid that the problem is not Elon Musk: one of his competitors in the race for the biggest fortune and playing a little in the same court, namely the famous Jeff Bezos, is of the same ilk: in his October 2021 edition, SpaceNews magazine gave the floor to Blue Origin whistleblowers who had listed a long list of security flaws in the New Shepard launcher. They were due to the undersized teams (again for financial reasons) and therefore overloaded for the race for the first tourist flight, which Bezos had lost by a hair against Richard Branson (stupid match that I had mentioned in the post “Branson against Bezos: a (very) draw?” published in August 2021). If we must recognize that in the field of “inhumanity”, compared to Musk, Bezos is a notch below, in general, all these characters have turned into real cyborgs of finance who crush everything that resist them. And let’s have no illusions: Elon Musk’s devastating takeover of Twitter is just the first of many to come.
Because if we think a little, one conclusion is obvious: these cyborgs are ultimately only the product of our society now inexorably focused on the short term and digitization, one maintaining the other as I have developed many times in this blog. And the engineer that I am can only be demoralized by this drift which leads, even in passionately complex fields such as space, which has made many engineers dream (and continues, but for how long?) question the meaning of their work. more business than angelic, some practices of which I have criticized in this blog.
Twitter is basically just a collateral victim of what it helped to create: a ruthless world where the number and the “fake” have taken the place of the human and the (true) value. Mr. Orwell, sleep well where you rest for eternity: in the 21st century, the epigones of the characters of “1984” are well on the way to making your dystopia a bluette.