Is he a brutal entrepreneur?
It’s one of the character’s paradoxes. Throughout his tweets and in all his declarations, he explains that he works for the good of Humanity, but he himself is not very human. On a daily basis, it is extremely hard, brittle. The people who have worked with him have almost all reported him to me.
“A lot of qualifiers are used to describe it and it is more or less relevant”
How can this psychological profile be explained?
He recently revealed that he has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. He has an introverted temperament. He suffered in his youth from the divorce of his parents, made the choice to live with his father and implies that he suffered a form of abuse. His social background, however, is that of a wealthy family. He grew up in South Africa under the apartheid regime, of which he was not an opponent.
His taste for science fiction is fundamental in his construction, you write. Why ?
In the solitude of his youth, he built a world around science fiction, through comics, cinema (with, of course, the Star Wars saga), but also literary works including books of ‘Isaac Asimov and Scottish author Iain Banks, insider reference. The latter also inspired Musk for the names of the barges that recover some of the SpaceX vessels.
Is he a visionary in his plan to conquer Mars?
The idea of arriving on Mars by 2050 makes him a visionary, even if the quality of this vision is debatable. This objective in his eyes is justified in itself. And indeed, exploring Mars is a project everyone agrees on. It existed before Musk, but could seem remote and unachievable. With the imminent return of man to the moon, which Musk is working on, the exploration of Mars will happen, even if the time frame is uncertain. But that’s not enough for him: he also launched the idea of colonizing the planet Mars.
What to think scientifically of such a project?
It makes everyone laugh and scientists scream because Mars is uninhabitable. The idea of talking about colonization is the technique of the two-shot gun: Musk talks about a distant and fascinating project, which creates controversy. It thus diverts attention from what it is already doing. In this case it is the deployment of Starlink (a satellite Internet connection system, from any point on Earth, editor’s note) which currently results in the installation in low Earth orbit of thousands of disposable satellites, polluting, dangerous by their accumulation and hampering science by the inconvenience they cause to observatories.
What about its lesser-known business, Neuralink brain implants?
He is preparing an ultra-miniaturized device, very easy to implant with which he will be able to swallow an embryonic, emerging market, developed by others in particular to treat Parkinson’s disease. He also needs to hide there because, with an implant in his head, he will be able to record brain activity and develop other functions…
What can this be used for according to Elon Musk?
The first use is medical. Brain implants could allow paralyzed people to operate exoskeletons or wheelchairs by thought. Musk said he would start with this but added that he also wanted playful uses, such as being able to operate a video game by thought. He achieved this with a monkey (the animal played the screen game “Pong”, according to a video published by Neuralink in 2021, Ed). But doing that with a human, from an ethical point of view, is not possible today. Such implants cannot be performed on healthy people.
What is the philosophy, the meaning of Elon Musk’s actions?
The philosophical question is very important to him, he really believes that technology can provide the answer to all problems. He is not a transhumanist, in the idea that humans can access eternal life, like other personalities in his tech universe. On the other hand, he thinks that putting a layer of technology on Homo sapiens is the solution. He can also be seen as a visionary with this idea. Elon Musk is not an impostor, not a media bubble, he is truly someone who has changed our technological and societal environment.
“From a technology point of view, France and Europe have missed a lot of trains”
Would you say he’s a scientist?
Many qualifiers are used to describe it and it is more or less relevant. Science is incorrect. He loves science and has an engineering mind but is not a scientist in the classical sense of the term. He likes technology. He has the profile of the geek, it’s his training, his culture, the basis of his identity, he comes from the code, the digital, made his fortune in there (thanks in particular to PayPal Ed).
Politically, he supported Donald Trump. Does he himself want to enter politics?
I do not believe. To develop, it needs to act on the law, public opinion and political actors. It is from this angle that we must see the takeover of Twitter, beyond the compulsive act of a billionaire. In doing so, he nevertheless broke with what had worked for him so far, ambiguity. If he had seemed close to Trump during his term, it could be seen as pragmatism. Now he is out of the woods. It can become a problem, since he becomes a political opponent of the Democrats. My bet is that he will backpedal.
In Europe, we don’t have that type of character or that kind of company. Is it a disability?
I fear it. From a technology point of view, France and Europe have missed a lot of trains. In France, research has been in crisis for years. We are mainly talking about standards, frameworks. It is necessary, of course, but on the content we do not arrive there. We don’t have a grand narrative to offer like the journey to Mars might.