How did you spend your weekend? Real life gazillionaire Elon Musk spent his downtime continuing to audition for the role of Potential Bond Villain, or latest Marvel Netflix franchise superhero. We’re still scratching our heads which it will be.
Charismatic, maverick and obscenely wealthy, Musk has been having some fun on Twitter. On Sunday, he announced on that social media platform, and Instagram, that he was selling flamethrowers (at $US500 each) to fund a fanciful tunnel he’d like to build under Los Angeles and almost immediately reported that he’d moved 10,000 units, and aims to sell double that.
So the guy who started PayPal and is now behind Tesla and SpaceX, as well as the Boring tunnel company, now has an extra $US 5 million or so to join the $US 20 billion he is already estimated to be worth; just by throwing out some light-hearted tweets about the zombie apocalypse, and how much fun flamethrowers are at a party.
Next Tuesday, Musk is hoping to launch one of his privately-owned rockets (the Falcon Heavy) from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, and it’s surely no coincidence that the rocket will lift off the famous Apollo 39A site – originally built for the NASA campaign that eventually put man on the moon.
And he’s just done a deal with Tesla that means he’ll receive no salary as such, but if he can raise the company’s worth to $US 650 billion (it’s currently estimated as being worth $US 59 billion), he’ll personally receive roughly $US 55 billion.
That, my friends, is called an overdraft.
So what does all this mean? I’m not sure where I stand on Musk. The comparisons with fictional narcissist megatech entrepreneur Tony Stark don’t seem wildly misplaced, but there’s also a hint of Sir Hugo Drax, the chief villain in Moonraker, an acquired taste James Bond film (well, okay, Roger Moore always gave me the shits as a hammy Bond) but who did count Jaws as a henchman.
Part of me shakes my head at the fact Musk is a kind of Silicon Valley-on-Steroids industrialist-from-Hell, and that he is the only kazillionaire I can think of who actually DOES seem to have a private army of hench-people to perform his every whim, which was always a big requirement of Bond villainy.
But then I find myself grudgingly liking the fact that he obviously dreams so big. And has a crack. Which is kind of what this site is about.
You can debate whether other car companies are actually doing a better job of developing autonomous cars or even electric cars, but it was Musk’s Tesla that really pushed the competition to achieve those things into the public consciousness.
You can also argue whether selling flame throwers to anybody with pointless cash to spend on a whim is a great use of his time, but he has raised the issue of LA needing solutions to its endless traffic snarls, to the point that it’s now an international debate.
What can be lost is the fact that Musk is expertly filling the vacuum that has formed as Washington’s politicians disappear up their own collective arsehole, if that can be classed as a thing. With the orange man, Trump, completely paranoid, ineffective and overwhelmed as President, and the Republicans and Democrats seemingly frozen in his shadow, America has stopped dead, and it is Musk who has used that moment to become larger than life.
Years ago, it was the US President, John F. Kennedy, who tried to inspire by setting NASA an ambitious target of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.
Next Tuesday, it’s a private businessman whose empire would appear to be more smoke-and-mirror share-options than most, who aims to launch an experimental rocket in pursuit of making space travel commercially viable.
The Washington elite can barely stay open for business (and I’m not throwing stones: Australia’s government and opposition are nothing to get excited about, as it stands) but Musk can shrug off long delays in the next, promised Tesla 3, despite grumbling customers who pre-ordered, or the fact that he couldn’t meet his boast of a Tesla self-driving from LA to New York before the end of 2017.
He can jump on Twitter and instead of self-harming like a certain US President, he can sell thousands of fricking’ flamethrowers for laughs.
A Giant Among Men to be proud of – he is 46, so just sneaks into our demographic – or a dangerous maverick? The jury is out, but he is certainly living large.