Beyond Elon Musk: The Danger of Idolizing Tech-Savvy Mortals

Elon Musk

Humans need heroes. Since ancient days we’ve gathered around our fires to recount the triumphs and disasters of the mythological Gods and Goddesses. Even now, when phone screens rather than firelight provide the glow, we need visions larger than life to distract us from our own middling troubles.

More’s the pity that in the modern age, we often mistake tech-savvy mortals for gods. The most recent example is Elon Musk, who has promised to make cars that will drive themselves more safely than humans can. It’s an audacious promise, and as a personal injury lawyer, my head spins when I think of the life-or-death consequences of Musk not being able to keep it.

A billionaire before he was 30, Musk ignited our imaginations. He founded SpaceX, and we dreamed of living on the moon. He became CEO of Tesla and made possible electric cars that were not only fast but sexy. He became the richest person in the world. In 2021, Time named him Person of the Year.

But since he bought Twitter late last year, his mortality has been exposed. The façade is beginning to crumble.

After paying $44 billion for it, Musk admits Twitter is worth about half that today. One reason: Twitter doesn’t work as well as it did before Musk. That’s because he fired 80% of the people who made sure things ran smoothly.

Musk recently told the BBC that his dog is now the company’s CEO. That was part of Musk’s attempt to laugh off a Twitter poll he initiated where a majority of users said he should step down as CEO.

Musk’s erratic behavior as Twitter CEO should cause people to think twice about his other ventures. Should we be as ready to hop on his spaceships to Mars? Should we entrust our safety to his self-driving cars? Recently revealed statistics suggest they aren’t as safe as we may have believed.

Humans make mistakes, whether via miscalculations or failing to understand their own hubris. Assigning godlike status to the tech wizards of our age does no good for them or us. If we are going to save the planet and find our way to a better place, we need mortals who operate on reason and empathy, not those who fly too close to the sun.