Tesla titan: savior or controlling narcissist?

Alex Fotschky, Staff Writer

Elon Musk — entrepreneur, inventor and genius, his contribution has changed the landscape of the technological world numerous times. He is one of the richest men in the world yet he has made questionable choices that lack societal awareness. And while everyone makes mistakes, not everybody has the influence that Musk carries. 

Musk’s accomplishments range far and wide — his inventions have brought innovation to industries, in automotive, finance, infrastructure, transportation and space exploration. These advancements are built upon sustainable energy. Such innovation is essential with the current climate and energy crisis.

The success and wealth Musk has accumulated from Tesla have contributed immensely to the value of his net worth, helping him surpass Jeff Bezos as the wealthiest person in the world. Tesla made electric cars mainstream and widely accessible, however, problems with them have arisen over the years. When the Model 3 was released in 2016, Musk promised that the company would produce 200,000 vehicles, a number four times as much as Tesla typically produced. Naturally, this got Musk in trouble as Tesla was failing to keep up with the massive demand. Musk’s tweet has incurred production quality issues and the consequence of churning out as many vehicles as quickly as possible has brought about a decrease in quality. The Model Y was considerably overwrought by this demand — some instances of substandard quality include an improperly attached back seat, gaps between the hood and main body and unevenly aligned trims. Whilst Tesla has changed the game for the automotive industry, scratching the gilded layer reveals the shoddy shortcomings underneath.

Next on Musk’s laundry list of successes is SpaceX. The company’s concept for inexpensive admission into space was not the first to establish this notion; however, it was the first to succeed in its efforts. SpaceX has become one of the most efficient space companies in the world and is one of the dominant players currently vying for control of space travel. The company’s efficiency and innovation in space travel have leveled the playing field on the same turf as NASA. The main mission of SpaceX is to put humanity on Mars, with a long-term goal concentrated on humanity’s survival beyond Earth. While spreading humanity across the stars is a good plan I doubt the practicality of it. The timeline is too long to be feasible and terraforming is a distant pipe dream, more in the realm of science fiction than reality. With a climate disaster on the horizon, humanity should focus its efforts more at home than on other worlds.

Though many may deem Musk’s dreams as brilliant, the man is marked by numerous controversies. During the Thai Cave Rescue in July of 2018, a British diver rejected Musk’s offer for submarine assistance. In response, Musk tweeted at Vern Unsworth, the diver, calling him a pedophile. On May 1, 2020, Musk tweeted, “Tesla stock price is too high imo,” resulting in a loss of $14 billion in stock. Shareholders and investors counted their losses and jumped ship. Another tweet landed Musk in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). On Aug. 7, 2018, Musk tweeted, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” Later on he tweeted, “Investor support is confirmed. The only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote.” This post led to a lawsuit that required Musk to pay a $20 million fine. As of last week, a San Francisco judge determined that Musk lied about taking his company private, which has serious ramifications that could come back to haunt him in his bid to buy Twitter. Other legal troubles include a discrimination case on Owen Diaz, who was awarded $15 million for abusive conduct he had endured at Tesla’s Fremont plant. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Tesla for allowing rampant racism to occur at Fremont. Ex-factory worker, Kaylen Barker, was struck by a coworker and called racist slurs; the case alleges that the conditions she experienced were “nightmarish.” Additionally, three people have died while driving on Autopilot in Telsa’s vehicles. As of yet, Musk has not had any long-term consequences for his actions. The money he paid out in legal fees pales in comparison to his net worth of $264.6 billion.

Musk seems overly ambitious to the point of unbelievability. And yet he never fails to accomplish what he sets out to do; his efforts have created enormous technological advancements. His innovations have brought great change to the world, despite that Musk’s blunt and unashamed personality consistently entangles him in media firestorms. Even though I love the innovations built upon practices for sustainability that Musk has dreamt into existence, Musk’s imprudent and rash nature distinctly separates him from the flock of celebrities who shroud their true personalities behind a mirage. Musk is a breath of fresh air in comparison, nevertheless, his brash personality has led society to hoist him on a pedestal that is largely undeserved. His ascension is tarnished by those he has carelessly wronged on his way to the top and his inability to learn from his mistakes only exasperates the issue further.