It is like mankind woke up one day in 1980s and gave up on the future, a world that had gone the first powered flight to landing on the moon in a generation, woke up that one morning realizing the problems that this evolution has caused. We started rewarding the pessimists pointing out the problems, the zero-sum gamers of wall street. Our universities emptied of optimists and filled up with problematizing relativists… These pessimists are smart of course, we are destroying our planet, our political economy is unjust, our chances of survival are slim to none. On the whole this depression of the human soul produces more accurate predictions, but the prognosis becomes self fulfilling and we stagnate.

I think we need the dreamers today more than ever, to find the unlikely solutions that are closer than we think, to find the miracles of the cosmos stil hidden from us and to find a better live for us all. Let’s all dare to dream.

100% agree. To add, even here on HN, pessimism is very much rampant. So many comments here are just about unfairly dumping on an individual or an organization or just pointing out “flaws” by analyzing someones hard work in 10 seconds before writing a comment. I truly believe some of this is due to over-confidence in ones abilities. With the widespread access to knowledge, it is tempting to feel like an expert without actually having any hands-on experience on the topic. Covid has shown that quite amply.

We should celebrate the downfall of so called ‘gatekeepers’ of knowledge, and average joe’s being able to disrupt entrenched players in industries. But at the same time I believe we need to be very humble, and not overvalue knowledge and information over experience and hard-work.

I don’t understand this viewpoint unless it’s literally just rose colored glasses. Is your argument that nothing cool has been invented in the past 40 years?

Dude you can instantly speak face to face (digitally) with someone anywhere in the entire world right now. I play games with a group of people who’ve never met, but chat all the time from all over the world. I can travel the world renting other people’s homes, have a device that translates my speech into theirs, can look up their history in seconds, don’t need to use a map, and it’s all way way cheaper than it was in the 80s.

There are dreamers and they are changing the world, you’re just too much of a pessimist to see it yourself.

While there obviously has been innovation over the last 40 years, the pace of innovation seems to have slowed.

We got lots of dubious things like bitcoin and twitter. Not a lot of things that required real world risk and engineering – maybe because that’s a harder way to make money and the low hanging fruit has been picked.

That’s what makes Elon Musk so interesting, he tackled two incredibly hard real engineering challenges and succeeded wildly at both. He changed the world and brought the future closer. That’s impressive. I wish there were more entrepreneurs like him.

In my opinion the perception that the pace of innovation has slowed down is the result of a shift away from the physical to the digital. For the last 25 years or so there have been massive innovations in software. A lot of things that were once largely locked to the physical world (banking, diverse entertainment, catching up with old friends and acquaintances) have now been digitized and implemented at a massive scale. It’s great and all, but it’s not the same as something you can reach out and touch. Even considering something like Neuralink, the hardware to sense brain signals needs to be there before the software can do anything. Innovation in the physical world is what makes things feel like we’re living in the future.

There was an article about this that I read years ago that goes into much more depth about this, but I’m having a hard time finding it. If I remember correctly it discussed the job opportunities of people in post world war 2 era, and that many of the (feelings of) innovations were a result of the booming material sciences in response to the cold war, though I’m likely mis-remembering some details.

Elon is willing to go wildly unprofitable, which allows him to be a few years ahead of everyone else on the natural tech. curve. That’s literally all there is to it.
I strongly disagree, if you look at either SpaceX or Tesla, what they’ve accomplished is far more than a simple willingness to lose money for a number of years while developing the business. Also, that’s not how you use the word literally.
Second definition from MW: literally: used to emphasize the truth and accuracy of a statement or description
This so incredibly wrong and un-informed its mind blowing.

SpaceX has been profitable from pretty early on in its history and were until they need massive cash for the Starlink project.

Tesla is a attempting to get into a very, very capital intensive industry and during the early growth and again in 2017 they had to be less un-profitable. But the companies consistently showed that if it stopped growing it could be profitable.

The idea that it literally all there is to it is insane. Pretty much every startup is willing to make loses for growth, it happens literally all the time.

This is simply empirically wrong.

Musk’s companies continuously raise funds, even SpaceX. Spending money in order to grow is easy, and not necessary given sufficient profitability. Look at Apple, Amazon etc. for examples of successful transitions to profitable hypergrowth.

Startups who spend money to grow eventually make it, or die. Musk’s self-promotion, combined with a low interest rate environment, has allowed him to continuously raise enough money to stay in a zombie state, neither dead, nor profitable: only spending.

SpaceX: 39 total funding rounds (missed a few): 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 (4x), 2020 (x2), 2021

Tesla: 35 total funding rounds (missed a few): 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013 (3x), 2014, 2015, 2016 (2x), 2017 (4x), 2019, 2020 (2x)

Both companies are profitable. This is simply a lack of understanding of business and accounting. Both companies are re-investing all of their profit in massive capital expenditures to support business growth – that’s not a money losing endeavour, that’s the same strategy that made Amazon into the behemoth it is today. It’s also the logical strategy if you have a long time horizon for investment – which is arguably much better than companies which have short-time horizons.
You are crazy if you think Tesla margins are different than other automakers.

They do the exact same thing, and building cars is the worst business there is.

Regardless…now is the moment when the rubber meets the road. Market cap cannot grow more than 1 trillion, Musk now has to start posting margins in line with such marketcap.

> You are crazy if you think Tesla margins are different than other automakers.

Tesla’s margin’s are about triple Ford’s margins over the last decade. That can’t last, but it’s far from the worst business there is.


> Regardless…now is the moment when the rubber meets the road. Market cap cannot grow more than 1 trillion, Musk now has to start posting margins in line with such marketcap.

Tesla stock is wildly over-valued in my opinion. Even if everything goes fantastically for the company it may not grow into its own stock price. I would like like to short the stock, among others, to hedge my long positions.

I still believe the company will be a success though – just not as quickly as the market seems to think.

Point being. Will all Musk bootlickers be around when Tesla “succeeds” but is a paltry 87 billion dollar automaker company and Musk goes way down in the Forbes list?

My guess is no. People want to talk about success and success is measured with marketcap and net worth. 99% of people who know Musk name have really no business knowing his name and care very little about electric vehicles.

My guess he also can’t handle going back to 2014 levels of social relevancy and will try and run for governor or some other thing like that.

Musk is fundamentally an attention whore, he pumped the marketcap before the company was mature, it’s not like Tesla marketcap grew spontaneusly.

Entrepreneurs aren’t rockstars or popstars

Nobody loves/hates Sergey Brin, Lawrance Page, Jim Simons, John Overdeck, Clifford Assness, Andrew Beal etc…

If you worked in the promotional industry you’d know that rockstars/popstars have to be dragged kicking and screaming , away from drugs and parties, to do interviews and media appearences.

Entrepreneurs who want to be famous such as Musk and Trump…nobody is dragging them, they are the ones who want to do it.

As per the article, master promoters, because they know their business is not capable of making it on their own merits.

I remind you that Microsoft never ever took VC money, just organic growth and re-investing revenues. People who do it the proper way don’t need the flashes, quite the contrary they are busy hiding their margins to avoid other people getting in the space.

They continuously raise funds not because the product they sell are losing money because they are making money and they want to make more of them.

How is this hard to understand I don’t understand.

Go and compare Amazon and Tesla in terms of time since IPO if you want to claim Amazon of example of a good company.

Also, much of the money Tesla raised in the last couple of years is not actually spend, but rather is part of the cash balance of the company.

Also the argument that ‘his companies are not as successful as the two most successful companies in the world today’ is complaining on a pretty absurd level.

When was the last time you got lost and couldn’t navigate your way to safety?

For all of human history “getting lost” was one of the most prominent plot devices in all of art and we literally solved that within what, the past 10 years?

I think the true problem is that innovations went from solving sensory discomfort (I can’t see in the dark, this chamber pot smells bad) to preventing problems we don’t have yet.

There are, but you need to remove personal cult from the filter. Musk did not design the rockets or come up with the idea of electric car – he cleverly positions himself as the technology guru running whole factories with his own hands but in fact it’s a massive effort to hide the names of people who created his products and avoid giving them any credit.
> he cleverly positions himself as the technology guru running whole factories with his own hands but in fact it’s a massive effort to hide the names of people who created his products and avoid giving them any credit.

Musk is quick to give credit to his employees if you’ve actually heard him talk. Also I in no way men to imply that he did anything single handed.

>Musk is quick to give credit to his employees

to whom, for example? And it’s true i dont listen to his talks, maybe i missed important details.

I don’t judge, just state the fact that he will not let any of his employees take even smallest piece of the show. Everything is about Elon Musk and only him, no one else is allowed to speak or show any achievement – anonymous bunch of idiots who can’t even run factory without Musk showing everyone how to do their job. And they would apparently be nothing without the self proclaimed genius. Sorry I thought it only happens in North Korea but I was wrong.
We have some uninformed judgment here, don’t you think? Btw I have heard enough of Musk talk to know what’s on the show. Don’t need to listen to it anymore.
Apparently not, because you don’t know that he gives credit to his employees. You also say he calls himself a genius, but I’ve never heard him say that – although technically he may well be. Certainly he’s well above average intelligence to teach himself rocket science.

You have this opinion of him in your head and you’re just trying to say that’s the real Elon Musk. But it’s not, and you haven’t actually seen enough of him to know that. It’s a strong opinion held in ignorance – which is something the world could use less of.

That’s true i haven’t seen him give credit to anyone but himself. We can agree here that he’s a master of self promotion.
“incredibly hard real engineering challenges” like building a battery powered car?

A random list of real world innovations I can think of which are imo more impressive:

– Large Hadron Collider

– Multicompter. Had you expected 40 years ago the posibilities and commonness of camera drones or having hundreds of multicompter doing light shows?

– you mention dubious inovations in software world but why dismiss the hardware development. Chips smaller than what people 40 years ago thought is physically possible, stacking chips onto each other, quantum computer, filling hard drives with helium to make them more dense (something many people where skeptial about when it first came up), using heat to make hard drives store even more data, e-ink displays

– jetpacks

– improvements in robotics (most popular Boston Dynamics)

– nuclear fusion

– most recently: flying a helicopter on another planet

– maglev trains (but that kind of strech the 40 years range)

– mRNA-vaccins

– or e-bikes. Electic cars are revolutionary why not electric bicycles or planes. They are far from finished but solar powered planes exist. Is such a plane and the people working on it so much less impressive?

You are vastly underestimating how hard it is to build an electric car that people want to buy. Tesla very likely accelerated the adoption of electric cars by at least a decade.
As Peter Thiel said, we got the Star Trek handheld computer and nothing else from Star Trek.
I understand the sentiment of the parent post. All of the things you’ve described are cool, but aren’t exactly awe-inspiring feats of engineering.

I think the fact that Elon actually does take on these high-risk, high-difficulty challenges is what makes people so excited.

Its not that technological progress has stalled but that the outlook of people has stalled.
> I don’t understand this viewpoint

Well no wonder you don’t understand this viewpoint because what follows is a loud attempt to invalidating it by shouting it down with your own.

As if people pointing out what’s gone wrong with technology aren’t aware the internet and AirBnB exist.

The oceans are full of garbage and the planet is on the path to runaway global warming. There are bigger problems than expanding your gaming clique and titillating your need for consumption.

I think your point on zero-sum vs. positive-sum is illuminating. Innovation is positive-sum. When games are perceived as positive-sum, people collaborate. When games are perceived as zero-sum, people compete. Changing the perception – not even the game itself! – has implications for how effectively people work together.
> Changing the perception – not even the game itself! – has implications for how effectively people work together.

It also has other implications. If you change the perception of reality, while reality remains the same, you’re creating a deception. Eventually people will see through the facade, and then you’re worse off than before.

With a sufficiently strong feedback loop, it very much is.

For example, to the extent our aggregate perspective on the future influences our market decisions now (and by “our” I mean everyone, including the political and industrial leadership), we can pretty much state outright that our outlook on the future will determine the severity of climate challenges ahead. Markets are as good in being affected by hard reality as they’re good at amplifying our collective delusions and making the reality conform.

What I noticed is that the really cool scifi novels sort of disappeared.

The ones I remember that filled me with wonder were rendezvous with rama, gateway, ringworld, asimov’s robots, etc.

Somehow they were replaced with more dystopian cyberpunk stuff.

I also think franchises like star wars/star trek sucked a lot of mindshare (steady paycheck vs independent writing). And fantasy has changed… lots of urban werewolf/vampire stuff.

(I don’t know, maybe crappy stuff like this happens in all eras and I’ve forgotten the unimportant stuff from then)

I wonder if this has sort of stunted the growth of our imagination.

Perhaps it’s the average buying power of US citizens. People today aren’t able to afford as comfortable a life in the important things as their parents despite all the new tech, so what use is all the dreaming.
Maybe idle dreaming has been replaced by “more stuff to do”.

And I just thought — maybe reading has been replaced with scifi/fantasy “experiencing” like Halo or Skyrim or WoW

I don’t understand why people like hype, being realistic is more helpful than selling dreams. I prefer a pessimist researcher explaining why some things are really difficult and need a lots of work to achieve, or even saying some things might not be achievable, than someone claiming L5 self driving is coming next quarter
Investors and customers don’t pay for pessimistic explanations. They want someone to say it’ll happen and many people are okay paying for it then. Just take a look at kickstarter and things like Star Citizen. They still make huge money, six years past their planned release date. It’s also partly an identity thing. Many get so invested that driving a Tesla is part of their identity and lifestyle.
There’s a difference between a kickstarter product being delayed, and solving self driving. The first one you know it’s doable, for the second you only hope it’s doable.

I agree with the identity part, it’s more like a status symbol and hype feeds that.

I think there is a similarity, though. As a customer or buyer, you don’t know if Tesla will ever be able to do L5 self driving.

Neither does someone spending 1k dollars on items in a video game ever know if it’ll actually be done.

You can take a wild guess in both cases and for most kickstarter projects there might just be some normal hickups and delays.

People are still willing to shell out a lot of money based on some promises, because of “wanting to be involved” or part of that lifestyle.

Pessimism is weirdly addictive. It is a king size chocolate muffin of the soul.

Also, people reward pessimists by paying them attention. We are always more ready to hear bad news. It makes evolutionary sense, but, similar to said sugary muffin, it can be easily overdone, especially with technology ready to serve you large amounts of pessimism every waking hour.

We’ve seen massive innovations since the 1980s.

This nostalgic pessimism seems to be exactly the kind of pessimism you’re complaining about

>prognosis becomes self fulfilling

It’s not self fulfilling if it’s accurate to begin with. I assume that what you are trying to say is that they became to pessimistic at the dismal state of affairs and “gave up”. But that is not the case at all. Our progress as a species is faster than ever in every account and that is the problem, we are going very fast an the errors we make have larger consequences as a result an we have less and less time to fix them.

The first step to solve a serious problem is to diagnose it correctly. You cannot lie yourself out of a bad situation. The “relativist” as you call them or “realist” as I prefer to call them did their contribution by identifying the problems and setting up a framework to do so going forward, now is up to the rest of society to solve them. That is perfectly within our grasp if we stop pointing fingers at each-other and get to work.

I see this thrown up regularly and often the poster implies that everyone knows why wage growth separated from economic growth. You’ve alluded to monetary policy, so in this case I guess inflation.

It’s a lot more complicated than that. Up until the 1970s unions were incredibly powerful and this was coupled with labour friendly “full-employment” policies. People still argue over exactly what triggered the inflation, but it’s clear (at least in my reading) that this was a rare period were labour held sufficient negotiations power to claim it’s share of productivity growth.

What follows is known as the revolt of capital, where for many reasons, including the inflation, it became impossible for return on capital to keep up with the printing press.

Then begins a continuing period of dismantling of labor’s power through union busting, policy, and globalization. Fundamentally, labour lost it’s negotiating power, and hence it’s claim to wage growth. Inflation was merely a driver of change.

Yes, there is much more besides the change away from the gold standard in ’71. For example, starting ’73 congress got electronic voting; since then, becoming more accountable to those who observe and influence them. With the 401k introduction in ’78, retirement money was directed to the stock market, reshaping main street investment for decades. In ’80, software became expressly copyrightable, opening the frontier of intellectual property. It’s a history novel, not a single cause or effect. Our legal/business environment is under constant change, every year transforming the civil game that is our economy.
Great charts but unfortunately the site is hawking Bitcoin! Newsflash: some faux limited supply monopoly money is not sound currency. In fact there is no place in the world where Bitcoin is used a general currency. None.
I believe this article completely ignores the product side of the story. Elon doesn’t pitch, he builds. His products are significantly better than market alternatives, with a steady momentum of improvement over time. In the unofficial biography there’s the story of how Tesla pulled an unlikely funding from Daimler. The Daimler executives visiting Tesla were unimpressed, skeptical and bored to death by the PowerPoints. Then the Tesla team took them for a ride in the electrified Smart they had built in a hurry. All the executives stepped out of it with a smile. The check arrived later. It was about the product, not the “save the earth” narrative.
My cognitive dissonance is strong when it comes to Elon. I have trouble sometimes reconciling the obvious flaws in his character on the one hand (though none of us are without flaws) and his extraordinary achievements on the other.

He can be a bit of a dick, yes. He exaggerates, yes.

He’s also in my view one of the most talented and inspirational entrepreneurs of our generation.

I don’t see how people can call him an outright fraud with a straight face when you look at what he has delivered through Tesla and SpaceX.

But he seems to elicit strong polarised opinions. And I get it. Lot’s of noise about FSD, his constantly slipping timelines etc.

I guess it depends what you choose to focus on.

He might be a very effective marketer and manager, but he gets credit for so so much more than that. Like he singlehandedly made electric cars a thing. It’s the Great Man theory of history.

Even then, effective marketing are often lies, so why value effective marketing? Effective management is so often toxic, so why value effective management? As far as I can tell, he’s full of BS and his employees are treated poorly, so I really don’t care so much that he’s first to market.


> As far as I can tell, he’s full of BS

This is the sort extreme polarised view I was referring to. All I can say is NASA doesn’t agree with you on this.

The problem is, if you go straight to “he’s full of BS” it just kills all sensible debate. He’s clearly not full of BS. He’s delivering astronauts to the Space Station via his “startup”. This is not something someone “full of BS” achieves.

You’re misunderstanding what I mean. Very uncharitably, if you think I somehow missed the fact he’s delivering astronauts to the ISS and delivering cars. For god’s sake, I agreed with you that he’s very effective! You’re seeing a much more “extreme polarized” statement that I wrote.

I’m not saying every single thing he says is BS, like he’s going around saying the sky is green and up is down. Just that he says a whole lot of shit that isn’t true also.

> He’s delivering astronauts to the Space Station via his “startup”. This is not something someone “full of BS” achieves.

Great! What are the margins? Most likely terrible because you have to build real stuff.

You know who ISN’T full of bullshit? Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg.

They just STFU, present modest outlook to set the stage for the company to knock it out of the park Quarter after quarter.

I could care less about the rockets, the truth is in the boring numbers, not the showmanship

He can be an impressive engineer and entrepreneur while also being a jerk. I think it’s ok to condemn his behaviors when they’re out of line while also admiring the progress him and his companies have made in the industries they’ve targeted.
I feel like I’ve seen this before. A man is a relentless and masterful self-promoter, encourages a very public cult of personality, and puts out what are broadly considered superior products from his companies. He’s also an egotistical prick.

It’s the Steve Jobs approach.

I think it’s political tribalism more than anything else? It’s become more clear after this SNL thing.

On Twitter people on the left claim vaguely that Elon is bad and why is SNL doing this etc.

People on the right say Elon is great and SNL is normally unfunny.

In the former case I think it’s just because people associate Elon with the right for some reason.

The latter is easier to understand since a lot of SNL’s humor is explicitly political (not in a bad way imo).

Part of me wonders if the irreverent tweets were an intentional way to broaden his appeal. He needed EVs to go from “liberal” Prius symbols about the environment to cool.

That’s a Herculean task when you think about it. Even now there are still coal rolling truck drivers yelling at EVs, but the sentiment has definitely changed in a positive way.

He did this without having to embrace trump (unlike Thiel for instance).

I think his biggest miss was on covid, but he seems to agree that he was wrong.

I suspect a part of the left dislike is also around the progressive anti-billionaire/anti-capitalist sentiment, it makes Elon an easy “enemy”.

Putting all this aside and looking at what he’s building – it’s an exciting time to be alive. Most companies are fairly dull doing fairly dull things. Elon takes huge risks to try to pull the future down earlier. For the most part, he succeeds.

I think Elon’s association with the right is largely due to his dudebro persona. He’s what you get if you gave your average Rogan listener billions of dollars, a deep well of conviction, and an exceptional mind.

Among the political commentariat on the left, this kind of person is a Neanderthal that should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

For a lot of people on the outside of that demographic, he’s just a fun, brilliant, if occasionally douchy guy who’s way less out of touch than his billionaire contemporaries, and actually works to build neat things.

> “ For a lot of people on the outside of that demographic, he’s just a fun, brilliant, if occasionally douchy guy who’s way less out of touch than his billionaire contemporaries, and actually works to build neat things.”

Yeah – this is basically my take, and stated better than I did in my comment.

It is more that Elon does not associate himself with fashionable left wing causes. No kneeling photo-ops in SpaceX headquarters, no programs tailored to recruit specifically non-Asian non-whites etc.

In contemporary culture, that is enough to be considered right wing. Neutrality slowly ceased to be an option.

There are literally photo ops in spacex hqs! And a very publicized program dedicated to hiring engineers of color, and women. Whatever you might think of spacex, for the aerospace industry its batshit insane left wing (in this case mostly because of Gwynn Shotwell)
> I suspect a part of the left dislike is also around the progressive anti-billionaire/anti-capitalist sentiment, it makes Elon an easy “enemy”.

He IS an easy enemy in this regard, not only to the left. All his (mis)behaviour, naming his child like that, manipulating currency rates through tweets, that’s not exactly what average people could afford. If he didn’t fit this stereotype of billionaire, I’m sure he would be liked more.

The child name thing seemed more likely Grimes than Elon?

Even so I just don’t think these things are a big deal? I also don’t agree with the anti-billionaire/anti-capitalist sentiment though.

It’s just odd to me given how much he’s done to aid the transition to EVs and renewable energy. I guess it’s not a huge surprise, people are wildly inconsistent around tribal issues.

This is the same thing people said about Trump. “Maybe he said X crazy thing as part of a masterplan to…”

I’ve got bad news for you. There is no secret plan that explains the irrational behavior.

Just because it’s obviously false when it comes to Trump, doesn’t mean it’s false all of the time.

Also Elon’s behavior isn’t that serious (and he’s not POTUS).

I didn’t realize how good Teslas had gotten until I had the chance to spend significant time in one. Their insane acceleration was always apparent, but they’ve gotten really good in other ways as well.

They’ve had a chance to do a clean sheet rethinking of cars, and it works wonderfully well. If you have your phone on you, you just walk up to the car and the door is unlocked and on by the time you touch it. There’s no “start” button, you just press the brake, push the mode stalk to drive or reverse, and go. When you walk away, the car locks itself silently and turns off. Depending on whose key it depends, the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors are adjusted by the time you sit down.

There’s no “idling” to keep the AC on, so there’s no guilt about doing it. They’ve recently added a very efficient heat pump that shares loops with the battery so the heat doesn’t drain much, either. We spent an hour in the car with AC on recently, it used about 1 mile of range.

I thought I’d hate the touchscreen controls, but what I didn’t realize was that you generally don’t need to use them while driving. Wipers and climate are automatic and work well, so there’s no real need to adjust them. The voice control is incredibly good, and seems to have access to almost every non-driving setting. Press a button on the steering wheel, and speak “Set wipers to auto”, “I’m cold”, “Play Spanish Moon by Little Feat”, “Navigate home”. They all work as you’d expect.

Jury is still out on “autopilot”, lane following and dynamic cruise control are fine, but the onscreen world representation (cars, especially) is very jittery. I guess not too surprising, it’s a DNN making guesses about the state of the world, but I’m surprised there’s not a more persistent context vector between states. If it’s very sure about a car being there in frames 1-10, it should really not expect that car to just blip out of existence in frame 11.

But overall, I’m extremely impressed, and I think I’ll have a hard time going back to cars by traditional automakers. The impression is of a holistic design that’s extremely well integrated, rather than the impression of a hodge podge of poorly integrated new and old systems that I’ve gotten with any car with an “infotainment” system that I’ve ever used.

I have been driving two Teslas over the last few years. I find that their voice recognition to be roughly 75-85% accurate. More important, the manuals for the cars have not correctly described operation of voice commands for over a year. This speaks volumes to the software culture at Tesla. If you can’t make the code conform to the documentation, you really can’t trust the code.
I’ve had my Model X for almost three years now. I find the voice control to be almost completely unusable. Seems to be something about my voice, though I have a fairly typical American accent so I’m not sure what. I demonstrated the issue to a technician when I took it in for unrelated service, thinking it might be a faulty microphone, but it worked fine for him.

Definitely one of the most disappointing features of the car, which I generally love driving.

True, discoverability via docs needs work. But looks like lots of users have picked up the slack there.
Nothing that the users do will correct a company culture that actually has the wrong way to operate the car described in its manuals. This is the kind of communication that pervades the company, top to bottom. I don’t know if they fail to understand how their cars work, or if they deliberately exaggerate.
Ah I thought that you meant the commands weren’t listed. What are they incorrectly describing? I’ve seen some other examples of this (notably, the getting started tutorials mention getting to the manual via a Tesla T at the top of the touchscreen, which has gone missing).
Model X Owners Manual October 2020 (2020.44) manual, page 53 — and the corresponding page in the Model S Owners Manual. Tesla changed the operation of their voice command button around December of 2019. The manual describes two ways to signal a complete command has been vocalized — but only one truly works. Since the ‘update notes’ are extremely sparse, there was never a hint in the car’s instrument cluster explanation of the update, that Tesla had removed the protocol for invoking the voice commands.

If Tesla will ‘forget’ to tell you that a feature is removed, or changed, then expect similar behavior around edge conditions for FSD if it ever materializes. For example, a number of different protocols could be added, tried, removed revolving around contention at 4-way stop signs. If the update notes are silent on FSD adopted behavior, a lot of annoyance and potential hazards will be created.

Have you actually driven new comparably priced cars by “traditional automakers”? There’s not many things where Tesla is actually significantly ahead Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
It’s hard to give a fair evaluation of whether something is good when there is no suitable comparison.

The rest of the car industry is starting to get a clue and catch up, but the Model S had no comparable competition when it came out. It wasn’t like trading a few dollars or features for a Lexus vs. the same class of Mercedes, the Model S created its own class.

And SpaceX is the same story. It vastly changed the space launch landscape, and isn’t done yet. Falcon 9 has no real competition until Vulcan has a successful launch. Falcon Heavy’s only competition is Delta IV Heavy, which is at the end of its life and all remaining launches are booked. Starship and Super Heavy could maybe be compared to SLS, but that’s kind of insulting when you consider the budget and track record of both programs.

I guess my point is that while Elon does over-promise and doesn’t have a perfect hit rate, the main products have still really embarrassed the established players in each industry.

Vulcan and Falcon 9 does not compete in the same league. Vulcan exists as a backup choice for the US government to have guaranteed access to space. All commercially relevant features regarding reusability to get the costs even close to Falcon 9 have been shelved for years. For example the “SMART Reuse” they touted when announcing the rocket.
He may promise the stars but does deliver the moon. i am just waiting to see who else is even delivering the moon.
Yeah it’s really good. Yes, he also exaggerates (or more accurately I think is too ambitious about timelines).

It makes him miss sometimes, but it also is the reason SpaceX is where it is and they can turn around a rocket insanely quickly.

He sets crazy goals and even their “failures” are still 10x better than the rest of the market.

His plan for the company’s future is clear. The roadster -> S -> 3 worked, building out the charger network worked, the other vehicles and best-in-class software were really a bonus.

During all of this the competition and the press ranged from ignoring them to directly hostile.

People complained about why charging was less viable than gas for years, Tesla built out the charging network and fixed it.

Dealerships in the US fought for their rent seeking protections and local power – tesla fought them and won.

I think when nearly everyone is driving an EV within the next 20 years, people will look back on that NYT story where they intentionally killed the battery so they could have a cover story of a model S on a tow truck and will recognize it for what it was.

Those self-landing Falcon rockets don’t impress you? Those capabilities sounded like exaggerated concepts not too long ago. Tesla cars and solar — truly helping humanity move from fossil fuels (truly like in reality, at large scale), and now StarLink… Yeah, I’d say his outcomes are pretty good.

Musk makes Jobs and Gates look like under-achievers.


The staff at Spacex impress the hell out of me. Likewise at Apple. Sure, Jobs, Musk, et al are catelising figures, but please …

I’ve watched a decent amount of Jobs interviews, and I think you are down-playing the importance of this effect. He was a jerk, but he could spot talent, feverishly go after it, and then allow it to shine by giving it some of the most impactful problems that humanity is facing. Somehow he was able to wield a big company like most people could only handle small companies.

I don’t know how many people have this skill, and you first require to have a ton of capital at hand to make use of it, but of the people in the world who have that capital this skill seems rather rare.

Quite. When he said on SNL “I re-invented electric cars”, I thought yes, you and 1000s of very smart engineers at Tesla did, not you alone.

The leaders at the top of these companies get way too much credit for “having the vision”. The vision too mostly likely came from many individuals who are not in the limelight and don’t have the connections nor the cash.

Musk otherwise comes across as vulgar and insecure.

I used to get bothered by this as well, but you’ve got to get over it. Most of the time the thousands of people don’t want to be in the limelight and it is better for the product/company to have a good and smart leader out there touting it without saying every single time that actually they didn’t do that much and Bill and Mary and Chloe and 500 other people actually did all the work.

Look, we all know Musk and other CEOs didn’t invent these products/ideas on their own but storytelling is a big part of leadership.

Those rockets impress me, but Elon Musk did not construct them. The NASA (and also the soviet union) managed to do equally great things without someone like him in past.

> Tesla cars — truly helping humanity move from fossil fuels

It would be much more effective to use bicycle and trains wherever possible, and drive small cars otherwise. But wait … that’s not luxurious enough. Saving the world is just an excuse for cool cars.

> and now StarLink

… to make the last corner of the world addicted to the internet and pay money to Musk.

The true achievement is not the capability of the rockets, it is the huge reduction in cost compared to government contracts. This is even excluding the reusability.

The development costs for Falcon 9 v1.0 were approximately US$300 million, and NASA verified those costs. If some of the Falcon 1 development costs were included, since F1 development did contribute to Falcon 9 to some extent, then the total might be considered as high as US$390 million.[14][2]

NASA also evaluated Falcon 9 development costs using the NASA‐Air Force Cost Model (NAFCOM)—a traditional cost-plus contract approach for US civilian and military space procurement—at US$$3.6 billion based on a NASA environment/culture, or US$$1.6 billion using a more commercial approach.[15][14]

Cited from…

We were never talking about costs, we were talking about how visionary Elon Musk is. However, while it’s great if money is saved, again: is it really the achievement of Elon Musk, or would any private company be able to hold down costs?
“would any private company be able to hold down costs?”

Most space startups died without ever reaching orbit. One of the reasons why SpaceX has such a reputation is precisely that it stands so far apart from its competition.

Nobody was working on self landing rockets. Nobody was working on electric cars.

We’d be waiting another 10 years for what we have today.

You figure Tesla would be the in the world’s top 10 companies by market cap today if Musk hadn’t invested and run it, and the company was still run my Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard?

I mean…it’s hard to prove a negative, but just to mention one of the tens of critical moments along the way, I have a hard time seeing how someone less ruthless than Musk would have saved them from bankruptcy in 2008.

Another obvious juncture was the whole thing about building a battery factory costing more than the company’s market cap a few years prior, doubling the world’s battery production capacity…

No, I don’t, but I also don’t really consider him a founder, nor was he the first to have any interest in electric cars (as the OP intimated).
This is simply a myth being propagated to detract Musk’s early involvement in Tesla. It simply would not be the Tesla we know today without his involvement.

Musk simply led all funding rounds up to series C, was employee number 4, chairman of the board and took an extremely active role in the company before becoming the CEO. He and the first five employees are “co-founders” agreed to in court by Eberhard which is the one of the guys you are talking about.

A lawsuit settlement agreed to by Eberhard and Tesla in September 2009 allows all five (Eberhard, Tarpenning, Wright, Musk and Straubel) to call themselves co-founders.[11],_Inc.#The_beg…

Thanks for pointing out he had to go to court and buy out the original founders to be called a co-founder.

I absolutely agree he has been instrumental to Tesla’s success since he joined as employee number 4 and then took over, but he didn’t start the company and the statement that nobody was interested in or working on electric cars is factually untrue though nobody else managed to bring them to the mass market before Musk.

Where was Ford, Toyota, GM’s progress on electric cars? Where are all the other startups that started at the same time as Tesla?

Do you think Tesla would be where it’s at today if Musk didn’t get involved? How many times did Tesla almost die?

over 100,000 Toyota Prius were sold in 2016. Tesla is likely to be the top company in the electric vehicle space for quite some time. but to act like they invented the market and no one else was working on it is just silly. it’s like saying that Bill Gates invented computers
I’m not being literal when I say “nobody was working on electric cars”.

If you need to me to clarify it: the scale and rate of progress in EV was severely accelerated by Tesla. ICE auto companies had no incentive to develop electric. The space was unprofitable, had many technical challenges.

Well, what other private company is launching rockets at the pace and cost of SpaceX? Some are trying!
I love trains, and would love to see proper high speed rail in the US, but let’s be honest, that’s primarily a political problem, and I don’t expect to see it within the next 30 years.
I’m living in Europe, and the situation seems better over here. While going by car is cheaper and faster in most cases, train is not much worse.

At least Biden seems to be a supporter of the railway. But it could go faster if you’d build tracks instead of tunnels with Teslas.

Both can be true. SpaceX had the first reusable first stage, and Tesla provided large improvements in electric vehicles.

Maybe those wouldn’t have been possible for someone lacking the confidence/exaggeration of Elon Musk at the helm of the companies.

The space shuttle boosters were reusable. It had a reusable first and second stage other than the tank.
Yes but they were working with first of its kind technology from ~50years ago and could launch 7 astronauts. That it was expensive doesn’t make SpaceX first.
The cost is literally the entire point of reusability, though. In case of Space Shuttle, the reusability of orbiter module achieved very little – between inspections and fixups of the orbiter, rebuilding SSME, building new external tanks, and expensive refurbs of the SRBs (where it was arguably cheaper to build new ones – a dip in salt water is very bad for rockets), the whole program was so expensive that the US would’ve been better off launching people in throwaway return capsules on regular rockets.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is actually landing the rocket in upright position. No salt water dip. The whole rocket is so cheap and procedure is so normalized that by this point, most people have lost count as to how many flights a given F9 first stage already had. I think they’ve already flown at least one booster 6 times. This is how true reusability looks like – saving money, increasing cadence, and well on its way towards the ultimate goal: being able to land a rocket, refuel it, and launch it again, all within couple hours at most.

Cost is not the entire point of reusability, especially the first to substantially pull it off (Space Shuttle). Demonstrating and developing the technology is part of it too. Starship for example will use ceramic tiles, not identical with, but still proved out by Space Shuttle, which used them first.

You are also comparing amortized program cost of space shuttle and not final marginal cost (around $450million per launch at 7 astronaut capacity and higher payload capacity).

There’s “reusable” and then there’s reusable. For the most part the shuttle was reusable in name only.
Falcon 9 is a huge deal. The combo of capabilities and price tag is unique in the entire space industry.

Prior to advent of Falcon 9 Block 5, people would automatically associate “big rockets” with “extremely expensive”.

You should define “better” carefully. Even today, there is no Tesla vehicle that comes close to, e.g., a Toyota Camry/Prius on the cost per mile front once you account for depreciation and maintenance.
This is a fair point. If your definition of “better” is raw kilometers per unit cost for a four-wheeled vehicle which can seat four adults, then a string of 5-year-old Hyundais is probably nigh unbeatable.
Just curious, do you have numbers to support this?

If you purchased a model 3 with both state and federal rebates a year or two ago, in a number of states the short range RWD model was the sticker price of a nice civic. And Biden has frequently floated massive tax breaks for EV purchases to come….

The maintenance is extremely infrequent and cost of travel per mile is cheap for electric, like an order of magnitude cheaper than a typical consumer car, not sure about a Prius.

Depreciation is definitely in teslas favor- the cars hold their value incredibly well compared to most every other vehicle…

I notice you mention -state rebates -federal rebates -massive tax breaks

which makes it sound like government subsidies are the equalizer, not the engineering at Tesla.

Not at all. The engineering at Tesla makes a civic / Prius look like a child’s toy.. I brought up the tax rebates because ‘cost of ownership’ was the metric discussed, and taxes are certainly involved with that for any EV since the gov incentivized ownership.

The max rebate was ~7k if you lived in California and were on the first wave of federal credits I think? And the difference between a model 3 and a civic / Prius is way more than 7k, although that is subjective. Cost of ownership is objective.

> If you purchased a model 3 with both state and federal rebates a year or two ago, in a number of states the short range RWD model was the sticker price of a nice civic. And Biden has frequently floated massive tax breaks for EV purchases to come….

I am referring to today. There are no federal tax incentives right now for Tesla.

> The maintenance is extremely infrequent and cost of travel per mile is cheap for electric, like an order of magnitude cheaper than a typical consumer car, not sure about a Prius.

Maintenance is infrequent for a reliable gas vehicle as well. Things like new tires, AC repairs are common for both. As for fueling costs, the difference in essentially any state between a hybrid vehicle (Camry hybrid) and an electric one (Tesla model 3) doesn’t exceed 5 cents per mile – I used WA as an extreme point with respect to the gas/electricity differential for this calculation. Thus over 60000 miles the fueling cost is only $3000 in favor of the electric vehicle. In most states it will be significantly lower. This number will also reduce if one uses the supercharger network frequently.

> Depreciation is definitely in teslas favor- the cars hold their value incredibly well compared to most every other vehicle…

Nope. I used and . Depreciation rates are virtually identical.

Adding things up, the difference of $3000 isn’t even close to being offset by the higher sticker price for the Tesla.

As for rebates: my point was there was a time and likely will be another where the sticker price drops significantly.

As for maintenance: after having owned and worked on multiple ICE cars and now a model 3, the maintenance is night and day.. way less frequent with a model 3, and way fewer consumable parts.

As for fuel cost: I didn’t realize you were pitching a hybrid Camry, my discussion was comparing to pure ICE vehicles, haven’t looked at hybrid costs. I spend about 1/3rd in fuel costs and drive often so it added up very quickly.

As for depreciation: that appears to be a generic calculator, and you entered something above $40k for a model 3 which is just under $40k rn without rebates, which obviously exist and shouldn’t be ignored. Look around online, it is widely known that certain vehicles hold their value over time better than others, typically Jeep Wranglers, some trucks, popular mod platforms, all teslas that don’t have a salvage title. This is speaking from experience shopping for the aforementioned vehicles and being a car guy. Generic depreciation calculators are useful for tax purposes, not projecting consumer resale value.

Anyways, this doesn’t even take into effect that the m3 is awesome compared to a Prius / Camry. there’s a middle ground between our opinions, but the model 3 is more affordable than people think.

as long as we ignore the CO2 dumped by Camry/Prius and its cohorts across the industry causing existential crisis hey they will beat others on cost/mile.
Tesla also has a carbon footprint. I won’t deny that it is lower, but it isn’t some “order of magnitude” improvement over a hybrid vehicle. Rather, it is approximately 35%:…

If you really want to go down this route and account for this externality, you should calculate the cost of carbon capture. Costs of carbon capture are around $100 per metric tonne. The above link suggests a differential of around 6-10 tonnes of C02 in favor of the Tesla over a hybrid. This amount to an extra $1000 in favor of the Tesla. Once again, this doesn’t change my point about cost per mile at all.

Note that it’s not a 35% improvement/decrease, it’s a 65% decrease, or put another way, 1/3 the emissions. It’s not an order of magnitude, but a factor of 3 ain’t bad, and CO2 from battery pack production will get better as the energy sources used get cleaner. Also, it looks like they’re assuming a car lifetime of 250k km, which I think is pretty conservative for these. They also assumed a linear decrease in CO2 in power generation, which they say is a conservative assumption, and I agree. A number of their other assumptions lean on the conservative side, I assume for being more defensible, so I’d be somewhat surprised if the real difference isn’t a good bit larger.
This is a huge point – promoters works up until a point – but eventually you have to deliver on the promise or people walk.

Somehow, Elon delivers on damn near all his major promises (with delays and whatnot, but stil)

Elon is great at setting ambitious goals and later changing them to be less ambitious.

He gets hype from initial goals, and rarely he’s being hold accountable for what’s actually delivered.

And quite a few products he delivered are really cool, not gonna deny it. But they are nowhere close to what they were hyped to be.

This is because his initial promises are so completely unbelievable that even getting in the same ballpark is an amazing accomplishment.

Barring a couple of obvious outliers (looking at you, FSD) he’s typically within an order of magnitude of his completely insane predictions. Line that performance up against anyone else and the difference is stark.

What insane predictions?

SpaceX landing rockets? It’s really cool, but no one reasonable said you cannot land rockets. People questioned if it’s worth it. And this question still remains – they massively overestimated size of the market (they were planning to have launches weekly or more often). Instead they have rare commercial launches and they use it for internal project, that has also lots of questions about profitability. But it successfully kicks can down the road.

Electric car wasn’t questioned if it’s possible (expect for some freaks). And first mass market EV wasn’t even from them. Leaf (with its many flaws) until not long ago was best selling EV combined. It was questioned if you can make in a way that profit, range and scale can meet. And Tesla still struggles at all of them.

Boring tunnels? Look at the tunnel in Las Vegas and tell me with a straight face that this is a future of transportation.

> It’s really cool, but no one reasonable said you cannot land rockets. People questioned if it’s worth it.

Not true.

> And this question still remains – they massively overestimated size of the market (they were planning to have launches weekly or more often).

No it doesn’t. Even launching less often it would have been worth it.

And of course they did it the first time only a few years ago, the impact of dropping prices in launch are only really now starting to impact the industry.

They are launching every 1-2 weeks. If SpaceX didn’t do Starlink there would be 4-5 other companies wanting create such constellations. Many other large constellations are in planning.

> But it successfully kicks can down the road.

It made something possible that wasn’t possible before and that was the whole point.

> Boring tunnels? Look at the tunnel in Las Vegas and tell me with a straight face that this is a future of transportation.

Its amazing how people look at the first prototype of something and make judgment. The first roadster was a not really a great car. The Falcon 1 wasn’t really that great a rocket.

If you said about the Falcon 1 ‘this is the future of rocketry’? No, Starship is where the whole development has lead to.

Boring company public infrastructure company that is 5 years old and born out of a basically a hobby project. And they already done quite a bit in that time and are winning competitive bids for other projects. Most companies that want to build transportation infrastructure spend decades in project planning.

Based on first principle you try to figure out the right solution. Then start building prototype and product and improve them significantly with each generation. What matters is speed of innovation and having the right conceptual idea.

> no one reasonable said you cannot land rockets

No-one said it was physically impossible. Nobody thought it was a valid business plan, though. And these days I don’t know of any credible concerns about SpaceX’s profitability even if Starlink doesn’t pan out.

> Electric car wasn’t questioned if it’s possible

No-one questioned if it was possible to make an EV of some description. What was questioned was whether it was practical to make an EV more desirable than an ICE. Tesla wouldn’t be struggling with scaling issues if they weren’t wildly successful. All of a sudden EVs winning drag races is handwaved as “but of course they won, they’re EVs” where 2-3 years ago it would have been inconceivable.

> Boring tunnels?

TBH I’d forgotten about the whole tunneling thing. When I said ‘insane predictions’ I was talking about the impossible predictions re. FSD.

Who do you want to compare with? I don’t know that many famous people that make completely unbelievable predictions that don’t pan out, do you have any examples?
How about his promise to solve the Flint water crisis for any home above FDA levels? Promise to manufacture ventilators? Promise to return to the Thailand cave and demonstrate his submarine will work? Solar roof tiles delivered by slowly growing them to near the size of traditional panels, and not in anyway cheaper than a normal roof. Promise to build a rollercoaster with a loop made with cars on rails and frozen yogurt stands if employees don’t unionize? Vegas Loop delivery vs what was sold initially? Promise to deliver proof of his claims against Unsworth?
Elon is a personality, what the author gets right is he sets out by identifying the vision for the organisation, this helps to align the employees and customers in a way no corporate does (i.e especially not his competitors). Most corporate visions are poorly put together and sound similar “we want to do well to make our shareholders richer”. Elon’s vision involves humanity in its success, this is a unique differentiator. Elon has worked on building a controversial personal brand and as a result also put his companies in the lime light for free. Tesla and Spacex own a significant percent of the news today in their respective categories. He has disrupted corporate communications from the old faceless corporate PR to a champion of and relatable corporate personality.
> Elon’s vision involves humanity in its success

That sounds complicated. Let’s test that ideal against something simple and practical.

If Elon’s vision involves humanity in its success, then why don’t Tesla’s EV chargers charge all brands of EV?

It is not as complicated as fitting defeat devices to diesel vehicles and lying about emissions repeatedly. I hardly see the value of your comment. Is it Elon’s and Teslas responsibility to work with old-guard car manufacturers to ensure compatibility? Anyway I think you mistake the purpose of a vision.
So no room for humanity, just Tesla buyers. Those ideals didn’t last long.

Having a balkanized charging infrastructure is a stupid outcome for everyone. I can fuel my ICE vehicle at any fueling station and I should be able to charge my EV at any charging station. Anything less just makes EVs worse.

The charging infrastructure is a competitive advantage. Tesla is a business we are talking about capitalism. You can charge your EV at home, you won’t need a fuelling station. That is progress.
> The charging infrastructure is a competitive advantage. You can charge your EV at home, you won’t need a fuelling station.

So on the one hand the charging infrastructure is a competitive advantage, but then you immediately undermine yourself by saying you don’t need it because you can charge at home. That seems confused.

> Tesla is a business we are talking about capitalism.

How quickly you’ve lost sight of that vision for humanity.

I don’t think you should pretend you live in a socialist society, progress is made with business and competition. Charging at home is your innovation to replace dependence on fuelling stations. The global super charger network is Teslas competitive advantage against incumbents, its just a simple business strategy and has proved to be a valuable asset. Have you considered the negative externalities of your ICE vehicle? Perhaps the children in the playground breathing in the exhaust fumes are too disconnected from you to care? Imagine if a shell or total decided to convert part of their fuel station franchise to EV Charger networks? High voltage charging could provide enough power to get you home and you can top ip there. Your frustration is probably because the only company that gets it is tesla. Owning any other EV is painful because the consortium based charging networks they created lack standards and maintenance to be relied on.

Thanks for your reply, you see competition is working.

The pandemic has definitely accelerated progress in the EV space, many places had clean air for once. Unfortunately there are very few good EVs (dedicated platform and not based on a ICE) but that is changing. Like the Porsche Taycan and Jaguar iPace both good. So this new charger infrastructure is exciting. I don’t understand why you want to diagnose me. All businesses do marketing, i am not caught up on anything. This page is a conversation based on an article about Elon Musk. I do appreciate your responses and i accept diverse views but i think people will be studying what Elon, Tesla and SpaceX have done many years from now and also what Mercedes and Volkswagen did too. I do think we will see more innovation in EV charging and I don’t think the existing business models will last. Thanks for the links. Yes what BP is doing looks good.
When both his companies needed money desperately in 2008 Musk couldn’t raise it. He ended up leveraging his last penny of his own money to save both of them.

He’s raised lots of money, but only after he invested tons of his own to get a great product. And a great product sells itself.

The only significant money he raised before he had a working product was the initial NASA commercial cargo award. And that has nothing to do with being a master promoter. To win a NASA award requires a rock solid technical proposal.

> He ended up leveraging his last penny of his own money

I somehow think there was absolutely zero chance that Elon could have been ruined financially.

If he hadn’t been rich enough to do that, we’d probably all be talking about how he ran them into the ground (if we remembered him).
I guess the author forgot about the part where they developed rockets that are actually 10 years ahead of anyone else’s.
You don’t raise funds for such a risky endeavour without a fantastic narrative.

I don’t think they’re doubting that Musk is also capable of building a company that actually achieves results. Everybody knows this by now. I think the key argument is that he’s also a master promoter and that that skill is underappreciated compared to the engineering angle.

The way I read the article, it’s suggesting that if you start by to coming up with the best possible VC pitch for a moonshot business, and let everything follow from that, you’d get pretty close to Musk’s approach.

Elon is able to develop these things because he is using his own money. In the US at least, Congress, the media, and the public would never allow NASA to use public money to blow up a series of rockets in pursuit of a working design.

The recent test flights of Starship prototypes is a good example. No one knew for sure when Spacex would have the belly flop maneuver mastered, but as long as no one gets hurt and he spends his own money, no one cares. Next they have to master successful launch into space, successful booster recovery, successful orbital rendezvous and docking, successful lunar landing, successful long-term life support, and successful high speed atmospheric reentry. All of these are very daunting technical challenges for a totally new spacecraft.

When will the money run out?

> When will the money run out?

It won’t? They’ve secured a pretty good revenue stream with their satellite launch business + Starlink.

Which was the whole point of their satellite launch business and of Starlink, as outlined by Elon Musk years before SpaceX first landed a rocket.

This is what angers me about articles like this. Yes, SpaceX attracted lots of interest because of its ambitious mission statement. No, that mission statement wasn’t a bunch of empty statements like it typically is for most businesses. SpaceX is consistently following the path it outlined, the path from reusability, through launch business, pouring all the money into R&D for the ultimate goal of opening up access to Mars. I would’ve thought that after so many years, the skeptics would figure out the company is serious about it.

> Elon is able to develop these things because he is using his own money

Though an alternate narrative is he arguably used public money through government credits:

These opportunities to leverage government programs, some designed for people much further down the income ladder, have driven Musk throughout his career: The megabillionaire built his companies on the backs of enormous government subsidies, tax breaks, and exclusive contracts. A 2015 Los Angeles Times investigation estimated that Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX had together benefited from “$4.9 billion in government support.”…

// Note: Consider sources

These sorts of articles are just terrible journalism.

There are two different programs to help make transport more green. Tax credits for EV, Tesla took advantage of them and so did other companies. These credits clearly had the effect desired by the government of promoting EVs. The benefit went primary to consumers.

Then there are air quality credits that again apply to the whole market and every company has the opportunity to make money on a level playing field. I would think improving air quality is a good thing and they exact type of regulation the left is always in favor of.

SpaceX was private bootstrap and then received a government contract that required them to develop significant advanced spacecraft and launch it 20 times. SpaceX proposal was by far the cheapest and technologically the most advanced. Its not a subsidy its simply a government contract and not an exclusive one. Every single investigation done at NASA or GAO showed that this contract saved the government money.

This argument is flawed. By this logic we should see other companies using the same funds to achieve the same results.

Yet all we see is boeing and others gobbling up the same funds with no/bad results. No point in discussing EVs since there companies were actively against it.

I have long suspected that if he knows one thing, elon knows to keep his nose out of spaceX and just throw cash at it.
Elon spends nearly as much time at SpaceX as he does Tesla. There’s no question that Elon mucks in at the lowest levels of engineering at SpaceX.

If you want evidence from a reasonably neutral observer, take Sandy Munro (himself an engineer who has worked on everything from cars to aeroplanes). He recently interviewed Elon, ostensibly about Tesla but the interview was in a meeting room at SpaceX. After the interview he was invited to a two hour design review meeting and was “blown away” at Elon’s depth of involvement. (6:10 to 8:45)

Yes, I saw that interview and the follow up. He can talk very in-depth about the engineering of the cars as well but he is _Chief Engineer_ at SpaceX. I don’t think people quite understand this when they call him a businessman, promoter or marketing guru.
He is also _Techno-king_ at Tesla…

I have no ideas about the depth of his technical knowledge at both companies, but the titles themselves don’t hold much value when he gave them himself.

I have no doubt that Elon brings zero expertise to the table with regards to machine learning and automation. That’s certainly not his domain of expertise—which is more in the realm of science and physics.

In this respect I’d imagine he’s more akin to an overly excited tech geek who loves to obsess over the progress made by Andrej Karpathy and his team, but is otherwise leaving them alone to do their thing.

A friend of mine working down at Boca Chica on the starship says elon is there multiple times a week, and heavily involved. It’s well documented that he has been heavily involved at the engineering level in the past so I don’t see why he’d step back now.
That people still make this asinine argument shows that it has nothing to do with evidence and everything to do with people not liking the person and not wanting to give him credit because they don’t like him.
The subtext of this would seem to be that – in reality – the narrative is just an unsubstantive marketing device

I’m not convinced that’s the case with these companies – I think people really do start businesses to have an positive impact and those businesses being profitable is a necessary part of that (but of course many will use “changing the world” meaninglessly too!)

Trying to have a positive impact on the future certainly underpins the career decisions I make and project I work on, and I think the same is true for others I know who are lucky enough to make those choices

TFA is basically right. In a The Boring Company presentation, one of the lead engineers started to answer a question technically, then Musk stepped in and built an inspiring context within which to frame the question.

His role in his conpmanies, that is visible from the outside, is that of a promoter. He also put money up in the first place. And for all I know, he is personally a brilliant engineer – but there’s no evidence of that visible.

A Jobsian RDF. Jobs appreciated the technical aspects, inspired great work out of technical people – but didn’t invent anything himself.

This only captures half the equation.

The skills of creation and the skills of promotion seldom occur in the same person. Most great promoters are con artists; most creators and inventors can’t sell.

Elon Musk is a person with the promotional skills of a con artist but who actually knows how to do things. He can sell a vision and then also is a good enough engineer to make the right high level design choices and hire the right talent to have some chance of realizing it.

He also seems to have the intent of shipping. A good percentage of master promoters are conscious con artists with no desire to actually create value. (Most of the rest are delusional unconscious con artists.)

SpaceX has built the first economically reusable booster and is rapidly iterating on the first economically and fully reusable (including the second stage) heavy lift launch system. Tesla validated the market for EVs and is in many ways still the best EV maker. I strongly doubt the EV revolution would be happening so fast without Tesla.

The competence part is not even mentioned here. The world is full of master promoters. The vast majority of them sell snake oil.

I think OP is broadly correct but doesn’t specify cause and effect. Elon is not a master promoter who takes his companies and crafts compelling narratives around them. Instead, he begins with compelling ideas that he considers worth his while and then crafts his companies around them.

An adjacent concept you hear (from YC among others) is that big problems can actually be more likely to succeed than niche problems because they can more easily attract capital and talent.

>he begins with compelling ideas that he considers worth his while and then crafts his companies around them

Elon bought Tesla.

I remember on an podcast episode of Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s “Invest Like the Best”, his guest had mentioned the “villain test”.

Essentially, it is summarized as “looks good, feels good.” Whatever you’re selling should have a noble call to action (looks good) but also have a more visceral, primitive appeal (feels good).

This article has it backwards. Elon doesn’t start a company and then promote it with a world-saving narrative. He is trying to figure out how to preserve our species, and fearlessly building companies that will do that. The narrative is a derivative of this.

If you want to look at how Elon is effective in promotion, look at his demos: a Tesla in space, a monkey playing mind pong. Those are works of art, advertising, and genius.

If you want the earned media that Elon gets, here is the secret:

* figure out how to save the species from first principles

* be a good enough engineer to hire other very good ones

* build what needs building over many years at the risk of bankrupting yourself.

* come up with cool, highly visual and dramatic demos

Tesla is saving the world, but not by selling an increasing number of electric vehicles. Instead, they’ve been the largest seller of electric vehicle credits to other car manufacturers manufacturing electric vehicles [0][1]. In my honest opinion, if Teslas did not invest their efforts into self-driving vehicles (per vehicle costs for LIDAR and other technology, R&D costs, headcount, etc) their base offering for the Model 3 could actually be competitively priced with similar offerings by other car manufacturers. In addition, there would not be any deaths from people putting their faith into FSD/Autopilot (6 deaths as of this writing) [2].

In all fairness, governments should only allow these EV credits to be used by the original car manufacturer that gets them, and they should only give one EV credit per electric vehicle produced.




Say whatever you want about the effectiveness of autopilot and the self driving program, but you can’t just hang 6 deaths on autopilot. People are stupid and do stupid things. The absolute worst thing I can rationally say about autopilot is that it requires good judgement from the general populace, and that’s irrationally hopeful.

In 2016, at least 7 people had died from car surfing [0] their non-self-driving cars. Of course people are going to die using autopilot, just like people are going to die not using autopilot. People are dumb, and I’m including myself in that, too.


The white frame of the screen above the sink in my kitchen window is marred by giant bold black lettering warning screens don’t prevent children from falling out so keep your window closed.

I think about that when restarting my push lawn mower after I killed the engine by letting go of the safety cutoff handlebar to get a dangerous rock out of the way. Maybe its easier to just mow over the rock and hope it doesn’t get bashed my way.

And when trying to tape up boxes using the new 3M packing tape dispensers that only extend the cutting teeth if you sufficiently mash the dispenser against the box at an awkward angle. You can unscrew that lever and Sugru or epoxy the mechanism in normal cutting position, or never ever discard your 3M dispenser from before someone sued them.

What I think, though, is: This is why we can’t have nice things.

But look at seatbelts. Low annoyance, saved many many lives.

Some safety stuff is great. Some is annoying. How do you draw that line? Put a price per death at $1,000,000 and see if the change is worth it? Or if a human life is priceless, then we must always do all the safety changes.

I don’t think it’s quite as simple as blaming those who died for being stupid.

Autopilot’s capabilities are exaggerated by both Tesla and Musk to the point of being fraudulent. This leads many drivers to put too much faith and confidence in it.

In addition, the mechanism to detect that the driver is paying attention is overly simplistic and easily bypassed. They don’t even use weight-detection on the driver seat, despite the fact that the seats have the capability. Similarly, some of the other manufacturers have driver-facing cameras that further help ensure the seat is occupied. These are not complex mechanisms, and it is odd that Tesla does not have them.

You could make the argument that people will find a way to circumvent the mechanisms no matter what they are, but I don’t think that absolves Tesla of the responsibility to at least try a bit harder.

No.. Tesla is saving the planet by forcing market trends to accelerate very quickly. Prior to Tesla the only real electric car with market share was a Prius. Now every car manufacturer is fully bought in to electric, thanks to Tesla.
> Prior to Tesla the only real electric car with market share was a Prius. Now every car manufacturer is fully bought in to electric

You could say that about any first to market product. The first one who got serious market share must have caused everyone who followed, right? That’s not the simplest explanation.

This is amazingly true if you look at someone like VW’s annual report in 2011 and 2012… and the the S was released and then look at 2013.
So what? Elon Musk is a master promoter and sales grandmaster(according to Peter Thiel). What are the negative implications of these qualities?

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