Do not play gotcha games with @upulie, even if you are a billionaire

You all know I’m not a fan of Elon Musk — I think he’s something of a looter, a guy who’s good at PR (usually) and knows what bandwagons to leap upon. But lately he’s been working so hard to confirm all of my biases against him.

He announced a plan to fund a media watchdog site that would rank news sources…which is a fine idea, except that his criteria seemed to be self-serving. A news source that was critical of Elon Musk would be “fake news”, obviously. And then what happens? Musk endorses a propaganda site run by a sex cult.

But what really annoyed me was his ignorance and arrogance when he sneered at Upulia Divisekera because she studies nanotechnology.

So Upulie responded with a whole series of tweets outlining the importance of nanotechnology. But guess what? After his initial snipe, he just ignored her altogether. I think that means that she kicked his ass.

At least a nice summary of the Musk mythos emerged out of that mess.


  1. says

    Musk is slightly right if he’s stuck in ten years ago – in that “nanotechnology” the term was invented to push magical microscopic robot woo.

    In 2018 though, it’s materials science and getting more respectable as a term.

    On the @rationaliwiki twitter I ran our article on nanotech (cowritten by Armondikov, a chemist) past Upulie, she thought it was mostly OK. Improvements welcomed, hit “edit” :-)

  2. says

    To be fair, you don’t have to pay to join the Church of Elon. He sells actual cars and solar panels and what not, he doesn’t make you pay him to exorcise your Thetans. He spouts bullshit but it’s free. So Elon isn’t really like L. Ron, in that important sense. And when the underground cars don’t happen and people aren’t living on Mars, the facts will be evident.

    I don’t know about the economics of NASA hiring Space-X, but NASA’s rockets have always been built by private contractors, notably General Dynamics and Lockheed-Martin. I’m not sure what’s supposed to be radically different about Space-X, other than they’re taking over actually operating the machinery. But I don’t see anything obviously wrong with it. He’s at least fifty percent full of shit but there’s a non-trivial component of potentially successful technology in there. So we’ll see what ultimately comes out of it all.

  3. odincookies says

    Thank you!

    It feels so good to see people going after Elon Musk for the opportunist he is.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    seems he’s offhandedly assuming the use of “nano” with how the BS.artists use “quantum”.
    Nanotechnology is nowhere near the magic word “nano” to categorize a field of BS.
    Our ability to configure precision at the sub-micron scale is the height of our technological ability.
    Ushering huge advancements in pharmacology, and materials, etc.
    Musk is not completely without merit, no one is 100% flawless. He simply has a knack of highlighting his flaws into the outrageous.

  5. lotharloo says

    Bahahahahahahahaha, you got to be fucking kidding me!
    So according to Elon Musk:

    Nanotechnology = Totally fucking bullshit

    Terraforming Mars = Totally legit and reasonable investment
    Killer AI bots in near Future = Totally reasonable source of concern

  6. F.O. says

    @loatharloo AI is vaporware, but killer bots are going to be a problem very soon, if they aren’t already.
    We have already unmanned drones that can be launched inconspicuously and can kill easily.
    How far are we before any well-funded organization can program drones to kill specific individuals, with no possibility to ever trace the homicide to the programmers?
    No need for “AI” whatever it means, all technology required is here already.

  7. cartomancer says

    I’m not sure I’d like to be in a sex cult. It’s awkward and embarrassing enough to be rubbish at sex at the best of times, let alone when it’s a religious duty.

  8. gmacs says

    So, he’s decided to add Elliot Carver to the list of Bond villains he emulates?

    @11 – Yeah, I’m not buying his bullshit excuse either. Musk should know that such rhetoric (“think who *owns* the media”) has a long history of being code for antisemitic paranoia.

  9. Holms says

    His fans seem to think he is a scientist and engineer by profession. Yes he has a science degree, but he hasn’t worked in that capacity at all, getting his start in software development instead and then moving into the business and investment side of things from there. Have they forgotten that he is a venture capitalist / investor / businessman?

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Let me try to reframe Musk as a “consolidator”. IE assembling teams of talented people to develop his “napkin sketch ideas”. The hyperloop is the example. Literally, a speculative idea he jotted onto a napkin during a dinner conversation, which his team latched onto and farmed out as technical challenge to engineering teams. I bet Tesla Motors and SpaceX went through similar origins, Musk enkjoys watching these talented teams develop his wild speculations and enjoys throwing lots of money to them.

    oh dear. than you for reading my “shooting the breeze”

  11. brett says

    The SpaceX stuff is legitimate. He’s lousy about meeting his deadlines, but he usually does end up delivering a working product, and some of it can be excused because rocket engineering is really hard.

    Everything else, though . . . not so much. He’s probably the wrong person to be in charge of Tesla, except that having him at the top helps keep their incredibly inflated stock valuation up (at least until recently). They need somebody who can deliver all the cars that have been developed, and weed out the myriad technical issues in design and production. No idea on Solar City.

    The other businesses are more ephemeral. Musk appears to really like getting praised for starting Cool New Things, and so whenever he comes under a ton of heat in public he responds by starting a Cool New Thing (such as the news ranking site, after the new candy site, and after the Boring Company).

  12. says

    I think part of Musk’s problem is, like a lot of people, he thinks technological problems can be solved quickly if you throw enough money at them. His Mars plans certainly seem that way.

  13. says

    I tend to figure Elon Musk got a bit confused when he did his cameo in “Iron Man 2” a few years back, and he now believes he’s (our world’s equivalent of) Tony Stark. Certainly that would explain a lot of the behaviour we’re seeing from him in the media – he’s behaving like the comic book version of what a billionaire technologist would be.