A suggestion for Elon Musk

He wants to be a hero, so he rushed to build an impractical, inflexible torpedo to haul through a twisty convoluted cave in Thailand. Apparently, he’s never had to haul a bed frame up some stairs and through a door that you were sure it would fit through because it was only a half-inch too narrow for the frame, and you think maybe if you twist it just right it will fit. Those ingrate Thais just went ahead and rescued the kids without him, and now Musk sounds a bit petulant and pouty about it.

But while Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre co-ordinating the operation, acknowledged Musk’s offer he said that the mini submarine would not have been practical for the cave rescue.

“Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn’t fit with our mission to go in the cave,” Osatanakorn told reporters.

In response, Musk said Osatanakorn was “not the subject matter expert”, adding that he believed he had been “inaccurately described as rescue chief”, and should be more accurately referred to as the “former Thai provincial governor”.

Musk is the rescue chief! And the expert on cave diving! And he’d be a better Thai provincial governor!

Poor Elon. I have an idea for him: did you know that Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have drinkable water? If he would fly in with a team of engineers and put together a water purification plant, even I would stand up and applaud him.

Except that I’m afraid he’d decide the cleverest solution would be to build an electromagnetic cannon to launch water balloons into the city.


  1. microraptor says

    That sounds like Musk. Doing something as mundane as just fixing a city’s water pipes isn’t sexy enough for him.

  2. Ed Seedhouse says

    There are passages in that cave just barely wider than the human body if you go sideways. So putting a tube around that body will help, just how?

  3. kevinv says

    Musk is like a computer programmer that tests everything in Production.
    Build a super-automated never tested assembly line and put it into production against a promise of specific production quotas by specific dates? Sure thing.
    Oh, we can’t debug that fast enough, we’ll build a second line, using less automated, existing proven technologies, in a tent and celebrate your bandaid solution? Yay!

    Develop an unproven, untested mini-rescue capsule and test in production on 12 kids? That’s a brilliant idea, what could go wrong? It worked in the pool!
    Oh, they solved it with tested and proven existing dive technologies and expert divers? Booo.

  4. kevinv says

    i didn’t know i had mild claustrophobia until i had an MRI on my neck/shoulders in an old machine that was barely wider than my shoulders. It was horrifying. I do not see this rescue capsule being calming.

  5. Susan Montgomery says

    “I have an idea for him: did you know that Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have drinkable water? If he would fly in with a team of engineers and put together a water purification plant…”

    Are you out of your skull, Pamphilos Zaramama?! That wouldn’t look sexy on the cover of Wired!

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    Poor Elon. I have an idea for him: did you know that Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have drinkable water? If he would fly in with a team of engineers and put together a water purification plant, even I would stand up and applaud him.

    What the hell good would that do? The lead is not in the supplied water, it is in the pipes and leached when the water was temporarily corrosive (due to Republican greed). I wouldn’t be impressed unless he sent a teem of engineers – and funding – to replace every single water supply line. It’s already been done elsewhere.
    One city’s solution to drinking water contamination? Get rid of every lead pipe.

  7. microraptor says

    Ah, a Christian studio. Going to be about how all of them were saved by Jesus.

  8. cartomancer says

    I have a few suggestions for where he can stick his fancy plastic torpedo…

  9. rcs619 says

    This whole thing is really Elon Musk in a nutshell though. He’s got these big, grand ideas… that kind of start to fall apart as soon as you try to address their practicality. There are so many other ways he could have used his immense wealth and resources to support the rescue in practical ways, but no, his first instinct was to build a submarine. LA has traffic problems? Time for a big, dumb hole in the ground.

    The guy has so much money at his disposal and could do so much good, if he actually wanted to help people, and actually wanted to use his resources in a smart way.

    The thing I’m really curious about though, does Elon Musk have anyone around him that will tell him no? Was the submarine the result of being surrounded by a bunch of yes-men? Or was it actually the least-crazy idea that his advisors managed to get him to agree on?

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    microraptor @ 8

    I’m pretty sure the idea is to shoehorn JEEZ-us into this somehow. Someone prayed for the team, a someone tangentially connected to the team or the rescuers was a Christian, or, they’ll just whitewash the whole story and move the events to the Bible Belt.

  11. Saad says

    Looking forward to the Hollywood movie about a white American male rescuer who falls in love with a Thai woman (Scarlett Johansson) during the rescue efforts.

  12. chris61 says

    Of course if you actually read an account of … nah, never mind. Why ruin a good preconception with facts?

  13. numerobis says

    rcs619: there was no shortage of money and resources. There was a shortage of good ideas of how to get the kids out with unlimited resources. Teaching sick kids in a low-oxygen environment to cave dive in 48 hours was completely bonkers. It worked, but it was extremely risky.

    The submarine idea was based on the idea of trying to move kids without their needing to know how to dive. Sedate them, put them in the sarcophagus, haul them around. It’s a terrible idea, on par with taking people cave diving who don’t know how to swim.

    Whether it was workable is unknown; the rescue operation was in progress before the tube even arrived in Thailand.

  14. MichaelE says

    Didn’t he initially tweet in response to someone asking him if he could help in Thailand that he believed the Thai government had things well in hand?

    Sometimes, our initial instincts are correct. He should have stuck with that thought, I think.

  15. gijoel says

    I think this stunt was more about Elon getting cheap publicity than helping anyone.

  16. Rich Roberts says

    P.Z. As a resident of Michigan, I can say that the situation in Flint is improving. They don’t need a purification plant. The water coming from the plant is now safe to drink. The issue at this time is with replacing the galvanized and lead pipes coming from a residents home to the main line that taints the water. These lines became corroded when the water source was switched to the Flint river from the Detroit water system. According to the City of Flint’s website, they say that of April 18, 2018, the total number of lead and galvanized lines replaced coming from the home to the main line is 6,264. There are still 12,000 lines that need to be replaced. The goal is to replace 6,000 this year and the remaining lines next year. So, progress is being made. But, it may not be much comfort if you are one of the residents that still has to use bottled water.

  17. leerudolph says

    I’m starting to think he’s Edison smart, not real smart.

    If he’s so Edison-smart, he should just bottle and sell his perspiration!

  18. methos says

    How dare you person from the “Third World”, reject a gift that I, emissary of the “First World” has delivered to you. /s

  19. mrquotidian says

    He’s also been complaining that the term “billionaire” is being used as a slur against him: See it here

    At this point, I can’t tell how much my hatred for the man clouds my judgement of his every utterance and action. He’s basically a hype man for other peoples’ ideas. Tesla, hyperloop, all that shit was thought up by other people and he bought his way in with his paypal money. He’s been successful, no doubt, but it’s all built on a foundation of lies and rapacious capitalism, wrapped up in deeply troubling set of randian values.

  20. hemidactylus says

    Is Musk malignant or just socially obtuse? I have some of the latter trait myself, just lack his cash and vision for weird stuff like hamster tube rapid transit that seems to make the bends (decompression sickness) a possible outcome.

    From what I recall of Flint it was water source switchover that took protective patina off inner surface of piping. Glad that has been addressed for some residents. If Musk wants to ameliorate exposures with filtration and hopefully pitch in to expedite the process of replacing corrupt piping that would be cool. But Flint made the news. Are they a canary in the coalmine? Can Musk help other earthbound beings lacking potable water who can’t afford the escape to lower gravity inhospitable Eden aka Mars?

    His rescue suggestion for the trapped kids in Thailand seems a bit hard to implement, but was spur of the moment. Could Musk be goaded into engineering reasonable real world implementable emergency rescue tech? He did awesome stuff with landing used rocket parts so maybe. Given someone wants to make a God’s Not Dead-esque film of a very nearly tragic situation Musk’s solution which appears rushed or obtuse is hardly the worst exploitation.

    Just glad the kids and coach are rescued. After the Thai SEAL diver died in his very helpful sacrifice to the goal I was very worried about the trapped kids lacking his training and endurance.

  21. says

    I remember reading, somewhere, that one of the best things you can do for someone who needs something is: give them money and get the fuck out of the way. A person who is already working on a problem probably understands it better, a local is more likely to understand the ground reality of the area, an expert knows the equipment.

    Basically, Musk didn’t respect the Thai navy SEALS enough to ask “do you need anything?”

    My short-form rule for this is: “give people tools.” There are two reasons:
    1) If the tool is what they need for the job, that’s great
    2) Otherwise, tools are valuable – you can sell them and get what you really want.
    If you reduce that down, however, and realize that money is a tool then you wind up at the right place.

  22. Dunc says

    kevinv, @ #3:

    Musk is like a computer programmer that tests everything in Production.

    No, he’s not. In order for that to be the case, he would have to be the one actually doing stuff. No, Musk is the pointy-haired boss who insists that untested code gets urgently deployed to production to meet his arbitrary deadlines, and takes credit for other people’s work whenever it works out.

  23. blf says

    The highly dubious proposed film (see @7, @8, @11, and others) has so enraged Jon Chu he’s also now planning a movie, “I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story!”, Second Thai cave rescue film in the works as director rails at ‘whitewash’:

    ‘We must tell our own stories’ says Jon Chu in response to Tuesday’s announcement by faith-based Pure Flix films

    The second movie will be directed by Jon Chu, whose credits include […] the acclaimed forthcoming comedy Crazy Rich Asians. The announcement came in the form of a tweet by Chu denigrating the proposed film by Pure Flix, the faith-based production outfit that promised an inspirational film.

    “I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story!” wrote Chu. “No way. Not on our watch. That won’t happen or we’ll give them hell. There’s a beautiful story abt human beings saving other human beings. So anyone thinking abt the story better approach it right & respectfully.”

    In subsequent tweets, the director restated his commitment to an ethnically accurate film, saying “we must tell our stories especially the important ones so history doesn’t get it wrong. This one is too important 2 let others dictate who the real heroes are.”

    He continued: “We have the power to not only MAKE history but be the historians that RECORD it too. So that it’s told correctly and respectfully. Couldn’t just sit here watching how others would ‘interpret’ this important story.”

    “Those days of letting it happen are over. Never again. We have arrived. And we aren’t playing.”


  24. blf says

    Although I concur with Dunc@31 in the specific case of Musk, I myself have worked for managers who thought they could code / test / whatever. In some cases, they could, albeit possibly lacking expertise or experience with what they were managing.

    But in other cases they couldn’t. And didn’t know it. And wouldn’t listen or retain lessons (usually). Sounds a bit like Dunning–Kruger effect… The worse that I can now recall was my last manager (which is perhaps why I can recall the pointed-haired eejit so clearly), who whilst undeniably an expert in his particular subject, had less programming skills and aptitude than the dead moth I just vacuumed out of my computer, combined with the management skills of hair furor (albeit with no suggestion of any sexist or racist behaviour / beliefs). I dreaded ever having to deal with their code, and learned, over time, several of my colleagues were much less polite about their code than that.

  25. says

    The worst are the coderbros who manage to get really rich. Suddenly they are omnicompetent geniuses.

    I got a half-hour lecture on the basic principles of firewalls from a bigshot Sand Hill Rd hundred-millionaire whose technical chops were that he was Zuckerberg’s roommate or something like that, and was subsequently fortunate enough to hire one of the best system programmers I know. Financial Success is the ultimate personal validation in America, so there’s a pyramid of insufferable and nominally competent. What does helping implement Paypal teach about rocket science? Maybe it taught “hire the right people ans get out of the way” but Musk seems to struggle with that.

  26. blf says

    Marcus@34, Not sure if they are “the” worse, or if it the people they do listen to (but don’t know what they are talking about) who are the worse. Probably depends on just what “worse” means, all these types are incredibly damaging, albeit perhaps in different ways. But it is not necessarily the higher-ups who are more damaging — an incompetent who is doing the work, in an environment lacking sensible and practiced protocols, can be very very damaging — albeit the lack of sensible or practiced procedures also hints at both “cultural” and management failures (plural).

    Of course, just because a person is an eejit on subject X does not automatically make the person an eejit on broadly-unrelated Y. So claims like “[w]hat does helping implement Paypal teach about rocket science?”, whilst sounding-plausible as phrased, seem to suggest “being an eejit on one thing means being an eejit on everything”.

  27. Johnny Vector says

    Icthyic at #29:

    well, in reality he’s been there over a year, and now is trying to shore up power outages with batteries.

    Are you serious or sarcastic? I hope you’re being sarcastic, because batteries is exactly what they need. Also, there’s no now involved. Batteries and solar panels (and charge controllers and inverters) is what Tesla Power does. It’s all they’ve been doing for Puerto Rico from the start, because it’s a perfect opportunity to rebuild the power supply there as a modern, flexible grid. Have you seen what the Hornsdale Power Reserve installation did for South Australia? Cut the cost of frequency regulation service by a factor of 10. And doesn’t get properly paid for it even then because it responds faster than the market operators’ equipment can measure.

    Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, houses with Powerwalls and hospitals with Powerpacks ride out the constant power outages. You might not know about this because it hasn’t really been big news. Which kind of leads me to think the PR it’s being done for is Puerto Rico.

    Yes, it’s nowhere near the scale it needs to be, but to just pooh-pooh it because it’s “batteries” is like saying Boeing is stupid for building airplanes out of graphite and glue.

  28. Ichthyic says

    Yes, it’s nowhere near the scale it needs to be, but to just pooh-pooh it because it’s “batteries” is like saying Boeing is stupid for building airplanes out of graphite and glue.

    Elon is playing this off as if he is working to rebuild the ENTIRE infrastructure of PR.

    tell me. do you really believe that’s the case?

    or is it really going to be he did a few things in a few places, and now the overall infrastructure is more messed up than it was before?

    because… YOU DON’T KNOW. Go there, tell me with your own eyes what is really happening.

  29. says

    “Just a day after the boys and their coach were rescued, Pure Flix CEO and co-founder Michael Scott told THR that his studio already has a movie based on the rescue mission in the works. A temporary resident of Thailand, Scott was present during the rescue, personally witnessing the events unfold as well as speaking with some of the divers and relatives of the boys. He explained that the idea for a movie – which he plans on shooting in Thailand – was inspired by the “bravery and heroism” he witnessed, but noted that the movie will not necessarily be “a Christian film, just an inspirational one.” He also added that he will more than likely release the movie under the studio’s new mainstream banner Pinnacle Peak. He said:”
    Pure Flix films makes family friendly Christian themed films. While this rescue is inspirational most of the rescuers probably weren’t Christians. No doubt there were Christians and probably even some atheists in the rescue team but most of those involved were probably Buddhist and there were certainly Muslims among the Thai Navy Seals. Not only that there was a small shrine outside the cave where people made prayers and offerings to the rain god, Phra Pirun.

    Nothing can detract from the fact that the boys were rescued thanks to the expertise and heroism of a uniquely talented team of international and local rescuers. On that note the cave diving doctor Dr Harris paid tribute to the boys whose bravery and calmness helped what was a dangerous and technically difficult rescue. Part of that is attributable to their coach a Buddhist monk who taught them Buddhist meditation techniques to help them relax during their ordeal. One hopes that when the movie finally comes out Jesus is not given sole credit.

  30. blf says

    (Edited cross post-post from poopyhead’s Tell me you’re not surprised to learn Elon Musk is a skeevy Republican thread.)

    Musk has now outed himself a completely deluded liar & troll, Elon Musk calls British diver in Thai cave rescue a pedo in baseless attack:

    Accusation directed on Twitter at Vern Unsworth, who called Tesla CEO’s offer of ‘mini-sub’ to help rescuer a ‘PR stunt’
    The chief executive of the tech giant Tesla offered to assist the rescue mission by providing a submarine. The request was turned down. Musk lashed out on Sunday, saying he would make a video proving that his “mini-sub” would have been successful and adding: Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.

    The accusation, presented without evidence or context, was directed at Vern Unsworth, a British cave explorer who recently said Musk’s attempt to help the rescue effort was a “PR stunt”. No evidence has emerged to substantiate Musk’s claim of pedophilia.

    “It just had absolutely no chance of working,” Unsworth said in a widely shared interview. “He had no conception of what the cave passage was like. The submarine, I believe, was about 5ft 6in long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles.”

    Musk visited the cave system himself. Unsworth said the billionaire “was asked to leave very quickly”. He also told CNN Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts”.

    On Sunday, when a Twitter user pointed out that Musk was “calling the guy who found the children a pedo”, the billionaire responded: Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.


    I presume his idea of “solving” the problem in Flint is to kill all people who aren’t wealthy and white-skinned.

    He should now be filed in the trash with hair furor & teh dalekocracy, the eejit “perfessor” in Canada, and the whole the UK & Polish “governments”.