Elon Musk as a Dampener of Social Revolution
HOUSTON, TEXAS – September 12, 2018
First, to the latest news. Despite the fact that the great innovator of our time, Elon Musk, decided to smoke weed on the air, thus demonstrating his affinity for the vices of ordinary people, two more high ranking members of the leadership of Tesla left the company (one after a year, the other after a month of work). As a result, the shares of the car company sank at the opening of trading by ten percent. The drop has continued since the beginning of August — Tesla shares have since lost about a quarter of their value.
However, this latest failure of Elon Musk's PR company does not tell us that the "Tesla" brand itself has come to an end. At least not yet.
First, at any moment, there may be some positive data on the number of electric vehicles being shipped by Tesla — and the shares of the company, still dizzyingly unprofitable, will jump again.
Second-despite the fact that the mainstream media have already transferred Musk into the category of “controversial persons” — he still has his main resource: his global army of fans.
The sect of fans of the genius Musk is actually outperforming active members of even the fans of franchises like "Game of Thrones" and “Call of Duty.” All this shows that the position of the great innovator is still strong.
In general, it is time to state that Musk’s role in recent years has been primarily, not economic, but a social and mass cultural one. And its value in this sense is such that at the moment there is simply no one to replace it.
The role of “the Musk” is to imitate progress for elities. His Martian cities, reusable rockets (the starting price only increased by half from the first stunning video showing a landing return of the Falcon) and other brilliant futuristic cosplays. These charades create among the masses an almost religious feeling and optimism that a new equality is lurking somewhere nearby, very close, or just around the corner.
Here the point: the problem of accelerated social stratification in the format of "the rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. This is inevitable and unstoppable” was first loudly voiced nine years ago — after the first phases of the world economic crisis. It was discovered at the time that many of the rich and successful got that way as a result of the financial turmoil of 2008, vastly increasing their share of world wealth, and all the rest—the 99% -— lost.
Since then, the topic of the growing gap between the super rich and everyone else has been identified as a problem, it received its "Bible" — Tomas Piketty's book "Capital in the XXI Century", which predicated that over the coming years, inequality will only become steeper.
Here's just the latest inequality news: The Wall Street Journal, in late August, reported that from 1978 to 2017, that is, for forty years, the salary of workers has increased by 11%, while the salary of senior management of companies — has increased by 1070%. That is, the income of the rich and famous grew a hundred times faster than the rest of the population.
And in early September, a study by Michael Hout of the University of New York was published, showing who exactly is becoming "rich and famous." As it turned out, the status of American employers depends on the status of their parents more than previously thought. In other words, for some reason, economically successful parents who have money for education and other advantages for their offspring have children who are much more successful than those born to poor or those having difficultly making ends meet. At the same time, the researcher noted that in the US "social mobility" is still high compared to other industrial powers.
In general, we see another stratification of mankind into hereditary classes and the concentration of most of the world's capital in the hands of an extremely small percentage of the population. This situation is becoming increasingly dangerous from the point of view of social stability. However while there has been much research about this topic little is being done to address the problem in practice. Maybe this is because it is simply not yet clear how to fix it such a large and complex problem, without potentially making it even worse.
In this difficult time at least the illusion of equality becomes extremely popular. Or perhaps the vain hope that this gap may somehow disappear by itself.
Hence the popularity of a celebrity like Musk, who promises things like:
-Supersonic travel for a penny;
-Cheap (and even free) satellite Internet for everyone;
-Penny rocket tours around the moon;
-Environmentally friendly and affordable personal transport;
-A tricky wall-mounted battery that "will accumulate cheap energy and sell it expensively," etc.
The one who will promise to create such things and, more importantly promise to make them available to regular people and allow them to experience and receive all the same luxuries that the super-rich elite already do: both the dizziest feelings of ecstacy, and easy travel, and even money floating down from the air, and by doing so will seem to reduce the abyss between normal people and the super rich 1% will be popular with the masses and receive money from the super rich in exchange for creating illusions of social equality.
And therefore, regardless of the successes and failures of Elon Musk in the material world — him or someone like him will remain in demand for a long time as a symbol. Since the expected "new equality" which Musk and others are selling to them will be an attractive alternative to reality for many years to come.