Reviews | Elon Musk’s alien capitalism

But muscle building has earlier origins as well, including in Mr. Musk’s own biography. Much of Muskism descends from the technocratic movement that flourished in North America in the 1930s, which was led by Mr. Musk’s grandfather, Joshua N. Haldeman, a staunch anti-Communist. Like muscism, technocracy was inspired by science fiction and was based on the belief that technology and engineering can solve all political, social and economic problems. Technocrats, as they called themselves, did not trust democracy or politicians, capitalism or money. In addition, they objected to personal names: a technocrat was presented at a rally by the name of “1x1809x56”. Elon Musk’s youngest son is called X Æ A-12.

Mr. Musk’s grandfather, an adventurer, moved his family from Canada to South Africa in 1950, two years after the start of the apartheid regime. In the 1960s, South Africa recruited immigrants by branding itself as a lavish, sunny, tailor-made, white-only paradise. Elon Musk was born in Pretoria in 1971. (To be clear, Elon Musk was an apartheid child, not an author. He also left South Africa at age 17 to avoid being drafted into the military. who imposed it.)

As a teenager, he read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams; he plans to name SpaceX’s first rocket to Mars after history’s crucial spacecraft, the Heart of Gold. “Hitchhiker’s Guide” doesn’t have a metaverse, but it does have a planet called Magrathea, whose inhabitants are building a huge computer to ask it a question about “life, the universe and all”. After millions of years, he replies, “Forty-two. Mr. Musk says the book taught him that “if you can phrase the question correctly, the answer is the easy part.” But that’s not the only lesson from The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which also didn’t start out as a book. Adams wrote it for BBC Radio 4, and from 1978 it was broadcast worldwide, including in Pretoria.

“Far in the mists of ancient times, in the great and glorious days of the ancient galactic empire, life was wild, rich and, on the whole, tax-free,” the narrator sings at the start of a first episode. “A lot of men, of course, got extremely rich, but it was perfectly natural and there was nothing to be ashamed of because no one was really poor, at least no one was worth it. speak.” “Hitchhiker’s Guide”, in other words, is an extended and very, very funny indictment against economic inequality, a science fiction tradition that dates back to the dystopias of HG Wells, a socialist.

Early science fiction emerged during an era of imperialism: stories of voyages to other worlds were generally stories about the British Empire. As Cecil Rhodes himself said, “I would annex the planets if I could”. The best early science fiction offered a critique of imperialism. Wells began his 1898 novel, “The War of the Worlds,” in which the Martians invade Earth, noting the British colonial expansion in Tasmania, writing that the Tasmanians, “despite their human resemblance, were entirely swept away by a war. extermination carried out by European immigrants, in the space of 50 years. Are we apostles of mercy enough to complain if the Martians fought in the same spirit? Wells was not justifying the Martians; he blamed the British.

Douglas Adams was to South Africa what HG Wells was to the British Empire. The United Nations General Assembly denounced apartheid as a violation of international law in 1973. Three years later, police opened fire on thousands of black schoolchildren during a protest in Soweto, an atrocity widely reported by the BBC.

Adams wrote “Hitchhiker’s Guide” for the BBC in 1977. He particularly targets the mega-rich, with their private rockets, establishing colonies on other planets. “For these extremely wealthy merchants, life eventually got rather boring, and it seemed that none of the worlds they settled on was entirely satisfactory,” says the narrator. “Either the weather was not quite right at the end of the afternoon, or the day was too long by half an hour, or the sea did not have the right shade of pink. And so the conditions were created for an astonishing new form of industry: the construction of bespoke luxury planets.


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