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Elon Musk Confronts a Fateful Tweet and an ‘Excruciating’ Year (nytimes.com)
278 points by tysone 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 361 comments



But, he added, “if you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”

I think this hits at the crux of the issue around the performance/behaviour of Musk and other leaders of hugely ambitious companies.

And I think it highlights the importance of thinking about what kinds of people it will take to lead the next generation of such companies, and how we can identify and develop them.

I've never been any kind of Musk fanboy, and like most people I've looked on at his recent behaviour with some combination of bemusement and astonishment.

But when I see the hate and vitriol heaped on him, I'm compelled to wonder just what kind of alternative universe people are wishing for.

Do we actually want Tesla and SpaceX to fail?

Would we rather that Musk had just never founded Tesla and SpaceX, that the world didn't have any companies doing what those companies are trying to do, and that we were left to be content with the previous status quo in the automotive and space industries?

If not, then it would surely be better for the conversation to be less about how crazy or unstable or reckless Musk is, and more about how he and other leaders of today and of the future can pursue their ambitious goals, but to do so in a way that is responsible and balanced.

The alternative is not some as-yet-unknown-person-other-than-Musk doing the same thing but doing it better.

The number of people who are capable of building and running companies like these is vanishingly small and they will inevitably have extreme personality traits - some positive and some negative.

My concern is not for Musk's feelings, but for the way society goes about choosing, developing and critiquing the next generation of ambitious leaders, of whom we'll need plenty more if the world's increasingly complex problems are to be solved.

I should add that this applies whether we're talking about corporate leaders or political/community leaders.


There's a hidden false dichotomy there: That Tesla and Space X couldn't exist / succeed without Musk working his employees and himself into a burnout. I'm not sure that that is true. The same Musk with the same employees could've perfectly well done these companies at a sane pace - maybe even without losing speed in the grand scheme of things given that less stuff would've gone wrong.


The same Musk with the same employees

I think I agree with everything except that.

What I'm saying is we can't have everything that's positive about Telsa, but completely discard Musk.

What we _should_ hope for is for the current version of Musk to become a better version of Musk - say, one that can build a viable EV company and help bring about a global transition away from combustion-powered transport, but without the vile personal attacks, impulsive stock-price-affecting comments, absurd PR stunts, overworked workforce etc.

I'm well aware that the world doesn't currently have clear answers as to how people can make such profound changes to their personality, but I think it is where more discussion and research needs to be in order for the world to find and develop the leaders who can steer us through the big challenges.


Why does it have to be the current version of Musk to be a better version of Musk? Why can't we consider that Musk or his type was instrumental to launch Tesla but at this point a different person is better fit to grow it? Maybe skills needed to sustain a company might be different than the skills needed to launch it.


I've never bought into this, and without significant evidence proving it to be true, I never will. Removing the soul of the company is never good. I've followed leaders who were passionate about their business and I've worked for companies where there is no passion. Hard to commit to the latter!


Tim Cook is a pretty boring guy, but he's an adult and he's responsible, and Apple has grown 4 times since he took the reins. Cook has the temerity to consult the experts he's surrounded by before making a big decision. Musk ignores the experts he (used to be) surrounded by and fires them if they resist his efforts to decouple Tesla from reality. Musk has never been a good leader, he's a full-blown textbook narcissist, replete with the deception, cruelty, and delusions of grandeur that it comes with.

It was fall 2016 that Musk made 3 unilateral, and delusional strategic decisions: the Alien Dreadnought, Solar City, and HW2. I call it the ASH doctrine: Musk's 3 point plan to reduce Tesla to ashes. Before that, I thought Tesla had a chance, but since late 2016 I've been on Tesla deathwatch. And now, here we are, no solar shingles, no $35k Model 3, no full self driving, no money, no profit, no credibility, and no surprises to anyone who has been watching this without Musk approved rose coloured glasses.

The bonfire of his vanity is gloaming, and yet the fans are still fanning the flames.



Completely just to play devil's advocate, here: When has a major innovative company ever done better after ousting a visionary but perhaps somewhat toxic founder?

Maybe we could look at Uber, but it's too soon to tell. And The new management there seems earnest, but I'm not sure they're looking so hot from an actual business perspective.


When has a major innovative company ever done better after ousting a visionary but perhaps somewhat toxic founder?

I don't know, how visionary and/or toxic would you consider the founders of Tesla to be before they got the boot?


How many major innovative companies haven't been headed by a visionary but toxic founder in the first place?

If we're just looking into this question to understand how important neurosis is in creating greatness, I think we need the more obvious counterfactual first.


General Motors. William durant vs Alfred Sloan.

But better is relative.


Oh shit, I like this one. Nice work.


I think if you want anyone to even try to answer your question you have to list all the companies that qualify as major and innovative.

Otherwise someone responds with an example and you just say that it doesn't count.


I think you're right. But I know many people who went through burnouts and came out better - kept everything that made them great but lost a little of the obsessive edge. Musk at 95% intensity would still be a fabulous captain of industry. Maybe he'll actually change for the better because of all this.


I agree with that: it's been my own experience of enduring severe burnout and coming out the other side in much better shape.

That's what underpins my point of view on this: if we were better at supporting talented-but-flawed people through personal transformation instead treating them with hatred and ridicule every time they misstep, we could have more great leaders and more great companies.


However the talented-but-flawed people need to recognise that they are flawed, and be open to change.


They also need to express that they are flawed and that they recognise that they are flawed, but in a way that doesn't get twitter piling on them for how much of a wimp they are or how nobody cares about their fee-fees.


> I agree with that: it's been my own experience of enduring severe burnout and coming out the other side in much better shape.

Just for an anecdotal counterpoint, I endured severe burnout and ruined my health to the point of almost dying. I'm still struggling to regain my health 3 years later.

To be fair, it's not 100% sure that the burnout caused my health issues (multiple pancreatitis attacks and major relapse of a dormant neurological condition), but some doctors said it was likely that stress had contributed. Personally, I'm certain that the two are connected.


I’m sorry to hear of your severe predicament.

Things were quite grim for me too and I suspect my life might have been at risk had I continued on the destructive path.

But I was able to correct and turn things around - though the recovery has taken as long as 10 years (depending on when you start measuring from) and is still in progress.

But I know my life is not in danger anymore and I’ve had a long enough period of things steadily getting better that I can be confident of that continuing.

I’m quite confident your stress contributed to your health issues; I’ve extensively researched the mind-body link, and that’s been the key to my recovery.

You can contact me (email in bio) if you’d like any pointers.

Regardless, best wishes in your journey.


It's bizarre and absurd to me that the public opinion even has a role in supporting corporate leaders, let alone a large one. Why should it influence Tesla and SpaceX whether or not the public supports him, apart from investing and buying the products? What matters is tangible results, not personal opinions of the masses.


I think the thing is, we think of CEO as a managerial position, but a lot of the time, it's actually a marketing position. It's about defining the corporate brand, both to other businesses, to customers, and to investors. That's why you often get CEOs who are pretty flamboyant.


I think the public/social media influences him because he lets it happen, so he gets more feedback, and it's become a vicious cycle.


First off, I am not certain it is such a bleak personal experience to work for these companies, an engineer friend at Space X HQ is usually pulling around 40-50h work weeks, which seems sustainable if a little intense.

Some industries operate under almost continuous crunches, the video games sector is notorious for this, and it might be that this is the case here too, and that my friend is just lucky to be on a team that is spared being overworked. It doesn't matter that people work on something they're passionate about, at a certain point it gets too much for anyone. I also got close to a burnout, and I did learn important lessons about managing my work life balance, working passionately while avoiding toxic stress, etc [wrote too much personal stuff, pasted under].

To get back to the point though, I wonder whether I would be able to remember these lessons and manage my work-life balance correctly, if I thought my work was as world changing as what Tesla and Space X are doing. I am deeply grateful that people like Elon Musk and the many others in these companies are willing to make decisions that might deprive them of time with their loved ones, potentially affect their health too, to bring such a change about.

I mean, the overarching goal of Space X to make life multi-planetary might seem like PR fluff to some, but I agree that we will extinguish ourselves if we stay on one planet. I would prefer that governments pool resources and achieve this public good through public means, as I find dangerous that a private company might end up having a monopoly on affordable space access. However, our governments fail on this and can't even agree on curbing climate change effectively, though it is a much more obvious danger, so I can only support Space X in their endeavor, and wholeheartedly wish them success.

-- [the personal stuff] I once worked 6 months without a single day off (work weeks of about 90 hours), which to some may appear like a manageable amount of stress, but I was in my early 20s and didn't know how to do this properly. We did make our deadline and things that needed to happen in that time frame did, but after it, lo and behold, the cough I'd had for a month for no apparent reason suddenly stopped. Good that it did too, as my throat was so irritated I was coughing a bit of blood in the end. Sorry for the gory detail there, but just to point out that being overworked does have some very real and physical repercussions, besides also leading to painful life choices. Not realizing my grandfather was in his final days when he was admitted to the hospital with a bad cough, and not getting there in time to say goodbye, is my personal low point in this regard, and something I have regretted ever since. I wish I hadn't needed to make such a terrible error in judgement to learn this lesson, but I did not make this mistake again, and prioritizing family and friends over work, however important whatever task or deadline might seem in the instant, is something I very much kept it mind since. It has made me much happier, and hasn't negatively impacted my work output in any way I can measure.

scns 3 months ago [flagged]

A crisis is a chance to grow.

Loosers like to celebrate failures of people doing better than them.


> Loosers like to celebrate failures of people doing better than them.

This zero-sum mindset that you're a 'loser' to even suggest ways a company might be a great company, without you know, the founder being an asshole is dangerous and actually shuts down constructive criticism.


Why does Musk get a hall-pass?

> What we _should_ hope for is for the current version of Musk to become a better version of Musk

Or alternatively, he gets punished like he should be (e.g. SEC violations), cedes control and the next person who looks up to people like Musk realizes that there are rules to follow and not following them have real world consequences.

People forget about the issues that come with the concentration of wealth, which is unfortunately one of the negative externalities of letting Musk get away with what he has done.

I too want a world where a company like Tesla succeeds, but I also don't want a world where we mix this acceptance of free markets with acceptance of socialism where it benefits small amounts of individuals much more so than the masses.


They're struggling to meet production goals even with the staff burning the candle at both ends, and using a highly automated assembly line. What could they do to be more efficient? I'm sure Musk would love to hear if you have an idea.


They could set more realistic growth/production goals. I’m not sure if it’s financially viable to do so, but the “normal” way of growing production from zero to several thousand cars a week is the pace that VW and Toyota did it - over say 50 years. This idea of taking companies from zero to massive within less than several decades of organic growth I think is doomed unless you accept a lot of burnout (which you shouldn’t).


Where's the proof that would work? The auto industry has kept virtually all new competitors out of the market for the past 100 years.


yep - I think that is the problem. He has to push hard b/c if he did not the established companies would have crushed him by now. Slow growth wouldn't work. Its extremely difficult to gain traction in this industry today. He is also pushing the industry to change radically (and very quickly), challenging/threatening certain aspects that were considered staples (dealership model, the massive service revenue from frequent maint of ICE vehicles, parts etc ) -- this is a threat to the current status quo.


The proof that slow organic-growing business has less burnout in staff than startup-mode business? I’m not sure that’s proven. It’s pure conjecture on my part


>using a highly automated assembly line

Last I heard the established automakers were basically laughing at the quality and amount of automation on their production lines. Has this changed?


From everything I'm seeing, it sounds like it may be over automated if anything. (sorry if I'm going against code of conduct, I'm not sure what the rules are on making the link-footnotey deal)

https://www.investopedia.com/news/teslas-hyperautomated-asse...


> That Tesla and Space X couldn't exist / succeed without Musk working his employees and himself into a burnout

Well does another SpaceX/Tesla exist? I don't think so. So it's very possible that that is true. Maybe the trait to start impossible companies and to work impossible hours is actually the same trait.


NASA is betting on both SpaceX and Boeing for its next manned missions, and Tesla has made electric cars fashionable, but there is no reason to expect that a couple of years from now its cars will be any better than the offering from major car companies. Clearly SpaceX and Tesla are special companies, but it's easy to overstate exactly how special.


They're so special that they both completely revolutionized their respective industries. What makes them even more special, is that neither made any big technological breakthrough. All the technology has been available for years (decades?), just not productionized. Which tells you that the "major companies" in both industries were literally sitting on their asses, enjoying their oligopolistic/monopolistic profits and doing the minimal R&D necessary to maintain them. Shame on them.


The moralizing is unwarranted. Tesla, for example, happened when it did because of several convergent phenomena:

1) Increasingly more expensive gas and more rigorous fuel-consumption standards.

2) Massive increase in lithium ion battery production from consumer electronics;

3) A willingness of VCs to bankroll years of massive losses;

4) A federal program of offering massive subsidies to electric cars.

These things didn't exist 15 years ago. (Which is not to say that Tesla doesn't deserve a lot of credit for capitalizing on them, but Tesla's success is not evidence that existing car manufacturers were "sitting on their asses." It's also just factually wrong. Toyota and GM both produced electric cars in late 1990s, early aughts, way before Tesla was founded. But at the time, consumer surveys showed that they would only buy electric cars if they were sold for tens of thousands of dollars less than a gasoline car. All those phenomena closed that gap: exploding gas prices made gasoline cars relatively more expensive; federal and stage governments offered up to $10,000 in total incentives for buying an EV; and lithium ion battery technology resulted in major improvements in weight and range.)


1) Oil was pretty expensive since 2005. 2) Everyone could capitalize on that. 3) Existing big car companies could finance R&D themselves. 4) According to Wikipedia, incentives started around 2011, way after Tesla was funded and probably before other car manufacturers started moving.

The fact remains that none of the existing car manufacturers decided to even try to compete with Tesla until it was painfully obvious that Tesla's going to "make it" (i.e. Model S) and that consumers love their electric cars.

That happened about 5 or so years ago. Not 10 years ago. Not 15 years ago. It happened because of Tesla/Musk, and would likely be very much delayed if it wasn't for him.

They had a chance to improve technology, satisfy consumer demand (Apple showed a decade ago that consumers don't know what they want) and help save the planet, but they didn't. Shame on them.

Edit: I don't want to be argumentative, I think we mostly agree. I'm just saying that the rest of the companies all missed a huge market opportunity, same as I keep saying for all computer companies that make shittier laptops than Apple...


> 1) Oil was pretty expensive since 2005. 2) Everyone could capitalize on that. 3) Existing big car companies could finance R&D themselves. 4) According to Wikipedia, incentives started around 2011, way after Tesla was funded and probably before other car manufacturers started moving.

You're just completely wrong on the chronology.

The federal tax credits were in place for the 2009 tax year: https://www.tesla.com/blog/tax-incentives-why-roadster-costs.... The Roadster was released in late 2008 (only 150 units shipped in 2008). Almost all of Tesla's capital raise came after 2010: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimcollins/2018/04/25/a-brief-h....

> The fact remains that none of the existing car manufacturers decided to even try to compete with Tesla until it was painfully obvious that Tesla's going to "make it" (i.e. Model S) and that consumers love their electric cars.

Again, your chronology is completely wrong. By the time the Model S came out, GM had already been selling the Chevy Volt for almost two years. And throughout both cars' run, the Chevy Volt has been selling at approximately the same volume as the Model S (both car sold 110-130k units through the end of 2017). The Nissan Leafs also came out in 2010, and more Leafs had been sold as of the beginning of 2018 than total Tesla vehicles.

To recap: other car manufacturers (GM and Toyota) were first to market with EVs, in the late 1990s. They were also first to market with mainstream popular EVs, in 2010, two years before the Model S.


My props to GM and Toyota. I wonder what went wrong for them. They even look decent (unlike BMW i3), especially Chevy Bolt!


Your logic does not make sense here. These exact same perks were available to the established automotive industry as well. And on top of all of that they had vastly greater economc resources, infrastructure resources, and even greater talent to draw from as well. It's not like "Musk can have these, but not you guys!" The playing field was not fair, but that's because it was heavily weighted towards established players. That these players failed to achieve anything is a very strong indicator that they were indeed just "sitting on their asses." Consider that Tesla started after, and in part as a response to, GM deciding to recall and destroy their EV1 electric vehicle. As well even your claims of subsidies and consumer price sensitivity work against your argument. Tesla was built on the Roadster. An ultra high end electric vehicle. Somebody paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a car isn't suddenly going to be swayed by a $10k tax credit.

Finally we can even take things like the federal automotive bailouts. Ford, for instance, took a sub-inflation rate loan of $5.9 billion from the taxpayer, which they unsurprisingly have not paid back. It was supposed to be used to develop fuel efficient vehicles. A literal check for $5.9 billion just blows every point in your list out of the water. Yet, Ford not only dawdled but most recently announced they've cancelled every sedan/car in their line except the Mustang and one upcoming vehicle. That leaves them 90% of their lineup distributed towards trucks, SUVs, and commercial vehicles. And the next time gas prices spike, we can bet they'll come begging for another handout from the taxpayer. Just brilliant business acumen by these guys.


The Roadster (released 2008) sold less than 2,500 vehicles. It is a historical curiosity, like the EV1--the fact that a tiny handful of people bought the Roadster without tax incentives tells you little about how consumers would react to a mainstream vehicle. The story of mainstream EVs starts with the federal tax incentives in 2009, the GM Volt and Nissan Leaf in 2010, and the Tesla Model S in 2012.

Tesla has done a good job making popular, well-rated cars. But this idea that they were "first" while others were "sitting on their asses" is just completely factually incorrect. Competing car manufacturers dipped their toes into EVs years before Tesla even existed, and everyone rushed to build mainstream EVs in the same 2007-2012 time frame, with Nissan and GM releasing their products first.[1]

[1] Also, I don't see the relevance of the Ford loan? I'm not the one trying to add a moral dimension to the history of EVs. There is none. The relevance of the federal subsidies is not "oh, Tesla took subsidies." But rather that subsidies were necessary to make EVs attractive to consumers. The EV1 was canceled because consumer surveys in the late 1990s showed that you'd have to sell an EV for $28,000 less than a gas car to get consumers to buy it. Rising gas prices closed up a lot of that gap, along with advances in battery technology improving range. But the $10,000 or so in federal and state tax credits also played a huge role in making EVs palatable to consumers.


I don't think you can describe modern car manufacturing as sitting on its ass.... and I don't think you can describe Tesla as revolutionizing the manufacturing process...

I think Tesla has revolutionized the automotive industry by making a desirable electric car, the technology they have within the car is nothing exclusive to Tesla. Other companies can build electric cars, but Tesla made the first truly desirable electric car.

SpaceX has 100% revolutionized space flight and I hope this continues.


> by making a desirable electric car, the technology they have within the car is nothing exclusive to Tesla. Other companies can build electric cars, but Tesla made the first truly desirable electric car.

This is exactly my point. Tesla didn't happen because of Musk's intelligence, or talent, or ingenuity, or genius. It happened because of Musk's drive. Before Tesla/Musk, electric cars weren't even part of the public consciousness (even though they were completely technically feasible, as you agree). It was a revolutionary idea.


They absolutely were. The push for non-gas cars existed before Tesla. Tesla made the commitment to make them cheap (which they've arguably failed to do, especially considering that you're being taxed to fund them, regardless of if you're a consumer).

Musk is a world-class rent seeker.


Sorry, electric cars before Tesla were Trabant-like lunchboxes on wheels from 3rd tier/garage makers. They were looked upon as eccentricities like velomobiles or hot air balloons. Nissan Leaf of BMW i3 would not been happening if not a mainstream EV market single-handedly formed by Tesla.

You can argue that someone else could have stepped in, but that someone had to be an outsider, not an established car manufacturer. That is something like Tesla and Musk, but with another name.


Toyota offered an electric version of its RAV4, an extremely popular crossover SUV, a decade before the Tesla roadster came out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_RAV4_EV. But in 1997, gas was cheap and the government wasn't subsidizing EVs to the tune of $7,500-$10,000.

It's hard to say what would've happened in a hypothetical timeline. But Tesla didn't invent the underlying technology, the traditional car makers were already working on it. Tesla wasn't responsible for EV subsidies in 2008, it was a combination of exploding gas prices, middle east instability, the Iraq war, and Obama getting elected. Good chance that the EV market would've taken exactly the same course without Tesla.


I honestly don't remember anyone saying Musk/Tesla invented electric car, this is quite obviously a point argued by zero people.

Sure there was that Toyota with NiMH batteries. How many of them were sold for enirety of its production run.. 2000? 4000? With Toyota resources and vast marketing force?

My friend had a 1990 VW Golf electric smallseries with lead batteries. It was also fun to ride.. as an experience. Like a hot air balloon ride. But not a very practical everyday car. It was also so obscure it has no own Wikipedia page.

Tesla took the EV business from the dumpster and made it mainstream.


But Tesla didn't make electric cars mainstream either at least not alone. The Roadster was not mainstream, selling 2,500 units. More than the ~1,000 EV1 or 1,500 RAV4 EV, but in the same ballpark.

To the extent that any electric cars are mainstream (and I would ague they are not--Toyota sells more RAV4s each year than all the cars Tesla has ever sold in its history), several mainstream models were released around the same time. The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf came out in 2010, and the Model S in 2012. The Volt and Model S have sold a similar number of units, with the Leaf selling about double that.


A RAV4 would not (did not) capture the public imagination like the Tesla Roadster did. Like it or not, marketing was a huge part of the EV success. And Tesla did that marketing, not the other car companies, which seem culturally incapable of celebrating an EV's performance or coolness.


If marketing EVs as "cool" was "a huge part of the EV success," you'd see other car manufacturers trying to ride that wave by engaging in similar marketing efforts. But you see the opposite. Nissan, Toyota, Chevy, BMW, are all mainly focused on "cute and practical."

People here in suburban Maryland don't give a shit about high performance, "cool," cars. But they love RAV4s, and Nissan Rogues, and Honda CR-Vs. Each of those models sells more units every year than Tesla has sold in its entire history.


...because its not so nerdy to own one, now. Because of marketing.

And of course old ICE designers are incapable of marketing their EVs as anything but cute. That's why they never could have made this market what it is, on their own?


That's some crazy grasping at straws. It is ridiculous to say that Tesla marketing high-performance sports sedans somehow paved the way for cars like the Nissan Leaf, which are cute little EVs that look like EVs. It is even more ridiculous to say that Tesla somehow made the EV market "what it is" by marketing high-performance sports sedans, when the majority of the cars in the market are cute little EVs like the Leaf.

People don't give a shit about sports sedans. The Prius proved there was a market for a cute little car that was environmentally friendly, and that's what's driving most of the EV market right now. When someone releases a sub-$30k cross-over SUV (you know, the cars people actually buy), then you'll see EV sales really take off.


Still I can't get over how, none of this took off until Tesla got in the news.

And the stats I read show the Tesla model S leading the Leaf?


When the requirement to entry is being a billionaire that's not really a fair assessment imo.


No they couldn't. Look up the history of SpaceX they barely made it work this amount of work.


This is what I'm wondering too. What is the factor that forces them to revolutionize cars at this pace? Why can't it just take a decade longer? I'm going to bet it has to do with economics, not physics. And that it is mathematically possible to have done it slower, if the market wasn't so damn fickle about making lots of money really fast.


> Do we actually want Tesla and SpaceX to fail?

Is their success hanging on Musk calling someone a pedo? Because much of that hate came from unwarranted stuff like this.


Just not true. I've been following the subjects for years, and there's been a long-term swing against him, with articles critical (particularly) Tesla and also Musk personally.

Him doing stupid things (arguably getting involved in the Thai cave situation at all, let alone calling the guy rude names) has added more fuel to the fire recently, but it was definitely a fire that was already burning strongly.


Look, high visibility people will always get lots of "unconditional" love or hate regardless of reality. But if you take away that "known" quantity what you're left with are the people that decide how to feel based on the facts, and the facts change.

A reasonable person might have liked Musk until this flurry of misplaced opinions, that were better kept for himself. After this they may have liked him less or not at all.

But have you seen many articles on the subject of how even when you approach criticizing Musk in a perfectly reasonable way supported by evidence you're all but guaranteed to get a vitriolic reaction from rabid fans, downvotes, insults, threats, get your comments deleted, etc.?

In real life (not a bubble where you only get the news that support your views) there's actually a lot less criticism for Musk than any other CEO in his position gets. Especially since both himself and Tesla have been involved in plenty of polarizing situations bordering a scandal. He's still a media darling not because he doesn't deserve criticism but because criticizing him is a PR nightmare and most publications would rather avoid it. Or at the very least they do it "softly" and let it die out quickly.

Example: If any other company (think Uber) charged you 6000E for a promise that wasn't fulfilled even years later and that even killed some people they would be nailed to the cross. Tesla is praised for the very same. Until a few months ago every Tesla website had the Autopilot description as "Fully self driving, safer than a human driver". Now, in civilized countries at least, they are forced to use more generic language like "most", "potential for", "in our opinion". How many articles tackled this? And how many tackled his Thai cave PR stunt?


I think you're replying to the wrong post.


You are completely right, it's for the post just above but clicked the wrong reply button.


> Would we rather that Musk had just never founded Tesla and SpaceX, that the world didn't have any companies doing what those companies are trying to do, and that we were left to be content with the previous status quo in the automotive and space industries?

People have a serious messiah complex when it comes to Musk. Had he never been born, the automotive industry would still be moving towards electric cars. The first Prius predates Tesla by six years, and hybrid cars have done far more than Tesla has to push the industry in the direction of electric vehicles.

SpaceX has done far more than Tesla to push the rocket industry towards reusable launch systems but even then, had SpaceX never existed another company would have developed one within 5-10 years anyways.


>SpaceX has done far more than Tesla to push the rocket industry towards reusable launch systems but even then, had SpaceX never existed another company would have developed one within 5-10 years anyways.

This seems unlikely. Up until Spacex actually landed a rocket, every other launch provider in the world considered it a ridiculous goal. The launch industry was concentrated around 3 groups, none of which had any incentive to innovate. There's Bezos's Blue Origin, but given their anemic development rate, and the fact they were almost certainly heavily influenced by Spacex, I don't see them as a viable alternative in the universe where Musk does not exist.


> every other launch provider in the world considered it a ridiculous goal

VTVL was a thing before SpaceX

> almost certainly heavily influenced by Spacex

Blue Origin was founded almost 2 years before SpaceX


VTVL were mostly suborbital toys and demonstrators. None of the major launch providers were actively developing recoverable, orbital boosters. As for Spacex influencing Blue Origin, I mean that spacex has set the tone for for what is possible and this has almost certainly helped inspire and drive Blue Origin's products.


ULA announced Vulcan's (partial) reusability before SpaceX landed a rocket, and I imagine they had been working on that for some time before it was announced. Granted, SpaceX certainly lit a fire under them to make some changes and bring costs down with Vulcan


Look at it this way - without SpaceX, most of the people working at SpaceX responsible for planning and executing the project would have been employed at the other launch companies.

Unless you think that Musk is a once in a generation rocket engineering genius directly responsible for designing their reusable systems, it stands to reason that they would have been invented anyways (but probably more slowly).


I honestly think that no one who has followed SpaceX since the early days can hold this view.

The 'oldspace' industry was so absolutely antagonistic and dismissive of reusable rocketry, there's no doubt in my mind that it would not have been pursued. The whole idea was associated with the Shuttle, widely considered to be an albatross for NASA.

Those young engineers you mention would have vanishingly little influence on development of any new rocket program in a deeply bureaucratic, ossified system. Who even are these 'other' rocket companies developing rockets? ULA is the product of government contractors simply supporting Atlas and Delta. Until Bruno, there was no real possibility of a new rocket program. There's Ariane, Roscosmos, China, and India, so mostly impossible for US citizens. It's very likely Ariane would not even be developing a new rocket if it wasn't for the specter of SpaceX.

The most important thing to understand is that rocket development wasn't progressing. It was excruciatingly stagnant, entirely dependent on the government to take the initiative, and subject to constant political muddling.


Were there other launch companies hiring engineers to do what Spacex did? Put another way, while the engineers are certainly talented and skilled, without a company hiring them and directing them in the same direction, they would not have developed the skills and careers that they did. Had one of these engineers been hired by ULA for example, they would have probably been far more constrained than they were at Spacex.

Musk created the environment and goals that let these engineers achieve incredible things. Without that environment, I don't see these engineers having the same accomplishments.


Its easy to say that because the chance of it happening is slim, and it allows for him to bail out if that's occurring short-term.

For me, Musk's major failure was with the children who were lost in a cave and his pedophile tweet. Everyone has flaws and makes mistakes, but that mistake showed me how flawed his personality is. It was classic narcissism behaviour, right from textbook.


You're aware that one of the leads of the Thai rescue operation personally had an email with Musk asking him to continue working on the sub concept "in as timely a manner as feasible"? (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dhv9BppUwAArP8X.jpg)

Further, Musk didn't get involved until asked to do so, deferred to other experts, and praised the efforts of everyone else involved: https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-full-story-behind-Elon-Musks...

Clearly narcissistic behavior.

I think there are very few among us that could juggle the responsibilities he's got and keep up the schedule he's got and not get tilted now and again. It's part of being human, which seems to be lost on a lot of people today. It's also why a schedule like that is a really bad idea, for anyone, and why one of the most productive things an ambitious person can do is build a good team.


none of that excuses that pedophile nonsense.


You're right. It doesn't. That was reprehensible. Likewise, his pedophile tweet doesn't invalidate his remarkable accomplishments. People want to squeeze celebrities into boxes, as villains or heroes, all good or all bad. Musk is flawed. We all are. I think it's okay to call him out on his failings while celebrating his achievements.


It doesn't, but it makes the intent of the submarine construction a lot clearer - it takes it quite far away from a useless PR stunt to, at the very least generous interpretation, a requested PR stunt.


His apologies tweet is indeed quite good. And shows that he is learning everyday:"His actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologise". Cf https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44870303 for the details.

[I let you decide if this is pure PR, or real apologies.]


That tweet was a classic non-apology. He tried to shift as much of the blame as possible for his actions onto the British ex-pat; I can't understand how people think that shows genuine remorse.


Narcissists gravitating to positions of importance is an age old truism. Very few people are cut out for the kind of work Musk and people like him do, so I am inclined to be utilitarian in cases like this. Musk might be an asswipe, but his initiatives could have a major positive impact on the future of humanity, so I'll let him slide for the time being.


>classic narcissism behaviour ...

I've run out of fingers to count how many times over the last few months I've see keyboard psychiatrists apply 'narcissism' as a catch-all for any kind of outlier behaviours.

I'm no Musk fanboy, but the narcissism trope feels particularly way off in his case.


Mind you, I didn't call him a narcissist. I said its classic narcissism behaviour. There's a subtle nuance between those two. There's no further psychoanalysis either.

I want to be a Musk fanboy. I am very much into the things he's innovating. I care about those things (solar power, electric vehicles, (self-)sustainability in general, though SpaceX not so much). He's become a if not the face of those ideals I find important. That's why that particular tweet was so disgusting and ultimately disappointing to me. I did not see it coming!


I agree. However, I also realise that in being the 'face' of these things that he is truly just that: a mere face, a phantom, an archetype in the collective psyche. Behind all this is a flawed human (like the rest of us) who is trying to reconcile his place as the eco-ubermensch and regular family guy.

I actually didn't feel at all disappointed by the tweet. I feel disappointed by people's lack of concern for a guy who's fighting the good fight who is clearly going through something awful.


This. People apparently have a little self reflection, if at all. Let's get something straight: every person is a piece of shit, in some ways, granted some a bit more and some a bit less. Your project manager is a piece of shit in some ways, the new intern is, in her ways, your parents are, like it or not, in their own little ways. And finally you are a piece of shit, in your own distinct ways.

But of all the pieces of shit we have talked about, none of them are creating companies which can vertically land 70m by 3.7m rocket boosters from orbit. Compared to utility of Musk's initiatives to the society, he is actually a pretty nice person. Heck he is okay even in normal standards. Please consider the contents of both scales and judge responsibly.


That's an awfully cynical perspective. I have personally met and know several people who I would in no way classify as being "in some way, pieces of shit".

I feel shame when I meet them, but they do exist. And the rest of us shouldn't get a pass because we suck.


You haven't known those people for their whole lives.

You haven't seen them at their very worst, in the moments where they did the things that haunt them for decades.

That's the point here - some people do less nasty stuff than others, but all of us have treated others horribly at some point.

"Pieces of shit" may not be the best phrasing. I'd say "When you meet a person, no matter what they seem like, you can be highly confident that they have done something wonderful for someone at some point, and that they have mistreated someone horribly at some point."


I think that is just because you are a shit within that piece group rather than an exception.


I didn't even say they were a group, just individuals :)

And can't you just accept that some people are good?


I don’t think so. I think it’s pretty naive to think some people exist without personality flaws.

Everything people do is out of some sort of greed. Some of it results in good deeds others not so much.

You volunteer or donate to charity because it makes you feel good, boosts your ego, and/or inflates your sense of self worth but you ARE being helpful in the grand scheme of things.


I know someone who is genuinely altruistic. She does things for other people cause she enjoys helping other people.

If you're consistently doing good for reasons which are in no way indistinguishable for pure goodness, to me it's the same. Call it "boosting your ego" or "inflating your sense of self worth". Some people just feel good knowing they've helped other people. I don't see how these people can be considered "shit".


Say the same person is having Lamb after she finishes an exhausting 12 hour shift helping people be safe. She tweets "Off home for some tasty lamb after a hard day!". Within 5 minutes, someone is going to say she is a 'pos' for eating baby animals!


Landing boosters from orbit wasn't an original objective of Space-X. It arose as an off the cuff suggestion from an engineer after they failed to obtain Russian engines.

Mr Musk deserves credit for running with the idea despite incredulity, but it wasn't due to his vision.


Well that is just a vast misrepresentation and distortion of the facts. The idea of landing boosters came about from spacex wanting to pursue reusable orbital vehicles from the beginning. Now spacex never wanted to acquire Russian engines. Where this russian connection comes from is before Elon started spacex, he wished to buy a few Russian ICBMS to launch a small greenhouse project to mars. The idea was to spur interest and investment into a mars program. This was back in the early 2000s and the russians basically laughed him out the door.

From this, Elon founded spacex thinking he will build the rockets himself. A founding tenet of spacex was to decrease the cost of access to space. To achieve this, they set about trying to reuse rockets in the very the beginning. Their first rocket, the falcon 1, had parachutes on board to test first stage reusability. Later, on the first 2 launches of their falcon 9 rocket they again tried using parachutes. It became apparent that using parachutes wasn’t working and so, in 2011, they began the grasshopper program to practice their rockets propulsively. Within 4 years from the start of the program, spacex was successful and had landed a first stage from a rocket launching a payload

To suggest it wasn’t part of the original inception of spacex or it was just an off the cuff response is blatant exaggeration. Listen, Elon has quite a few problems and in my opinion he should not be in charge of the day to day management of his companies. He should be the ideas man, pushing the companies vision and letting others get bogged down in implementing his ideas.


Musk’s talent is the ability to raise capital for ridiculous sci-fi projects. This skill at least partially requires the subject to believe that Musk will be at the helm to navigate the cannonball run endeavor.

If Musk isn’t actually pushing the buttons at Tesla then the magic is gone.


Indeed. Rocket technology itself is all derived from work done by the Nazis. As far as pieces of shit go these guys are pretty much top of the list. I'd rather have pieces of shit like Musk working on this technology, if I'm honest.


A martyrdom complex isn't useful for anyone. Especially for Elon.


"If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now"

Being a leader he has to split his job and find competent people who specialize in that field to do that job. EM seems to have problem trusting or delegating parts of job that he currently does.

I don't follow his twitter that much, does he ever praise his VP's and let them have limelight with his massive followers?, all the major twitter news seems to be about "him" doing something. I know it's his personal twitter, but he uses it to represent Tesla.


Tinfoil hat on. Big industry hates Elon. Rockets are his now. And soon cars will be Tesla’s or at least Electric. Maybe they’ve been bashing him in order to break him. Don’t break the company. Break its leader.

Just need to take a look at how tides have turned so quickly against Elon in the last year. Seems very odd. And the short sellers could quite easily be hedge funds backed with big money interests.


It is not odd that the tides have turned against Musk. What is odd is that it took this long for the tides to turn against him. That a company is still around after incinerating cash so rapidly and consistently for ~16 years is an incredible feat. There is big money betting against him, but there is also big money betting for him.

Most of Musk's troubles are of his own doing. He took enormous risks in rushing the Model 3 to production and frankly they have been disastrous. His SEC troubles (which are just starting) are entirely of his own doing.


If your company is failing to meet goals and you know it, your PR department can keep the wolves at bay for some time. If you can't fix the problems, eventually the real situation of your company will start to come to light, and opinions will change abruptly, since the contrast between the PR and reality will have grown huge.


>Big industry hates Elon

Elon is Big Industry.

Have you ever stopped to wonder that maybe people "don't like him" because he's a jerk and his company loses vast amounts of money? Don't need a tinfoil hat.


Why would you care if his company loses someone else's money?


Other companies make affordable EVs, and without the massive amounts of rent seeking that Elon takes part in. Tides turn quickly against conmen. Do you think Tesla will buy out shares?


As someone who has come really close on several occasions to buying TSLA puts (the options version of shorting) I think I can answer: the shorts aren't haters.

The shorts don't want Tesla to fail. The shorts don't even think Tesla will fail.

The shorts just think the market cap of Tesla is insane. It's higher than much larger, profitable automakers who can provably make and sell cars at scale.

For Tesla to be worth its share price it has to grow by two orders of magnitude. I won't even say that that won't happen. It could. But it'll take years. And when it does the stock won't be worth more than it is now.

On top of that there are risk factors. What if energy density of batteries doesn't substantially improve and all electric vehicles continue to be unappealing to large chunks of the population due to range anxiety? What if all electric does win (it's going to eventually) but the other companies are able to compete well enough and Tesla just becomes another Ford?

Their share price is just out of control. The market can stay irrational longer than I can stay solvent, but I can totally see how someone with very deep pockets could find shorting Tesla a good bet even if they don't want it to (or even think it will) fail.


I've said similar things about Amazon, but I never had the balls to bet against Bezos and I'm glad I didn't. Even at 10x the earnings Amazon would still be a tenuous bet at its current market cap. I know the whole "ecommerce is a bear" and all that, but let's be real here; it isn't that much of a bear and Amazon is selling cheap Chinese shit. They're going to go the way that Ebay did.

With AI and cheap energy logistics is going to go to become irrelevant with respect to total cost and at that point what do I need Amazon for? I'll be able to ask my phone to re-up my staples and for everything else I'll purchase from the manufacturer directly. All the profit is going to go to attention and trust, which means profits are going to be centred in high value brands and influencers. If anything, I'd prefer the opposite of Amazon. Some online store that just sells the best two of _everything_ that's irrelevant (toothpaste, etc) so I don't have to think about it. Plus AWS is overblown. Sure it's got good financials, but over time, AWS is a commodity play and commodity plays lose margin over time. There is some lock-in, but it's hard to lower prices for newcomers without reducing prices for the locked-in.

But back to Tesla: You're right. It's not smart to bet against Musk. It will stay irrational for some time because great men like Musk will make the very most of their situation. Also, with this volatility I wouldn't go with puts. Leveraged shorts or selling calls sound like much smarter plays if you are going to bet against TSLA.


I think the problem is you’re severely underestimating the role of Amazon as a market maker / provider of liquidity. By buying in bulk, they underwrite the risk of not having enough direct-to-consumer customers and allow the manufacturer to produce more. Kind of like a bank, or a factor, only tremendously more influential in the process.

The manufacturer cannot easily sell to end users, as it requires fine tuned delivery platforms and most of all, discoverability. SEO alone is not enough for a manufacturer to get noticed, so Amazon will benefit from being the de facto “search” for products. Anecdotally I and most of my friends and family already do this. It’s rare that I have intention to purchase <sub big ticket item> and google it.

As for Tesla, yeah I think it’s time to bet against him. There were many many “great men” like Musk in the 80’s and 90’s that made 1 too many misssteps and ruined their companies. Elon is on a razor’s edge.


Fined tune delivery is on a steady march to commodization. AI and API standards are going to interface with flexible logistics chains made up of autonomous systems.

Now, you're 100% right about discoverability. But Amazon is misplaying here if that's the long game. They should be a quality filter, not a cheap marketplace of knock-off Harry Potter toys.

You're also right that Google isn't nailing it. Really, I would argue that tastemakers are still leading the way for physical goods; with rating systems coming in a distant second. Ultimately I think a web of trust is going to develop to solve many of these problems, but that is largely a task of user interface, since enumerating trust and context is too onerous to push on a user. Besides, making it explicit is provably gamed as much as possible, see LinkedIn's "skills" for example.

Or Google could get its act in gear and cut amazon out of it. Hard to tell what will happen.


Perhaps their initial reason in shorting the stock was not inherently evil. But at this point they risk losing billions of dollars so their only incentive is to ensure the company fails.

I actually don't find their share price to be out of control at all. They have assets other companies would only dream of at this point. The data alone on miles driven is extremely valuable in the race to self driving cars. Their supercharger network is extremely impressive and growing every day. Not only do they build the best electric car, but they've built out the infrastructure that many analysts seem to just discount. Not unlike what Amazon did (and is still doing).


I would consider data to be an argument in favor of the big three. Tesla only sells about 100000 cars a year. Ford's top-selling model, the F-series, is almost eight times that. I'm assuming you mean some data that Tesla is currently collecting that Ford cannot, but it would be a matter of not much money for them to do so. They can add whatever sensors they need in the next year's F150 and within a few months have more data than Tesla has collected in its entire existence.

It's not clear to me that Tesla is in the lead on driverless cars, or that driverless cars will initially be all electric. The economic benefit of being electric might outweigh the fact that it will spend a quarter of its time charging, or it may not. If we move to an Uber Style On Demand model of car usage rather than ownership I am not sure.

And I'm still not saying that Tesla won't succeed, or even that they will not at some point be the most profitable automaker. But their share price is so inflated that you have to believe they will do it very quickly to pay it. There's a very strong chance that the market as a whole is going to outperform TSLA even if they succeed for the next 5-10 years first


True, but it is not only the data. Even if it was why aren't the big 3 doing this already? Tesla is a technology company more-so than a car company. They employ the engineers focusing on machine learning and gathering the right data to support that. This would be a brand new area for Ford, Chevy, etc... I'm guessing. Not that they couldn't ramp up, but I don't think it would be as easy as you seem to suggest.

Walmart had the funds to overcome and mimic what Amazon was doing early on as well and they didn't. Why not? Some companies are set in their ways and have trouble seeing the future...or at least be willing to sacrifice short term revenue goals for long term gain (often times big profitable companies act this way).

TBH, I own a Tesla. I agree they are likely not the leader in the best technology for driverless cars, they are definitely the leader in affordable driverless cars. The interesting thing is autopilot gets better and better on streets you drive over and over again. Tesla's have ruined my experience for driving any other car. I'm sure someone else will make some great electric cars in the future as well, but right now there is nothing that compares to it overall.

Edit: To add one other point on my initial paragraph (and coincides with my last). Tesla not only gathers the data but has the autopilot features to be able to test changes to the algorithms in place and improve them over time. Even if the big 3 started collecting this data they are far behind in the ability to even simulate much less enable it for real feedback on the roads.


"True, but it is not only the data. Even if it was why aren't the big 3 doing this already? Tesla is a technology company more-so than a car company. They employ the engineers focusing on machine learning and gathering the right data to support that. This would be a brand new area for Ford, Chevy, etc... I'm guessing. Not that they couldn't ramp up, but I don't think it would be as easy as you seem to suggest."

They are. GM is investing billions into self-driving cars and electric vehicles. Every other major car manufacturer has similar initiatives.

If you're wondering why they don't gather teh big datas like Tesla, perhaps it's worth considering that the benefit of this is more of an internet meme than an actual, useful idea. Pretty much everyone serious in the field is using LIDAR, not trying to make up for it with petabytes of bad bumper video.


I don't think the automakers are set in their ways. Chevy acquired Cruise for a billion dollars. Waymo has partnered with Fiat Chrysler. Ford's committed $4 billion over the next few years.

Maybe Tesla's ahead of some of them. (I'm not sure they're ahead of Waymo.) But they've still not learned how to make an affordable car at scale. They're having a hard time getting to a $35k car, and estimates put the lowest Model 3 at $41k to produce. Average American car price, including trucks, is below $34k, and those are being sold at a profit.

And again, all of this is not to say that Tesla won't succeed. They probably will. What they've done is impressive. I just think there's a very good chance that they're on a long, difficult, slow ramp up to being a major car company, in which case their current share price will have been a bad investment.

Edit: also, I left out another huge risk factor: Their CEO. They have a visionary leader who is clearly overextended and shows signs of fraying to the point where he's possibly breaking laws over Twitter.


You bring a good point, they are not only a car maker, they are also the distributor and the gas stations and they are the best in electric vehicle in all 3 categories. They are also starting to become the best in solar electricity and thus may also produce the "fuel" of their cars.

That's not only being the GM of electric vehicle, they are much bigger than that.

I'm pretty sure they are overvalued right now because what they do is for the greater good, but they are also much bigger than what shorter want us to believe.


Short sellers don't need the company to fail to make money. I would guess that most tesla short sellers don't think that tesla is going to fail.

Short sellers thesis is that the company is overvalued and that the market will come to see this and correct itself.

If they are wrong they will lose money. If they are right they will make money. There's no reason to ascribe to them malice.

Most CEOs ignore short sellers and get on with their job of running their company.


What data does Tesla actually collect? They are very vague on this point, but people act as if a Tesla driving around is collecting the same quality of data as a Google self driving car. On this point I am highly skeptical.


> What if energy density of batteries doesn't substantially improve and all electric vehicles continue to be unappealing to large chunks of the population due to range anxiety?

Why are people still saying this? Is 300 miles then 200+ mph recharge rates not enough for 90%+ of people 100% of the time, and the other 10% of people most of the time?


The problem is most people have one car. 90% of the time isn't enough.

And for someone who doesn't live in one of the densest cities, it's nowhere near 90% of the time.


Tesla can drive more than most people can. People needs breaks and cars can charge when people do too. Therefore Tesla owners don't seem to have any issues with range in US. They just need dense enough grid of superchargers.


And most people's one car wasn't $50K+ new.


I would really liked for Tesla and Space X to keep the hype down, then we could have discussed here forever technical stuff and not debate the hyped PR stunts.


If they didn’t have hype, they wouldn’t be funded and they wouldn’t get off the ground. Hype is now an unfortunate requirement of any successful company.


But the big disadvantage is when the hype will work against you, there are many examples like the No Man Sky game that was a decent game but because of the hype it will be forever remembered on how not to hype the product, in the present the game has the promissed features but very few will take a look at it.

I understand that a company wants good PR, but I think you need to keep it real, like if a dude posts a video of Tesla self driving on some roads instead of Musk sharing it they can not do it or share but put a include the message that you mustk keep your hand on the wheel and pay attention. The reality is that now a Tesla has a non zero chance of driving you into a large object and killing you, when this happens your public image suffers when you promised autopilot but if you instead market this as a drive assistant that collects and learns how to drive and in future will become autopilot then the backlash will not affect you.

I know that in small print and the big TOS this things are very clear but the PR and social media activity of Tesla and Musk contradict those terms.


The balance between making promises and delivering on them is always and difficult to navigate. Today, society leans more towards making promises than delivering. It used to be different, and maybe one day it will be again.


"No bucks, no Buck Rogers", as it goes.


The problem with the current social media age is that it is difficult to tell how serious a problem really is. Part of the outrage is attention seeking media entities. So if you asked me what was the greater problem, Musk or the gangsters terrorizing families and murdering anyone who stands up to them (this is the reality in parts of Cape Town). I would say Musk really isn't a problem. The media and politicians don't really want to tackle the "hard" problems where lives are at stake but there seems to be more willingness for example have a go at Musk and leave the gangsters alone.


>The problem with the current social media age is that it is difficult to tell how serious a problem really is.

And ofc, Tesla gives stories to people who write favorably about it. Elon has his one sided twitter propaganda outlet.

One of the greatest issues is that despite lots of people online, only a few people have voices that are noticed.


... what parts of CT are you talking about


Mitchells Plain. Alot of the formerly "coloured" residential area. Here are some links for more information. https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/battle-for-cape-town... https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2018-07-31-gan...


> Do we actually want Tesla and SpaceX to fail?

That should be market thing, really. Is the business sound or just cool? The difference matters.

> My concern is not for Musk's feelings, but for the way society goes about choosing, developing and critiquing the next generation of ambitious leaders, of whom we'll need plenty more if the world's increasingly complex problems are to be solved.

The question is also, if you build something large and ambitious, does it cancel out the bad things that you done in the process of building it? Do we want to celebrate large and ambitious in expense of ethical?

If another guy builds smaller company and resist pressure to be cool, but there is less price on employees, less lies to investors and public, the business side actually works, is that other guy really lesser?

> I should add that this applies whether we're talking about corporate leaders or political/community leaders.

Absolutely. Which is why it matters whether who we praise as role model is has ethical limits and considerations too. It matters very practically whether he/she is able/willing to foresee whether the dream business can work out - or whether he/she goes purely by own "I want it to be true" feelings.


>"Would we rather that Musk had just never founded Tesla and SpaceX, ...

If not, then it would surely be better for the conversation to be less about how crazy or unstable or reckless Musk is..."

This seems like a false dichotomy. The headline of this piece has a reference to Tweeting and the article by extension concerns his at time provocative social media presence. I am someone who is rooting for Tesla and the mainstreaming of purely electric cars and reusable rockets. And there are many investors who are actively rooting for his successes as well. But he doesn't do himself any favors by calling someone a "pedo" on Twitter or stating "he's secured funding to take the company private" etc. We live in world of hyper-sensationalized news cycles, something he's well aware of. I would rather the media and public discourse focused on the positive aspects of his entrepreneurial endeavors. But when he as CEO gives them lots of fuel and easy path to do otherwise he's kind of part that problem in that no?


On one hand, fuck the short seller bad news pushers. On the other hand, there are rules, Walter.

Like you say, there's nobody like him, nobody effectively pursuing the same goals, and we truly do need him, so I hope he gets out of this relatively unscathed. On the other hand, you can't just lie about material stuff like this and be trusted to lead a company.


Say what you want about the tenets of Musk, Dude, at least it's an ethos.


This is bowling?


> But when I see the hate and vitriol heaped on him, I'm compelled to wonder just what kind of alternative universe people are wishing for.

Well, maybe it's something different..

Stanford psychologists find that when online comments pile up against an individual’s questionable behavior, people are more likely to see it as bullying and start to feel sympathy for the offender.[1]

[1] https://news.stanford.edu/2018/08/09/moral-outrage-goes-vira...


> Would we rather that Musk had just never founded Tesla and Space

That really misses where a lot of the hate for Musk is coming from. If he had never started it in the first place, the shorters would not stand to win anything. They both want him to fail, but are also heavily invested in him having tried first.

Also side note. Musk didn’t found Tesla, he bought in and kicked out the real founders. The company would likely not be where it is today without Musk, but I doubt it would have failed completely, likely just be worth less and working on becoming profitable with smaller anbitions.


> he bought in and kicked out the real founders

I was curious about this so I went to the Wikipedia article...

> The company was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, although the company also considers Elon Musk, JB Straubel and Ian Wright as co-founders.[1]

The [1] linked article (https://www.cnet.com/news/tesla-motors-founders-now-there-ar...) details a bizarre and complicated situation. It seems that Musk was declared to be a founder of the company retroactively as a result of a lawsuit related to the thing you described.


I think that there are lots of people who could do a better job than Elon Musk but they will never have the opportunity to prove it. The vast majority of people would know that calling the Thai cave diver/rescuer a 'pedo-guy' was a bad decision. Also, announcing that some funding was secured when it actually wasn't - That was a bad decision as well. To suggest that Elon Musk is irreplaceable is ridiculous. People used to say that Steve Jobs was irreplaceable but look at the Apple stock price now.


Tesla/SpaceX now are more like Apple before the first time it fired Jobs. In that case, he was most definitely not replaceable (he had to come back). So that’s maybe not the best analogy at this time.


However in his Stanford Commencement Address Jobs said “I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me”


Name a time when a genuinely ambitious and innovative company booted its visionary founders, and it went well.


Tesla


They weren't the kind of visionary founders that we know the names of.


this sounds like an approval of moral licensing.

I am a big fan of Musk however I think that simply because he appears (and in many cases is) to be doing great things for society does not license him to also make the short sighted decision that he did.

full disclosure: I hope the company goes private and think it could do much better if it was not beholden to shareholders or stock market speculation. I think he wishes he never took it public and left it private like Spacex


Musk didn't found Tesla.


> But when I see the hate and vitriol heaped on him, I'm compelled to wonder just what kind of alternative universe people are wishing for.

One where CEOs don't lie, don't insult heroes, don't cyberstalk journalists etc. Musk has only himself to blame for the pushback he is getting for being such a collossal douche.


There should be also a universe where journalists & bloggers are not on a payroll of respective industry giants. Sometimes it seems like journalism ethics are a thing of the past.


I completely agree that all that behaviour is appalling, but my point is: do you want him to change or do you want him and his companies to not exist?

Because the alternative to him and his companies not existing is not simply that we get all the positive aspects of those companies but just provided by someone nicer.


But market manipulation is market manipulation. It is hard to have any sympathy for Musk on this matter, when in the same interview he appears to be obsessed with shortsellers, and at the same time pretends to have casually, without thinking about it, mentioned a buyout including a price, "on his way to the airport".

I am struggling with the idea that if you are rich and famous, if you are a tech celebrity, somehow laws shouldn't apply to you. I don't agree that he should be given a pass.


I'm not saying laws and ethical principles shouldn't apply to him, or that he should given a pass for actual wrongdoing.

My central point is that we're not currently very capable or supportive at helping talented-but-flawed people reform, and that if we could become better at that, the world would probably be far better off.


> Do we actually want Tesla and SpaceX to fail?

There are billions of dollars invested in Tesla's demise through shorts. Yes, quite a few people need Tesla to fail. A lot of those people also own media companies. Musk isn't being hyperbolic when he says the short sellers "are desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla’s destruction."

> what kinds of people it will take to lead the next generation of such companies, and how we can identify and develop them.

This was something I was thinking about the other day as well, except I wasn't thinking about Tesla. I was thinking about Apple and how Jobs clearly didn't prepare for his inevitable death. Had it been anybody else, I would have been able to explain it away as not being able to predict the future, but Apple has suffered through Jobs leaving once before. More or less the exact same thing happened both times (to the company after he left, I mean. Not to Jobs himself, obviously). So why didn't Jobs do a better job of finding and cultivating a successor?

edit: added clarification


Short sellers don't need Tesla to fail to make money. There's plenty of room between Tesla being worth 50-60 billion and Tesla being worth 0. 50-60 billion of market cap means that Tesla has to do some absolutely crazy things in the next few years in an increasingly competitive environment while they've struggled consistently to meet production targets in less competitive environments. They have some problems such as a convertible bond issue for almost one billion due in Feb'19 that only adds to the cash burn problems if they can't meet the $360 convertible price. Short sellers push a narrative because they want the price to go down, but they really only take the position because they think that the market has currently mispriced the firm and there is opportunity there. They're not inventing problems, they're pointing out that they're there (perhaps exaggerating, but that's for the people to identify if true or not with the money they put on longs/shorts for Tesla).


>>So why didn't Jobs do a better job of finding and cultivating a successor?

Because people aren't exactly replaceable like spare parts. If your biggest edge is a person, and the unique value they bring through their work. Then its almost impossible to replace them.

Apple is still one thing. I think something like Amazon will be far harder to imagine without Jeff Bezos.


I wonder about succession at Amazon and Facebook.


I'm not American and the arrogance and cognitive dissonance rubs me the wrong way. You are the CEO of a company not a visionary prophet. People like Musk wouldn't last a week here.


>People like Musk wouldn't last a week here.

Don't worry, this is just Tesla PR working overtime trying to mop up the latest folly. HackerNews is lapping it up, of course. Not everyone feels sorry for Elon Musk. He can quit at any time.


I agree... The parent comment is developing a bizarre cult of personality. It's really bizarre.


This is a very old story. Musk has become a celebrity. Everyone knows who he is. He dates famous singers, models etc. He has a drug dependency. He increasingly is making bizarre statements.

Dude needs a handler. His continued success probably depends on him getting one and being able to hand over the reins a bit, at least in terms of what he says in public. And he needs to work on the Ambien issue.

None of this means Tesla and SpaceX, which have deep benches of smart people, need to fail. None of it has much to do with those businesses at all. Fame takes a toll on a man.


it's possible that maybe musk should stick to founding companies and then handing them off to someone else.


I've long resigned to the fact that there will always be ambitious assholes in the world. The best we can hope for is to corral the assholes in the right space. An asshole leading a tech/space company is far better than an asshole leading an oil company or running a country.


> corral

You do realize these are people you're talking about, not some animals to do your bidding?


Weird how you can judge someone's character based on a few tweets.


Calling someone a pedo because you don't like something they said is, at the very least, an assholeish thing to do.


The article did suggest that some of his weird behaviour might have been a side effect of using Ambien to sleep.


Sanofi's tweet reference the Rosanne situation seems relevant:

https://twitter.com/sanofius/status/1001824999496404992?lang...


When people report driving cars, having sex, cooking entire meals and then eating them, and various other strange behavior while under the influence of Ambien, saying "racism isn't a side effect of Ambien" is a snarky and asinine tweet. It's the kind of cheap shot a writer for a late night talk show would write.


>I think this hits at the crux of the issue around the performance/behaviour of Musk and other leaders of hugely ambitious companies

You believe that? From the guy who would angrily call reporters if they didn't call him a Tesla founder (which he isn't)? He wants to give the reins up?

>The number of people who are capable of building and running companies like these is vanishingly small

Yeah, we never invented anything until Elon Musk came around. There aren't 10-20 car companies, run by CEOs you've never heard of, plugging away at EVs as we speak.


> Would we rather that Musk had just never founded Tesla and Space

Yes, while SpaceX has _something_ going for it — though not as much as people like to think, Tesla isn't anything to write home about.

Nissan is the market leader in electric vehicles, not Tesla. Tesla survives only because the cult status means people are willing to wait more than they otherwise would.

SpaceX does some cool things - as a rocket enthusiast I pay more attention than a space fan arguably should - but a) I'd attribute that to Shotwell more than to Elon, and b) keep things in perspective, rockets are _not_ more expensive than payloads, except for really light payloads, where I'd pay more attention to the less-exciting light launch segment.

And SpaceX is very much rooted in the US de-funding NASA, and extracting both engineering projects and subsidies from it.


This comment is so insane to me.

How can you say Tesla isn't anything to write home about when, according to many many credible automotive critics, they've invented several of the best cars of all time?

Love or hate Musk sure, but it's crazy to deny his accomplishments.


I think calling cars that randomly catch fire and drive into walls "best" says more about the critics than the cars.


> Do we actually want Tesla and SpaceX to fail?

Maybe we do? It's worth remembering that the folks who took us to the moon in the first place were government employees and federal contractors. No rockstar leaders with a tweeting habit.

Musk has accomplished a lot, and it's upsetting to see the personal attacks against him. His tweets are a little reckless, but whose aren't these days?

But that doesn't mean we want the future of our tech industry to look like Tesla and SpaceX rather than Toyota and Boeing.


> Maybe we do? It's worth remembering that the folks who took us to the moon in the first place were government employees and federal contractors. No rockstar leaders with a tweeting habit.

Do you think it was really less noisy? Wasn't it started by threat of Soviet rockets flying over your heads? Threat of third world war? The sputnik moment? With a pinch of charismatic leadership of JF Kennedy? Famous "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard (...)" The president who got assassinated? I doesn't sound like less noisy period.

And without the threat you ended up buying Soviet-era engines and Russian organized trips to ISS. Until Musk and SpaceX happened and put you back in leadership position.


I just want to emphasis that Elon Musk was never and never will be the founder of Tesla. Instead, Elon Musk booted to 3 original founders out of Tesla.

The original Tesla Roadster was no idea of Elon Musk and also not developed by Elon Musk. It was 3 engineers from the Valley who had the idea of the Tesla Roadster. Elon Musk was a Series A VC at Tesla at the time being. The founders had the idea of developing a hybrid as a following to the Roadster like the Fisker done at the time. At time it happend, I don't know how, that Elon Musk booted those original founders out, because Elon wanted an electric only car.


Thank god he did, otherwise we'd just have another company noone has ever heard of.


I love how, from a technical perspective, Elon Musk is a startup founder's worst dream. You start up a company, some VC literally pushes the co-founders out of the company and takes over the reins. Is this really the person HN should be rooting for?


The VC chose the best CEO (which happened to be himself) for the company, in the best interest of the company, its employees and its shareholders. History absolves him.

The real question is, were they adequately compensated for their contributions (I've no idea myself).


> The VC chose the best CEO (which happened to be himself) for the company, in the best interest of the company, its employees and its shareholders.

In the same way Dick Cheney chose the best VP (which happened to be himself).

> History absolves him.

History absolves nothing. We've got no idea whatsoever how Tesla would have fared without a self-aggrandising marketer at the helm.

Chances are it might have killed fewer people.


What the fuck ? You might as well call Musk a murderer. What a crippling bias you have there.


Tesla released a half-baked lane detection system and essentially marketed it as autonomous self-driving, completely in line with Musk's usual MO. Saying so is not bias, let alone crippling.


But when I see the hate and vitriol heaped on him, I'm compelled to wonder just what kind of alternative universe people are wishing for.

I think you give these people waaaaay too much credit. They have no imagination of some other future without Musk. They are people who reaction to emotion and give in to their baser instincts (to shit on something because he gives them some pleasure).

The last 3 years (in the US) has taught me a big lesson: people are dumber and meaner than I ever thought. And, to be precise on the "dumb" part, I know many very book-smart people who are just dumb, because while they have all that book smarts, they make very, very dumb life decisions.

I wish we could redefine the word "smart" to be more broad. Just because you scored really high on the SAT doesn't mean you are smart.


I want to live in a universe where you at least apologise for calling someone a pedo, or yes, you get kicked out.


It doesn't absolve him of such an absurd, spiteful, and malicious action, but he did apologize: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1019472152796381185?s=09


Thanks, I will admit I didn't see that. It is quite well hidden (I follow Elon, and don't read all of his replies).


I have to assume some facetiousness here, but you are literally advocating not just against freedom of speech, but in favor of forcing your desired speech onto others. Some might perceive that as evil.


Musk is almost cartoonish embodiment of "entrepreneurial spirit", with his unremarkable background, eccentricities, outlier success and disregard for unions. In other words, he is clicking all the wrong buttons for political left, leading them on the trail of hunting for personal flaws (which he certainly has) and focused nitpicking.

So yes, these people would rather see SpaceX or Tesla never happening, as a "bad" person doing good deeds invalidates much of their worldview.


Elon Musk did not found Tesla. I do want Tesla to succeed, but facts are facts.


"and they will inevitably have extreme personality traits" – I find that a pretty bold claim and don't believe it to be true. And I'd much rather settle Mars a few hundred years later if that in turn means that Mars will be settled by not-so-big-assholes than if it happened sooner.


It doesn't have to be an argument of belief; real-world examples will suffice.

Every person I can think of who was a profoundly influential inventor, scientist or company leader has had some notable personality idiosyncrasies.

Think: Nikola Tesla, Edison, Einstein, Newton, Howard Hughes.

I'm happy to hear of counter-examples.


Here's one: http://www.korolev-s-p.ru/sp11.htm (in Russian)

Sergey Korolyov, the "father of cosmonautics", when asked about his biography, directly instructed the writer to write about hundreds and thousands of scientists, engineers and workers that made conquering the space possible. After WWII, no less, to boot.

From what I get, he was very humble and humane. And he was influential inventor, scientist and company leader, all at once.

Richard Feynmann is one other example. But I believe you will find something in him you would consider idiosyncrasy.


Korolyov was also quite an asshole when he had to be. He worked his engineers hard, he did not mince for words of criticism. The facilities under his supervision widely used prison labor.

Feynman now has a rep of womaniser and mysoginist. Hell, people tell about personal flaws of Gandhi and MLK.

It's part of the package.


> And I'd much rather settle Mars a few hundred years later if that in turn means that Mars will be settled by not-so-big-assholes than if it happened sooner.

I haven't seen a lot of evidence to suggest that Musk is an asshole. He deeply cares about what he is doing but he also seems to care about people. He is sometimes impulsive and perhaps volatile when he's running low on sleep. I have never heard of him subjecting others to something he would not subject onto himself.

Even if he is a complete asshole. If he advanced the advent of electric cars and space travel by a hundred years then I'd take it.


> He deeply cares about what he is doing but he also seems to care about people. He is sometimes impulsive and perhaps volatile when he's running low on sleep.

I think he is just annoyed by bullshit, human stupidity & bureaucracy. I mean who wouldn't...

People are too sensitive & overreacting over nothing.


Your comment is a good example of a trend that terrifies me.

People being so emotionally invested in personalities that they’d rather halt technology progress for hundreds of years than endure some tweets.


> But when I see the hate and vitriol heaped on him, I'm compelled to wonder just what alternative universe people are hoping for.

> Do we actually want Tesla and SpaceX to fail?

This is an issue for anyone trying to change things, haters hate anyone successful and do just want them to fail.

Elon does also though have a ton of fans (of which I'm one) so he does get the benefits too.

But the haters don't seem to bother him, it's just the short sellers who could bankrupt Tesla. But that's their job.

Also though this stress seems to be more about Tesla than SpaceX which is still private and plus it seems that Gwen Shotwell is able to take a lot of the decisions there.


> But the haters don't seem to bother him

uh... yeah, sure.

> it's just the short sellers who could bankrupt Tesla. But that's their job.

that's not how this works.


> It's just the short sellers who could bankrupt Tesla. But that's their job.

Let's be clear that the thing that the only thing that could actually cause Tesla to go bankrupt would be failing to produce and deliver products as promised. Short sellers, at most, may speed up the clock a bit.


Most companies in their early days can easily fail -- the more ambitious they are the more likely they are on the edge. Short sellers are part of the market - I completely agree. But when you have made these giant bets, then you are actively trying to make them fail - stop further investment, dissuade customers, promote disinformation, etc.

When trying to do something new and difficult - the status quo can easily throw rocks; and it takes 10x the effort clear up bullshit than to generate it.


> Do we actually want Tesla and SpaceX to fail?

Defenitely! I do not think it is good for the world to have even more concentration of economic power in the hands of the US.

I hope EVs succeed, and that private space companies start venturing to space in earnest. I just hope that other economic blocks are able to rip the rewards - ideally developing countries, including China and Russia.

We already have a terrible situation with most internet companies being american.

Economic power is extremely schewed.


The kleptocratic oligarchy and the defacto Xi Dynasty of the empire are the ones you would choose instead? The US has its flaws and sins, serious and worryingly worsening ones but those two are not better hands without some serious reforms.

Not to mention it is seriously flawed thinking on several levels - what is preventing the world from competing with those companies? It isn't the presence in the US proving viability and their failure would not encourage development in "better" places, the opposite in fact. If they want it they'll have to compete. Not everybody can do so right now but breaking other people's legs doesn't make you run faster.


"Then he got in a Tesla Model S and drove himself to the airport. En route, Mr. Musk typed his fateful message."

Don't text while driving.

This going private thing is a strange idea. Sell Tesla to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund? The one dedicated to keeping oil a viable industry? Does he want Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as a boss? That makes no sense. Softbank might make sense.

Part of Musk's problem seems to be "Only I can fix it". Tesla desperately needs a chief operating officer. They have a VP of manufacturing, Gilbert Passin, who's a car guy, but he does not seem to be in charge. He's not the one living in the plant. There are people who have fixed broken production lines. Musk is not one of them.

Tesla finally produced 5,000 Model 3 units a week for two weeks running. That's encouraging. If they can sustain that rate for two months, and the quality complaints don't go up, they have the line working. Profitability is another matter. Tesla Fremont has a huge headcount for the output.


Saudi Arabia has the whole Vision 2030 plan in motion. The general thrust is they want to diversify the country away from being a petrostate. The headline numbers for state investment in renewables are nothing to scoff at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-16/saudi-ara...

I can’t find the link right now, but Bloomberg did a short ~30 minute documentary 4-5 years ago on Saudi efforts to build a biofuel research center.

I’d also posit that now is the ideal time to take money from the Saudis, if there ever was a time. The Aramco IPO is going nowhere fast, so a key pillar of Vision 2030 is dead in the water.

I’d humbly suggest that you read up on the Saudi youth bulge. Every Saudi receives an annual Alaska-style oil dividend. A huge portion of the youth population is unemployed. The thousands of US dollars paid out to each idle youth is not sustainable long-run, even if oil prices were to increase.

Assuming this Saudi deal is some kind of preferred stock or hybrid equity-debt structure, Tesla can probably get the most favorable terms possible from the Saudis because they are somewhat desperate at this point.


>Saudi Arabia has the whole Vision 2030 plan in motion. The general thrust is they want to diversify the country away from being a petrostate.

So the short-sellers are Big Oil shills, but selling out to the Saudis is okay (if you ignore human rights atrocities and all the oil)?


Ethics? Do you think Tesla is bad for selling cars to China? No country has intact ethics, your comment is ridiculous. Sa is one of the biggest and most promising investors in renewables precisely because of their oil background. Oil is going to implode soon and they know it. Their economy and foreign policy rely heavily on oil, so they are carrying out a transition away from it now rather than wait. So yes, "selling out" to them is more than ok -- it's brilliant.


> Aramco IPO going nowhere fast

Why? Could you elaborate on this please?


There are a bunch of reasons, but the basic background is this.

-Vision 2030, which first mentioned the IPO, was announced back in 2016

-Oil prices sit around $66/barrel today. This represents a recovery from the low-point of ~$40/barrel. However, Aramco’s valuation is obviously tied to the price of oil, and the Saudis want to wait (hope?) for higher oil prices

-Even at today’s depressed oil prices, the Saudis have slapped a $2 trillion valuation on Aramco. Keep in mind that Aramco has always been private, and specifics on the size of the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia are still opaque.

-The Aramco IPO proposes to sell 5% of the company, which would mean raising $100 billion in public markets. This would easily be the largest IPO ever. It’s unclear if there are enough institutional investors to buy into this.

-The Saudis can’t afford to discount the valuation too far, since to make the math work for their renewables and diversification projects they are counting on the IPO proceeds

-Take a look at this link, and select the 5-year view to see how far the country’s foreign exchange reserves have been depleted: https://tradingeconomics.com/saudi-arabia/foreign-exchange-r.... 1 USD is roughly equivalent to 3.75 SAR at today’s exchange rates.

This is decent commentary on the whole fiasco: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-07/saudi-ara...

TL;DR the Saudis are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They need the cash from the IPO, but can’t give away the crown jewels too cheaply.


I think this IPO could happen sooner than you think. The Saudis seem to have quite a bit of influence on the current US presidential administration and I wouldn't be surprised if the Saudis played a role in the decision to sanction Venezuela, who was at the time was the #1 oil exporter in the world, and the decision to sanction Iran, another huge oil exporter. They've recently coordinated oil supply cuts through OPEC and also isolated Quatar, another large oil exporter. I think the claim that peak oil is behind us is reasonable conjecture, especially with the rise of economically viable alternative energy sources. I think the Saudis are well aware of this and they're currently making what looks like a very effective short term play at cashing out as much as they can.

A little side bit to this is that Saudi Arabia's King Salman named his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman (MS) as crown prince on June 21, 2017, removing his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir and one of they key platforms on which MS has sought to earn favor from other ranking figures has been the promise to make this IPO happen asap. The longer it takes the bumpier his transition to power will be, so you can bet he is well incentives to cut the needed deals to drive that price of oil as high as he can as fast as he can.


Nothing is impossible, so sure it's not impossible I'm wrong, and Aramco goes public soon.

Given that they've already signaled that it won't happen this year, you do wonder why 2 years on there's no meaningful progress. They've announced the underwriting banks, but there's been no roadshow, no news of meetings with institutional investors. I still think it's quite unlikely you could float a $100 billion IPO today.

IPO aside, I think several of your claims about geopolitics and oil in general are at the very least heavily debatable, and in some cases just factually incorrect.

--------------------

> The Saudis seem to have quite a bit of influence on the current US presidential administration and I wouldn't be surprised if the Saudis played a role in the decision to sanction Venezuela

The stated reason for the sanctions was because the US and its allies alleges that Venezuela had sham elections. The EU is doing the same: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/eu-prepares-hit-venez....

In 2014, H.R. 4587 passed the House. The bill's rationale was to sanction Venezuelan officials who were alleged to have retaliated against opposition voters and politicians.

The bottom line is that US-Venezuelan relations have been fraught since the days of Chavez.

--------------------

> ...and the decision to sanction Iran, another huge oil exporter

Maybe? Trump ran quite openly on punishing Iran and tearing up the nuclear deal. I'm not sure if you can attribute this to Saudi influence given he and his family have business ties and taken meetings with everyone from the UAE to Bahrain to Qatar.

--------------------

> They've recently coordinated oil supply cuts through OPEC and also isolated Quatar, another large oil exporter.

Qatar exports ~1.25 million barrels a day. The Saudi-Qatari standoff has little to do with oil. Qatar sits on one of the world's largest natural gas fields: https://www.vox.com/world/2017/7/2/15882682/saudi-arabia-qat.... Saudi Arabia and Qatar are jockeying for political influence in the Middle East, over everything from the war in Yemen to Qatar's friendliness with Iran. This is analogous to how the war in Yemen was for the longest time a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its allies vs Iran.

Scroll down to the "Price and Production" section of this Bloomberg visualization: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/opec-production-targets/. Notice how OPEC cut production sharply in late 2016. Is there any trend between OPEC output and overall oil prices?

What's changed? The US is now the largest oil exporter in the world: https://www.businessinsider.com/us-will-export-oil-most-in-w.... It's simply the case that OPEC doesn't hold the same sway that is used to. Look at the chart labeled "Shares of primary energy" here: https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/stat.... Natural gas is trending upwards, while oil is flat in recent years, and down quite significantly compared to past decades.

--------------------

One nit-picky thing, Mohammed bin Salman goes by MBS. I've yet to hear anyone call him MS.


Hey that was a very thoughtful response! You make some very good points. I always appreciate learning something new, thank you.

And you're right it's MBS, I couldn't quite remember


I think the 5% sale is more like pre-selling their oil, they will do it at it's highest value. They probably have 50/100 year plan to slowly sell rest of the 95% and move all that risk out of their country.

At the end it will be investors in the rest of the world holding the bag instead of Saudi people. Saudis will buy stake in Tesla/FB and emerging technologies with all that Aramco $$.


>This going private thing is a strange idea. Sell Tesla to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund? The one dedicated to keeping oil a viable industry? Does he want Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as a boss? That makes no sense. Softbank might make sense.

I had the same thought.

>Part of Musk's problem seems to be "Only I can fix it". Tesla desperately needs a chief operating officer.

I think this comes kind of packaged with software engineering mentality. In software you can try and fail a lot and learn almost anything in a matter of weeks. And you can span up systems way more complex than what other industries are working on alone in your basement in a matter of weeks. Everything because text is much more malleable than any of the working products in other industries. You can plan a house quickly, but you can't build it, see where it failed, change those parts and redo half the architecture because you started out bad.

In manufacturing with that mentality you go bankrupt.

This mentality gives people coming from software a kind of hubris about being able to do anything alone. I think Musk is badly infected with that mind virus.


This going private thing is a strange idea. Sell Tesla to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund? The one dedicated to keeping oil a viable industry?

The sheiks and leaders of most of the Mideast oil producers know their oil will run out eventually, and one of the mandates of their sovereign wealth funds is to diversify their economies. Dubai is probably the most progressive in this respect, but Saudi Arabia and the others are as well to some extent.


Isn’t the Saudi fund a hedge fund? Thought they had other orgs to promote oil, I assumed this fund is to get ready for a post-oil world.


You are right. They invest in various alternative projects (real state, construction... even Uber!) to protect the country economy from future oil decline.


the Saudi sovereign wealth fund? The one dedicated to keeping oil a viable industry?

The Saudis are worrying about what happens to their grandchildren when the oil runs out. They are desperate to diversify. While prolonging oil as long as possible obviously.


> Part of Musk's problem seems to be "Only I can fix it". Tesla desperately needs a chief operating officer. They have a VP of manufacturing, Gilbert Passin, who's a car guy, but he does not seem to be in charge. He's not the one living in the plant. There are people who have fixed broken production lines. Musk is not one of them.

Basically, Tesla needs Gwynne Whitwell or her clone.


Gwynne Shotwell.


Derp. Phone autocorrect doesn't know her name. And too late to edit.


> The one dedicated to keeping oil a viable industry? Does he want Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as a boss? That makes no sense.

It does make sense. They know renewable is the future so they're investing in it. They'll try to make as much money as possible on oil right now, but they're not foolish enough to desperately cling to it and deny potential changes in the future.


You do understand that the Saudi would not control the company right?


Objective answers like this should be at the top of the comments


You don't understand sa.


This was about what I'd gathered.

He's been reckless and made some huge errors in judgement over the past year, but despite it all I hope he succeeds. I don't think he's a hero or a saint like some people do, but his endeavors are having a very real and tangible positive effect on civilization.

Most chiefly, as bad as the climate change situation looks right now, it would be so much worse without the insane amount of 1) change in the public's and the auto industry's perception of electric cars, and 2) innovation in battery technology (especially applied to solar arrays), which Tesla has accomplished. Seriously. We would have zero chance without those two hills having been crossed.

Character flaws aside, Musk is the only billionaire alive (or even in recent memory) whose business ventures are netting any actual positive effect on society whatsoever. Heck, he might be the only one not having a seriously detrimental effect on society right now. You don't have to like him to acknowledge that.


Yeah I agree. Don’t understand why people are so pissed off by Musk, but seem happy to give a free ride to any number of cut and dried vile megarich dynasties like the Koch brothers or the crown prince of Saudi Arabia or whichever asshole owns Elsevier. Consider that these villains are quite literally destroying the planet, impeding scientific progress and manipulating societies for their personal profit.


You may be surprised to learn that the Koch Bros. and the Saudis do, in fact, receive enormous amounts of criticism for their behavior.

But I think with Musk the answer is that people respond extra harshly to perceive hypocrisy. The Kochs are almost cartoon corporate arch-villains and the Saudis are brutal theocrats. No one has any illusions that they are good people trying to help the world. Musk, however, has been presented as a Good Guy by both himself and a largely fawning press, set up as some kind of technology messiah. I think people therefore react strongly when, of course, this proves not to be true and that he's just another businessman, albeit one who does genuinely seem to want to help people.


The Kochs/Saudi’s actually receive very little criticism in tech circles. In any case, if your point is that they are actually bad, and Musk is good but a hypocrite at times, then are we not agreeing that the level of criticism he receives is unjustified?


> The Kochs/Saudi’s actually receive very little criticism in tech circles

They get very little tech-circle-specific criticism, because that's not where they operate (and because they have little in the way of tech-specific cult of personality, to provoke domain specific response expressing the general criticism.)

But they get a lot of criticism from non-tech-specific groups that themselves substantially overlap tech circles.


Thanks for the ELI5. But since I am commenting on HN, implicitly my point is about the unmoored proportionality of criticism in the tech community.


I'd argue that it was mass-production hybrids in the late 90s that moved us towards the renewables-based future. People could buy them without fear of running out of charge, yet they gamified energy-effiency for drivers who had never really considered that beyond the price of petrol at the pump.

Without hybrids having shouldered the door open, I doubt that pure EVs would have fared much better than in previous decades.

Do remember that Tesla was founded to build hybrids.


Before Tesla, electric and especially hybrid cars were (needlessly) seen by society as dorky and lame. In a culture like America's, for a category of cars, that's a death knell condemning them to living in a niche forever. Silly as that barrier was, Tesla managed to change it.


Yes, I think it’s largely thanks to Tesla that conventional automakers are finally starting to create EVs that aren’t bizarre space bug things and have a reasonable range.

Tesla is still lightyears ahead in terms of charging stations, though, which is mind boggling — charging infrastructure is easily the biggest bottleneck in mass EV adoption at this point, yet the traditional automakers are doing jack shit about it. They could be setting up a brand new market for themselves, but instead they’re willingly handing this advantage to Tesla. It makes no sense.


I would credit the Prius with this shift in attitude. The Prius wasn't cool, but it was cool enough, and more affordable with a reputation for reasonable resale value.


Somewhat OT, but I wouldn't say hybrids came in the late 90s, more like the mid 2000s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_electric_vehicles_in_th...

There's a nice inflection point around 2003-2004 where they really became mass-market.


Before we go ahead and give Tesla the moral high-ground here, let's not forget that Teslas are black boxes that pose immense privacy concerns.

Tesla surely created a hype about electric vehicles that has prompted mainstream car manufacturers like Volkswagen to step up their electric vehicle game, which is a net positive, but they also started the trend of including data-reporting black boxes, and they're one of the worst offenders in my view.

https://electrek.co/2017/06/14/tesla-autopilot-data-floodgat...

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/02/19/the-big-...


> Character flaws aside, Musk is the only billionaire alive (or even in recent memory) whose business ventures are netting any actual positive effect on society whatsoever.

Wait, what? How can you possibly justify that?

> Heck, he might be the only one not having a seriously detrimental effect on society right now. You don't have to like him to acknowledge that.

What about all those recent self-driving crashes? At best, they're poisoning the well for sensible self-driving legislation. At worst, they're killing people for no reason other than corporate hubris and greed. Then there's the matter of creepy corporate policing, such as the remote lockouts whenever somebody tries to examine the firmware, or the humiliating public accident reports whenever something goes wrong with one of the cars, or the forced corralling of all self-driving taxi business into a Tesla-exclusive service in the future.


The self-driving crashes have mostly been users using autopilot irresponsibly, from what I've read. Still, I'm not arguing the finer points; both Musk the person and Tesla the company have made some bad, sometimes even ethically dubious decisions. My point was that, for all of today's Captains Of Industry "solving problems" that's don't actually exist, dismantling democracy and privacy and destroying millions of people's livelihoods in the process, Musk stands out for funding and directing actual, honest-to-god human progress, despite everything else he and his companies may have done.


> The self-driving crashes have mostly been users using autopilot irresponsibly

Tesla has been advertising the autopilot capabilities irresponsibly. With advertising like that on their website[0] they should be held accountable (at least partially at fault) for crashes resulting from autopilot failure.

[0]: https://www.tesla.com/autopilot


This is one of my few bugbear's about Tesla - other than this I think they're doing a fine job making EVs seem cool and changing perceptions[0]. I just wish they'd not have named it "Autopilot". That is such a loaded term that to me it's exceptionally disingenuous to claim it implies anything other than self-driving.

I work in marketing, I'm always looking for the best spin to put on an offering, but I shake my head every time I see "Autopilot" used when they actually just mean "better than average driving assistance".

[0] whether or not they succeed as a company is a different point, their importance to me is wider than their actual business and whether they flame out or not is, presently, neither here nor there.


> All Tesla vehicles produced in our factory, including Model 3, have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.

Wow, this is a ludicrous claim without providing any evidence.


And yet it's your responsibility to read through marketing bullshit, understand that "only 99,99$" really means 100$, crack the manual open and make sure you read all the "caution" boxes.

It's a running joke here in EU when reading absurd warnings in manuals, to think "oh, an American must have tried that and sued!"


What about the thousands upon thousands of people killed by human drivers? Not newsworthy because it is normal and the brain can grok numbers of that magnitude. 40200 estimated in the us in 2017 which amounts to 110 people a day.


> How can you possibly justify that?

Rockets! Cars propelled by faraway vibrations! Is there no room in our world for the brilliantly mad?


Sure, but it's almost absurd to argue that Musk is the only billionaire alive whose work is a net positive on society.


> that Musk is the only billionaire alive whose work is a net positive on the world

No. But he’s a better bet than many. Including network effects, his work has added value, if only by accelerating retroactively obvious ideas.


Name another billionaire, other than maybe Bill Gates, who's presently doing anything good, at all.


Bezos. Amazon has revolutionised the way we buy things, meaning land is no longer needed for strip malls, oil isn't burnt driving to them, people aren't having inferior things pushed on them by dodgy salesmen, or wasting an hour to buy a single item, or buying the wrong item because the right one is out of stock.


I think there's still quite a significant difference between "popularizing something that may save the planet from extinction from global warming which could have been pursued for quite a while by other large companies automotive and otherwise but hasn't been" to "people prefer shopping with them over how they used to shop". But I can see that the net gain of the time saved using Amazon could be argued as a good for society.


Add onto that Amazon's systematic, abhorrent treatment of its employees that was required to achieve "more efficient shopping" and the whole thing shows itself as banal, and honestly evil.


Has Telsa really popularised it? Or is this looking at things from an SV perspective?

Certainly in the UK it's a minor player compared with the Nissan Leaf, and plugin hybrids are even more popular


Well, anecdotally, I'm from the UK, and hadn't heard of the Nissan Leaf until you mentioned it. Tesla, on the other hand... Although yes, actually that's very impressive.

With regards to Hybrids, my (limited) understanding is that they are part of the problem - they're better, but only better by half. From what I'm reading about global warming, we need to push as far as possible towards a fully electric, mostly renewable future as quick as possible.


Plug in hybrids mean you get to pootle around on battery power for local trips to the shop/school/etc, but have a car for long trips


I didn't appreciate that difference in them, thanks.


I think this list of philanthropists[1] contains quite a few billionaires. That counts as "doing good" in my book.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_philanthropists


To be fair, OP said "billionaire's business venture". So philanthropic work might not apply.


I would rephrase as: Who has the guts today to break technological boundaries as strongly as Elon?


... all of them that haven't retired yet?


Honestly, in the world that you are imaging we never would get any kind of self-driving ever.


> What about all those recent self-driving crashes?

What about Apollo 1? There is a difference between a civilian and military death. But they are both pursuing progress. One can’t discount the costs without any concept of the potential benefits.


The Apollo 1 astronauts were willing participants and very clearly knew the risks. With poorly-designed self-driving cars, everyone is an unwilling participant.


Has a Tesla ever killed a non-driver/passenger (like Uber has)?


Thus far, Autopilot has only killed individual drivers.


Not yet


I wouldn't include the self-driving tech among the world-changing progress. Climate change is a pressing disaster for our whole species; self-driving cars are not urgent enough to be pursued with the same intensity, and are dangerous enough to deserve more rigour.


Automobiles cause over 1,000,000 deaths globally per year. Not to mention the number of human hours used to drive. Elimination of the need for people to drive and reducing auto deaths by, say 95%, I think would be world-changing.

What ratio of lives saved to extra deaths while creating self-driving tech would you accept?


You know the answer to that: zero. In the court of public opinion, existing risks are internalized and heavily discounted while new risks are always perceived as gargantuan no matter how small.

It's basic human psychology, it's why some people prefer to drive long distances instead of flying, and why a flu pandemic is conducive to mass hysteria, while the obesity and diabetes prevalence, orders of magnitude more deadly, barely appears on the radar.


Plus there's no way I'm trusting my life to some idiot programmer.


3.5 million new cars are registered every year in Germany alone. If we can replace a significant amount of that with cheap, shared, swlf-driving electrics it'll be a massive step towards carbon neutrality.


>3.5 million new cars are registered every year in Germany alone. If we can replace a significant amount of that with cheap, shared, swlf-driving electrics it'll be a massive step towards carbon neutrality.

Sell the electic cars today and sell the autopilot extension hardware and software where actually works, pushing the hype can have a huge negative impact like very strong autopilot testing regulations. because of dreedy corporation pushing things that are not ready or over the air updates that are not tested.

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