Elon Musk, from revolutionary to despot

THE recent news from the tech world was the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk. The latter is a very special figure in the world of tech. He is admired by many entrepreneurs: no one since Steve Jobs has succeeded in disrupting so many different industries, and Musk certainly goes even further.

Engineers and technophiles, in particular, see it as a technological messiah: he disrupts industries such as space or the automobile from top to bottom, through technical feats, which in 2010 were considered impossible… We laughed at his cars rockets and rockets exploding on landing…until it finally became obvious. And the commercial success is there.

From a pure technological point of view, it is difficult not to be in awe of the prowess achieved by Musk’s companies (and we could also talk about OpenAI, Neuralink,… brilliant too).

For Twitter, it seems things are different. No doubt he will be able to carry out technical modifications to this messaging system more quickly than the old management. But we already see that this is done at the cost of managerial brutality, by transferring half of the staff overnight… and the entire board of directors. This last point is particularly revealing, it is the attitude of a despot (who thinks he is) enlightened. On the merits, Elon Musk defends his vision free speech, which undoubtedly appeals to a fringe of the right which feels muzzled, but it seems to be of great sociological naivety. Brandolini’s law captures the asymmetry of the war between false information and rectifications well: it takes 10 to 100 times more time and effort to correct false information than to issue one. Moreover, the propagation speeds are radically different: the outrageous (but false) attack will spread like wildfire, while the denial, even if true, will be a hundred times less “viral”. It is a poison for democracy.

Musk has demonstrated tremendous engineering and business abilities. One would dream that he was passionate about sociology or wisdom.

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