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Making Sense Of Elon Musk

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Between temper tantrums, it appears that Elon Musk has some coherence to his worldview. There’s the rightwing stuff, but there’s also a distinctive Silicon Valley contribution. Jason Steinhauer explicates that contribution in terms of three “clashes” on how power is to be wielded.

Clash #1: An integrity problem v. an interference problem

The professionals (lawyers, scientists, college professors, trust and safety people) on Twitter see integrity of information as primary, whereas Musk sees interference with information as primary. This requires a fair bit of explaining, which Steinhauer does.

Elon has spoken publicly about how he views problems through an information theory framework. Information theory, which you can read about in the Encyclopedia Britannica, is a mathematical framework, not a journalistic or humanistic one. It is not concerned with the substance of a message—its meaning, its accuracy, its intrinsic value. Rather, its principal concern is getting messages from point A to point B with as little interference as possible. Information theory insists that solving the technical problem is the necessary first step in developing any reliable communications system.

This is why Elon has doubled-down on engineering while laying off staff focused on marketing, public relations, and trust & safety (in addition to wanting to save money). It is also why Elon has consistently tweeted about Twitter’s improved network performance and reduced latency under his leadership.

Further, Musk construes government and journalism as contributing noise, where others might see them as contributing organization and clarification.

Clash #2: Reverence for legacy institutions v. animosity towards legacy institutions

This is one of Silicon Valley’s dearest beliefs. Move fast and break things. Steinhauer has more.

Clash #3: Saving democracy v. saving civilization

A person who defines this as a conflict has defined the side they are on. A bunch of white men from South Africa and elsewhere have decided that they will save the human race. The Mars thing is part of this. Producing many children of their superior stock is part of it. The long-termism of Sam Bankman-Fried and William McAskill fits.

Musk is not the only denizen of Silicon Valley who thinks this way. It’s useful to understand their thinking for future battles.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner

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