Unmusking the tree from which the Technoking apple fell

World

Unmusking the tree from which the Technoking apple fell

Elon Musk’s ideas seem shaped by his grandfather, but ‘worryingly his ideology is more dystopian than utopian’

John Authers

Where does Elon Musk get his ideas from? What is he trying to achieve and who does he want to be? Many of us are desperate to understand the world’s richest man, whose electric vehicle-maker Tesla is now, according to the stock market, worth $1-trillion. Jill Lepore, a historian at Harvard University, suggests Musk was shaped by his adolescent love of science fiction and the strange, science-obsessed politics of his Canadian grandfather.

Joshua Haldeman was a flamboyant character. Trained as a chiropractor, he performed in rodeos and sought adventure as an amateur archaeologist and pilot. After emigrating to SA with his family, he led a series of expeditions to find the mythical Lost City of the Kalahari. He died in 1974, when Musk was still a small child, but a photo shows that grandfather and grandson bear an uncanny resemblance.

In the 1930s, Haldeman led the Canadian branch of the Technocracy movement, when “technocrat” meant something very different from bland centrist politician. Then, it was a uniformed movement that marched under the Monad, or yin and yang, symbol, aiming to replace democracy with a society led by engineers. According to Lepore, Haldeman’s politics may have been his key bequest to his grandson...

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