(p. 9) At various moments in “Elon Musk,” Walter Isaacson’s new biography of the world’s richest person, the author tries to make sense of the billionaire entrepreneur he has shadowed for two years — sitting in on meetings, getting a peek at emails and texts, engaging in “scores of interviews and late-night conversations.” Musk is a mercurial “man-child,” Isaacson writes, who was bullied relentlessly as a kid in South Africa until he grew big enough to beat up his bullies. Musk talks about having Asperger’s, which makes him “bad at picking up social cues.”
. . .
At one point, Isaacson asks why Musk is so offended by anything he deems politically correct, and Musk, as usual, has to dial it up to 11. “Unless the woke-mind virus, which is fundamentally anti-science, anti-merit and anti-human in general, is stopped,” he declares, “civilization will never become multiplanetary.”
. . .
The musician Grimes, the mother of three of Musk’s children (. . .), calls his roiling anger “demon mode” — a mind-set that “causes a lot of chaos.” She also insists that it allows him to get stuff done.
. . .
He is mostly preoccupied with his businesses, where he expects his staff to abide by “the algorithm,” his workplace creed, which commands them to “question every requirement” from a department, including “the legal department” and “the safety department”; and to “delete any part or process” they can. “Comradery is dangerous,” is one of the corollaries. So is this: “The only rules are the ones dictated by the laws of physics. Everything else is a recommendation.”
Still, Musk has accrued enough power to dictate his own rules. In one of the book’s biggest scoops, Isaacson describes Musk secretly instructing his engineers to “turn off” Starlink satellite internet coverage to prevent Ukraine from launching a surprise drone attack on Russian forces in Crimea. (Isaacson has since posted on X that contrary to what he writes in the book, Musk didn’t shut down coverage but denied a request to extend the network’s range.)
. . .
Isaacson believes that Musk wanted to buy Twitter because he had been so bullied as a kid and “now he could own the playground.” . . . Owning a playground won’t stop you from getting bullied.
For the full review, see:
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review was updated Sept. 11, 2023, and has the title “Elon Musk Wants to Save Humanity. The Only Problem: People.”)
The book under review is:
Isaacson, Walter. Elon Musk. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2023.