Saturday 19 November 2022

Musk: the limitations of raw intelligence

Until the ridiculous Thailand cave rescue incident I hadn't given much thought to Musk.  Mostly positive.  Serious achievements; obviously, brain the size of a planet; vision; and a remarkable ability, not only to think & do hard sums, but to be creative (if not original), and - above all - to implement & execute.

That, though, is a dangerous combination if not leavened with some worthwhile character.  Why introduce that negative perspective?  Well, because of the Thailand thing ... and then there's his extraordinary public statements on the subject of Tesla shares.  Writing as someone who's twice been an officer of a publicly listed US company, with all the blood-curdling warnings - plus accompanying training - one gets from corporate lawyers on the subject of Public Utterances in Matters Affecting the Share Price, I can tell you that one rapidly develops great sensitivity on the subject.  Well, mere mortals do, anyhow.  How Musk got away with it, who can say?  Too big to fall? - like US bankers (though not like Enron's Skilling and Lay).

So now he lays hands on Twitter, and what a dog's breakfast he's making of it.  Mass resignations of exactly the people a tech company relies on (leaving with what juicy insider info in their laptops and craniums?); really funny insults being projected onto his offices; obvious prospect of utter meltdown.  Note to CEO: you don't insist on people working ultra-long hours etc etc as a precondition of employment: serious hard work happens naturally enough when you (a) inspire them and (b) send them on a mission that captures their imagination.  (Flogging works as well - but not when they have serious employability credentials and an unimpeded passage to the door.) 

Musk has climbed several mountains in his remarkable career.  This one is entirely of his own making.  Let's see what happens with Twitter.


SUNDAY UPDATE:  an apposite supporting article in today's Observer


dearieme said...

I hooted at a short article in this morning's Telegraph referring to a "Tesla Tax". Serves the bugger right, I thought.

Like you it was the Thailand episode that made me doubt his ... er, um, I can't say "sanity" ... I know, "balance".

Sane but unbalanced - that may be about the size of it.

BlokeInBrum said...

I think his intent to push out a lot of the dead wood has succeeded all too well. The fact that Twitter continues to function essentially the same (or better!) after the loss of literally thousands of employees begs the question about what they actually did for the company.
I too kinda liked Elon up until the pedo guy comments, even though I reckoned him a massive con artist Vis a Vis Tesla and Solana.
I reckon he is probably untouchable up to a point simply because of the amount of stuff he chucks up into orbit for the DOD.

andrew said...

The guy is undoubtedly clever but then so was SBF. He did good with PayPal and helped show that rocket science can be commoditised.
But not sure he has shown tesla really makes FCF or has a sustainable moat and so decided to leverage an irrationally high stock price into buying something else
Like twitter.
He is cleverer than me but don't see how you can make a profit out of paying 44bn for a Corp that was worth less than 25bn and then pissing off employees who can easily find another job.
Not least as working at twitter is hardly being involved in the leading edge

lilith said...

I have gone back onto twitter since Elon took over. He clearly has blind spots (screwing share prices, the paedo insult, Amber Heard) but is even better than Dale Vince at getting rich from tax payer subsidies. He is also WEF so not sure how long the "free speech" thing will last with him. However, twitter seems to work without the blue haired Hitlers so maybe he'll make some money.

Anonymous said...

I reckon there is a lot of potential to monetise various aspects of Twitter, for the benefit of both Elon and the people tweeting. Some people have followers in the millions. You can't tell me that all those eyeballs don't have value to advertiser's. The poll to reinstate Trump had 15 million+ voting.
He only has to get past the hump of all the lefties and vested interests imploding at the thought that they don't control the narrative any more

Professor Pizzle said...

I hold no candle whatsoever for Musk.

But the mainstream establishment's vitriolic insistence that his tactics at Twitter 'SIMPLY MUST FAIL' tell me that they are REALLY worried that it won't.

Because then they'll have to explain:

a. Why they were so wrong. Yet again.
b. Exactly why there are so many extremely highly-paid non-jobs for left-wing activists in tech?

Hmm.... I wonder why that is?

andrew said...

How many extremely highly-paid non-jobs for left-wing activists in tech are there ?

PP, Out of (say) 10,000 employees is that

I want one of those jobs, it sounds like a nice relaxing gig.
Sadly not left wing, wondered what my chances of escaping my real job are

Timbo614 said...

Elon is not stupid. Remember his talk of a "super app", he has tech knowledge, payment systems knowledge, lots of money and must know many financiers. Now... after a good clear out of dead wood... think We Chat...

Bill Quango MP said...

Wandering off topic.

There is an idea that it is sometime best to lose an election. Could be because a government is simply too tired and fagged out. It’s top people have been disgraced. Elevated. Died. Resigned, demoted, or drifted off to other pastures. The low fliers are buzzing with poorly conceived projects.
It is Incompetent. Corrupt. Remote.

Or, perhaps it is a good idea to avoid the next five years of looming disasters they have materially contributed to creating. To use the time to regroup under cover of opposition. When no one expects much. Refresh. Refocus. Return to great glory at the next election when a faction riven, left wing socialist disaster, is collapsing under the contradictions of a spend and spend and spend and tax the rich!.

Mr Drew has often cautioned this is a doubtful remedy for the ills of the party.
For very sound reasons.

1. It’s much harder to get back in than stay in.
2. The fallout from losing causes huge fractures. There is no certainty that the party will reform as a cohesive whole in time for an election. Or even the one after. Sir Starmer, almost didn’t.
3. The government is in the driving seat. No seat, no steering wheel. The government goes wherever it likes and all the opposition can do is call for resignations, apologies and elections that can be ignored for the impotent playground taunts that they are. No majority, no heed.

Even worse, is the government will be doing things for its own supporters. Already, Sir Kneel is hearing the calls from those who have been waiting for their turn to mess up, since 2010.

An end to charitable status for public schools. Long on the left’s agenda.
Not bothered? Ok. But when those schools close, or those parents move their offspring to take up the places in the private in all but name, free state schools and grammar schools, those places will be lost. 7 million kids in state schools. 600,000 more to be added without private. Are there 10% places available? Not where I am. Not even 2%. Not even 1%.

Labour would like to reform the House of Lords.
‘About time too…anyway ..they always say that..They never do.’…their previous most passionate abolitionists ( Lord Kinnock. Lord Prescott) are now IN the freeloading reward for services and reward for silence Chamber.

But if Labour DID do something, it is their choice of what. A mini-semi elected bollox as now, was their previous half attempt.

A landslide government victory, 1997 style, means the ruling party could do whatever it wishes. Within certain economic, ( Korbyn/Truss) parameters. (Don’t prod the markets.)

On social issues. Police. Law. Media. Quango stuffing.. School curriculum. The arts. Internet. Sport. Crime. Monarchy. Election ballots. Postal votes. Vote counting. Voting age. Smoking, eating, drinking, driving, banning and banning and banning, etc. it’s all theirs for the spoiling.

The fact that an 80 seat Tory majority achieved little means little.
Don’t think Boris. Or May. Or Sunak.

Think Blair.

That labour government, once over the shock of actually winning, went to work to change the country to suit its ideas.
This is far more Blair’s Britain than Thatcher’s or Cameron’s.

Starmer’s Britain to come.

( and Rayner’s, of course. A Time for sTrumpets.)

BlokeInBrum said...

I've just taken a look at the Graun article on Elon. I say take a look because it's not worth the two minutes it would take to read it.

I'm pretty sure it amounts to nothing more than the wailing and gnashing of teeth of those 'progressives' who believed that that they would never lose control of a major arm of their propaganda machine.

"Build your own", they said.
"Why don't I buy yours?", replied Elon.
And he did.
Hence the vitriol and rage.

I don't think that Musk and Twitter are going to be some sort of knight in shining armour of 'the right', but he has penetrated the cosy consensus between the MSM and the silicon valley techno-fascists who control the online dissemination of information.

When he was championing green causes and bigging up the threat of climate change he was seen as a poster-child of the left, it has only been since he strayed off the reservation that the attacks are now coming thick and fast.

On Blair changing the country to suit it's (the labour partys ideology) -
How long have the Tories been in power?
What have they done for their voters, what have they done to secure the votes of the Red Wall?
As far as I can tell, the Tories are busy sending taxpayers money abroad via foreign aid. Busy burning it in Ukraine. Busy spending it on illegal immigrants. Busy spending it on legal immigrants. Busy pissing it up the wall on the NHS. The list is endless.
I'm finding it hard to think of anything the Tory party has willingly done to improve the lot of hard working Britons.

iOpener said...

Good heavens, I had no idea so many internet commenters knew so much more about how to run businesses than one of the most successful businessmen ever.

What stocks do you all recommend?

Me, I'm buying "Benefit of the Doubt, PLC" and "Track Record, GMBH".

jim said...

I reckon Musk and Twitter will survive, possibly improved. I was taught long ago that corporates are either impossible to kill or so fundamentally weak they are dead anyway. That is why we consultants went for big companies - you got paid whatever you did.

But if you screw up repeatedly for many years even the best companies can be killed off. A lesson there - post Thatcher. She was useful for a couple of years then lost the thread. Her followers continued to live off the fat and screw up repeatedly - till now when the fat has run out.

You might also like Janan Ganesh 'how the humanities lost their status' in the FT - paywall.

Professor Pizzle said...

Andrew @ 4.12

Out of a 1001? Depends on the industry. Depends on your definition of high-paid. Bearing in mind that I know many good people who work very very hard on sub-20K salaries.

In mine, publishing and film/TV, the % of well-paid non-jobs is at minimum 25%. With about another 25% of reasonable/low-paid non-jobs.

In academia, a field which I also know well, it's at least 50% well-paid.

Judging from the mass redundancies taking place in tech, media, film and animation it seems that Musk and other tech executives think it's possibly even higher in their fields.

Caeser Hēméra said...

Musk is smart, has quite a lot of foresight, but is primarily a myth maker, with himself being the main myth. A modern P T Barnum.

With PayPal, he started, which was merged with another business, which became PayPal. Whilst Musk retained his share, which increased his wealth considerably, he was *very* quickly removed from having any control.

SpaceX has been amazing, dropping the cost-per-kg of launching into orbit, Tesla has been something of marketing over reality (the build quality is variable) and other ideas like his Boring one we have yet to see (not helped by trying to patent what was a bus stop.)

With Twitter, I know some people who work there, which you'd think would be an advantage as to the inner workings, but given how public Musk has made everything, not so much.

He may have bitten off more than he can chew with it, he's done some major fuckups, and it's reliant on H1B migrants at the moment... Let's see what happens.

Don Cox said...

"In academia, a field which I also know well, it's at least 50% well-paid."

Are you including the technical staff ? Most courses couldn't run without the technicians, and they are not well paid.


Caeser Hēméra said...

@BQ the Tories have had 12 years, likely 14 by the time of the next election, and it is they who have laid out the red carpet for Starmer.

Ignore all the ideological bits, let's look at the bread and butter and apply some grades.

Energy? F. The removal of resilience, overpriced nukes, the fetishisation of renewables over our own technological prowess. We need to move away from carbon energy generation, but given the UK's position in the emissions tables, we'd have been better off looking to come up with exportable technologies rather than greenwash at state level.

Laura Norder? F. There's always a copper about when you need a dance off, never when you've just been burgled. There is probably a 10000 page book in how the Tories have dropped every bollock available on one of the things they're meant to be good at.

Brexit? D. We're out, which is good, and no one seems to know what to do or how to play hardball with the EU, which isn't. The EU know they're playing poker with an overly expressive idiot, and that's why they've got a lot more chips.

Health? F. The right hand of social care, and the left hand of the NHS, are clapping like a soul who enjoys their days out with the Sunshine Variety Club and whose hands never quite come together. In the NHS deckchairs have been rearranged, and have had several expensive polishings.

Immigration? F. The Channel is almost more dinghy than water at this point, failure to open up health courses means more health migrants are needed, failures to tackle educational and long term sick means more migrants in general are needed. Immigration policy is truly a house that Jack built, mostly as no one bothered with any foundations.

It is a little difficult to fear what Starmer may bring looking at that. Could he be worse? Oh yes, but the Tories have certainly narrowed the range of the "how" options.

E-K said...

The limitations of raw intelligence.

Woe is me. :((

Professor Pizzle said...


Perhaps my perception of academia is somewhat skewed by the sheer number of humanities, arts and grievance studies teachers, lecturers and administrators I know, or am related to. (Possibly a function of working in my field and living in London.)

But outside London I've met an ever-increasing horde of student-services, PR, marketing and D.I.E. activist support workers.

I'm afraid the only technicians I've met are classroom assistants. And the majority of those, whilst hard working, seem all too keen to climb onboard the woke gravy train themselves.

But don't get me started on councils.

Diogenes said...

I'm with Caesar on this.

We have a HoC/HoL hell bent on generating endless amounts of new legislation without ripping up the old.

You have Ministers who spend their time explaining, denying or hiding from issues that never go away and just get worse. [Insert your favourite here]

We need to send the politicians off to somewhere like St Helena for a couple of years - at our expense as it's worth it - and just fix the things that need fixed.

It's not rocket science though we could ask Musk.

dearieme said...

I used to work in a university department where the chaps in the mechanical workshop seemed to me to be unusually good - fine blokes, sound craftsmen, willing workers, sensible citizens.

I asked a wise old bird for an explanation. He said they had all fled union shops because in the university there wouldn't be shop stewards to bully them, to insist they drop a job on the dot at four o'clock (or, perhaps, ten to four with a claimed tidy-up period of ten minutes) and so forth. No strikes, no go-slows, no work-to-rules, and generally much less hassle. Also relations with the academic staff and research students were relaxed and pleasant.

Our blokes would linger a few extra minutes if it let them finish a tricky portion of work. Accordingly from time to time they'd ask the foreman if they could leave work early. "Aye, son, you've earned it" was his common reply.

The younger ones were happy to join the younger academic staff in the annual staff vs students football match in June, after the exams were over. It was remarkable that this good atmosphere flourished even in a period when the Head of Department was a bully and a crook. I imagine that the workshop men stuck together effectively. Of course their skills were in demand so I suppose they could have moved to other departments easily if our HoD had misbehaved towards them. He seemed to reserve his bullying for academics, secretarial staff, and research students. (Though he did, in an act of utter recklessness, put the life of a workshop man at risk from a toxin. Golly, he was a bastard.)

Bill Quango MP said...

Caesar and supporters.

I do not disagree. That the other lot will be worse is no reason to vote for the current.

I just wanted to point out they can quite easily, and probably will be, much worse.

jim said...

BQ and others make the point about Labour likely to be just as bad as Tories. I agree.

The snag is houses and Brexit and allowing industry to grow where it wants/needs to be. Both Labour and Tory MPs will lose seats if they promote housing or industry. So they won't. So we won't get any growth - enter death spiral.

Brexit might have been just about OK if we had gone full Singapore-on-Thames. But we didn't. That move has much the same effect as above. So MPs won't do it and we get no growth and the sovereign right to have no effect on the world and be very poor as well.

Meanwhile we are whining about 50,000 folk turning up in rubber boats but not much said about the 200,000 invited in to supplement our labour force - the rest of us being too old/ill/sh%^ged out/ignorant/lazy to do the work. Not only do we not put the migrants to use - and we will never get rid of them and we pay Border Force and Serco etc to (not) keep an eye on them as well. So slap the Home Office around a bit and dish out work permits etc. We will in the end anyway. Our sole growth industry is doing totally ineffective wasteful actions at great expense.

Our MPs of either side need the Admiral Byng treatment, pour encourager les autres and to hell with the NIMBYs.

Old Git Carlisle said...

Surely it would make sense if work visa were only issued provided that the potential employer identified a specific vacancy and was required provide accommodation, and ensure GP services and/or education was available for the worker.

Remember as an Englishman I had to have a work permit to be employed in Northern Ireland in the 60's. This was specific to the job applied for and only granted when there was a specific vacancy!

I still have mine as a trophy.

I Carlisle we have manston removals swanning around with mobile phones within a dozen miles of a major arsenal. Could transmit a good GPS target locations when they go out on bikes apparently supplied- see what is happening in Ukraine!

andrew said...

We will never be Singapore on Thames
More like Bangladesh on Mehgna.

Evidence of this is that we (as others have noted) have an increasing number of non productive jobs around.
In the nhs, there are long queues and so people to manage those long queues and to slow things down there are restricted single access points and people to administer those SAPs and people to manage that and now it seems there is a list that manages access to the waiting list and people that monitor and administer that and all these people are working really hard on the front line to do their important work.

See Alison Pearson telegraph article in the telegraph.

Sadly I do not see a happly ending as we end up spending more and more on managing access to fewer and fewer actual doctors and nurses.

E-K said...


There is plenty of housing being built (but why ?) and people object to the lack of extra infrastructure and services to support them.

This isn't the reason we can't be Singapore.

The reason is that Brexit (aka Conservatism) cannot be allowed succeed.

THIS is what really caused the fall of the Truss premiership but it suited socialist and remainer alike.