Take the red pill. Incredible Elon Musk: while completing the extraordinary feat of sending an American ship back into space with men on board after ten years of fasting, the first private individual to go beyond a threshold so far only crossed by the States, on another table he challenges the government of California, risking the ‘arrest, to resume production of its electric cars prematurely in what, before the coronavirus, was to be the year of Tesla’s definitive triumph. Meanwhile, he continues to develop many other projects such as the ultra-fast underground connections of his Boring Company or Neuralink: not an abstract research but a real company that tries to produce direct connections between human brain and artificial intelligence of computers. (Here Musk’s life in 19 key dates: from the encyclopedia ended at the age of 8 to his children, one of whom died tragically, up to Tesla and Space X))
All this does not prevent him from continuing to excite and bewildered his 34 million followers on Twitter with messages in which he passes nimbly from the libertarian rebel’s suggestion to the suggestions of the great visionary who describes a fascinating or creepy future coming to trespass even in follies registries.The newborn son was given a somewhat unpronounceable name: X A-12, which combines the logo of artificial intelligence and the initials of an American spy plane from the sixties much loved by Elon for its razor sharp aerodynamic lines. But that invitation to take the red pill, a cinematic metaphor inserted in a deliberately enigmatic tweet of a few days ago, goes beyond the provocation of the iconoclastic entrepreneur to assume a political value for two reasons: the most obvious and immediate that a few minutes later Ivanka Trump, daughter of the US president, an ardent fan of hers, replied with a one-word tweet: Presa !. The second, more tortuous, than Musk, always accustomed to singing out of the choir and challenging the establishment (the Detroit automakers who laughed at him and now chase him on the path of the electric car or space, conquered by beating the duopoly BoeingLockheed also dragging the American Air Force into court that gave contracts only to them by cutting out its SpaceX) since the pandemic broke out has chosen to become the harshest critic in the scientific and political world who puts the life and health of citizens first of the reasons for the economy. So today, whether he has studied the thing or not, Elon finds himself – in a society now polarized also on health and epidemics – to be the testimonial of the front that wants to reopen immediately and unconditionally all the activities, preferring the risks of the disease and of the natural selection of the species to the conditions of the lockdown.
In short, the best interpreter of Donald Trump’s line who, in fact, repaid him by siding with him immediately when he rebelled against the California order by resuming producing cars without the authorization of the Alameda county. Except that Musk did not follow Trump, but preceded him. In March, while a president frightened by the incoming “invisible enemy” agreed to close everything at the request of epidemiologists, Elon was already giving fools to those who worried about the pandemic. Even then he tried to keep the factory open but had to surrender in the light of the arrest of all activities. He continued, however, to argue that Covid-19 was a storm in a glass of water: In late April we will have zero cases. On April 30, America had more than 90,000 coronavirus sufferers: Musk not only did not back down, but accused the governors who asked their citizens to stay at home, to behave like fascists. Music for the ears of the rebels in camouflage suits who, armed with automatic rifles, had started to besiege capitols and governorates of the states most cautious about reopening.
Graphic by Paola Parra
Musk now their idol, but he speaks above all to his followers, the Musketeers, who hang from his lips when announcing plans to conquer Mars, hypothesizes the abandonment of a Earth made unlivable by pollution and climate disasters and does not exclude that all our life is a simulation. So here we are, finally, at the red pill. The reference to a film of twenty years ago, Matrix, in which the protagonist, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is offered the choice between two pills: with blue he will continue to live, calmly, in a world of lies without even making himself I count on being immersed in a sort of slavery. If, on the other hand, you choose the red one, you will embark on a hard and painful journey towards discovering the truth. In cyber culture, the expression red pill immediately spread, but it took on different meanings. The original one – the attitude to free thought with the renunciation of normal life, whatever the price to pay – was gradually altered by the incursions of a radical right that appropriated the cinematographic metaphor giving it a sense of rebellion against the political establishment up to to the fringes that used it to justify the theses of white supremacy or those of neomaschilism that considers man a victim of women and feminism a social earthquake that damages boys and girls to the same extent. Maybe there is some of this in Elon’s sorties (neomaschilism quite common in Silicon Valley) but the interpretations diverge and divide his own fans and the sect of buyers of his cars, many of whom implore him to change course. Instinct Musk’s attitude may also be due to political calculation, but at the base there is his instinct as a brilliant but also determined and ruthless entrepreneur capable of cutting goals that seemed unthinkable. In the fury of reopening production, there is no greed, but the burning desire not to miss the chance of a magical year: not only the triumph in space, but also the consecration as leader of the world automotive industry. Despite producing a few hundred thousand cars a year, Tesla is now worth more than double the sum of General Motors, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler.
In the past, Musk has struggled to achieve economic balance, despite having excellent products. Now managed to thread two quarters of profits. He needs another to enter the gotha of finance with the Tesla which becomes part of the main stock market indices. And then he rebels against the lockdown that threatens an essential quarterly result. Even at the cost of endangering the lives of its employees.
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