I've been tempted to start a column on Tesla's Elon Musk that's just an ongoing list of him explaining things (for example, Elon Musk explains love). He's clearly got a fascinating mind working up there. A great example of this is him telling future Musk biographer Hannah Elliott how the dystopian video game BioShock works in her sprawling lifestyle feature about the billionaire tech investor for ForbesLife.
It reveals a little about the game and a lot about Musk himself.
BioShock is already grounded in Rand-ian Objectivism, as laboriously detailed in this piece from Kotaku, so Musk's insight isn't particularly earth-shattering although it's Muskian:
"It talks about Hegelian dialectics being the things that determine the course of history," Musk explains, his eyes fixed on the screen. "They're sort of competing philosophies or competing meme sets, and you can look at modern history where it's not so much genetics going into battle as a battle of meme structures."
Exactly. He's basically talking about memetics and the clash of ideas. A fun primer on memetics and society-shaping can be found in Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash.
The more interesting layer to this quote is its context within the larger story. Musk made this reporter play BioShock with him for 90 minutes. I would absolutely play "BioShock" with Elon Musk if given the opportunity, but the reasons why it might have happened are hinted at in the next section of the piece.
Musk, then secretly separated from actress Talulah Riley, was lonely. Here's Elliott's explanation of his estate:
What was missing from all of this, though, was any sign of actual people. The white shelves in a towering library stand embarrassingly bare. (Musk devours books exclusively on his iPhone, most recently The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs.)
The pool is covered, the manicured backyard devoid of toys, lawn chairs, or a grill. The boys are at school-Musk, having been through a much-publicized divorce, shares custody of his sons with his college sweetheart, Justine. His second wife, Talulah Riley, a 26-year-old British actress, is, I'm told, back in her home country filming a movie. There is no evidence-clothes, shoes, makeup-of a female inhabitant.
Eventually, Musk ends up hanging out with director/pal Jon Favreau and shows a reinvigorated spirit at the reveal of the Tesla Model X. Musk may be secretly alone still or he may have been undergoing a temporary setback the likes of which he's faced before and has always bounced back from. Hard to know.
Beneath the Tony Stark references and assorted Muskisms, the other current in this article is the his own dialectical challenge.
There's Tesla, which has a sizable market cap but not much product. It's using customer deposits to fund operations and has ambitious targets for delivery it has to meet. Despite the flashiness of electric power, the making of transportation implements is an old business. It's not "magic."
Then there's SpaceX, his other company. Sending stuff into space is the kind of "magic" he describes in the piece. His Dragon space capsule will launch next month and connect with the International Space Station. If it works it'll be a leap forward in private space aviation (SpaceX has already made a few of those).
For now, Musk is balancing both of those, at the expense of his romantic life. But wouldn't a girlfriend be a lot better than a car company? Just a thought.