Elon Musk: Selling Utopian Technological Fantasies

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Context: Elon Musk Insists on Autonowashing, Says Tesla Will License Autonomy to Anyone

Commercial value is, perhaps, always a function of the difference(s) between aspiration and reality. Marketing as entrepreneurial exercise of relatively shameless self-promotion always and already presupposes the existence of some future state and well-polished (generally Utopian) fantasy upon which narrative (and prospective investment) anchors itself.

The absence of demonstrably complete and suitably packaged or gift-wrapped autonomous systems does not devalue the proposition. Quite to the contrary, the assertion of closure is the flame to which the moths of psychological and cultural necessity quite naturally swarm. Speech-making is a commercial media-shaping and influence activity that Elon Musk understands very well.

Musk engages in these kinds of grandstanding because they have worked for him in the past and as instances of behavioural conditioning or reinforcement learning, we would do well to ask just how much of our technical, technological and industrial systems are geared in precisely this way towards aspiration sans tangible artefacts. The absence of final waypoints is a vacuum that compels us all forwards and the fascination with personalities and celebrities in technology is only a symptom of this historical flow.

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