"Technoking" Elon Musk Is the Perfect Refutation of Meritocracy
The SpaceX and Tesla CEO has a new title, but his tragiccomic arc is the same as ever.
In a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it was revealed that Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the company's CFO, Zach Kirkhorn, have both received new titles.
Musk is taking on the mantle of "Technoking," while Kirkhorn is becoming "Master of Coin."
To clarify, no, this is not an update from a high school Sci-Fi Fantasy Club that accidentally got mixed in with the SEC filings. This is part of vital regulatory documentation for one of the most valuable companies on Earth that includes a Game of Thrones reference and a "badass" adolescent nickname for someone who — on any given day — might be the wealthiest person on Earth.
Does it matter that Elon Musk is "just trolling" — that he doesn't sincerely think "Technoking" is a cool name? Considering the reality of the Cybertruck, even that might be giving him too much credit, but if we stick with the assumption that this is just Musk's brand of snarky humor, that doesn't make it better. It's still deeply embarassing.
By the nature of our economic system, this is among the most powerful men to ever have existed. The founder of multiple massive companies, there is an operating assumption that he must be an unusually competent and responsible steward of his resources. Surely he would never have achieved such incredible success if he weren't among the most capable people to handle the duty to civilization and to humanity itself that is inherent to attaining such a lofty position.
That's the myth that men like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett maintain with their carefully groomed public images as philanthropists and thought leaders. Even nakedly selfish, contemptuous ghouls like the Koch brothers have a way of packaging their political advocacy in a veneer of principle to disguise it as a well-reasoned philosophical stance that a highly accomplished individual can defend with dignity. But Elon Musk is just a messy b*tch.
While someone like Jeff Bezos can shrug off the shame of hacked dick pics and "alive girl" texts, keeping up a facade as a highly serious business-type person, Elon Musk seems more like the person who "leaks" his own dick pics. Of course, in Musk's case it would then be revealed that actually he used a stunt dick — with Musk's stans identifying Peter North's Model D on sight. And then Elon would pretend it was all a joke to amuse Grimes, and probably lob some petty insults and accusations at whoever first called him out.
In short, Elon Musk doesn't seem to have any sense of dignity or merit. He doesn't strive to project an image of the kind of person who "deserves" to be obscenely wealthy. He just wants to enjoy his wealth and prominence by cultivating his weird online fanbase, getting hairplugs, dating out of his age range and out of his league, (allegedly) doxing employees, getting high with Joe Rogan, naming children after aircraft, accusing random strangers of pedophilia, referencing political ideologies he doesn't understand, and throwing around more memes than a teenage boy who just discovered 4chan.
On paper, the fact that one of the wealthiest men alive made his fortune by pushing for advances in electric vehicles, solar power, free Internet, and space travel almost seems like an endorsement of our economic model. If he could keep his nose clean, it would be easy to imagine that he might even be noble. Instead we know him to be one of the pettiest men alive.
In the case of his new titles for himself and Kirkhorn — while retaining their CEO and CFO positions — that pettiness could be directed at his nearest rival, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Bezos, according to a recent announcement, will be transitioning into the role of "executive chairman," which many have interpreted as a superficial change intended to help Bezos skirt publicity.
Or it could be a simple expression of his disdain for the SEC whom he has decried on multiple occasions since they sued him for "joking" about taking Tesla private back in 2018. Like "if I have to report my company's financial activities to you, you have to call me Technoking." When it comes to Musk, there's too much pettiness to pin it to one target.
It's bad enough that he was born into "my daddy owns an emerald mine" levels of wealth in Apartheid South Africa. It's bad enough that one of his early business successes was in conjunction with Peter Thiel, an early Donald Trump-backer who has aspirations of becoming an immortal vampire. It's bad enough that he reportedly told his first wife on the day of their wedding "I am the alpha in this relationship."
But in his public life Musk seems determined to remind us at every opportunity that his tremendous success has inspired neither growth nor humility. If anything, it has served to reinforce his hubris.
He used one of his company's rockets to launch one of his other company's cars into space. He has claimed that his Boring Company can "solve" traffic by just adding new, faster roads — essentially the same way we've been "solving" traffic for decades, but now with dangerous underground tunnels.
Elon Musk's "Loop" - It's bad, folkswww.youtube.com
He thinks that we're living in a simulation. And he makes terrible electronic music and sells it as an NFT.
He argues against essential public safety and science when they interfere with his business. And he also thinks that people should trust him to implant Neuralink probes in their brains after that Cybertruck demonstration where he didn't think to test whether the windows would smash before trying it live.
The myth of the meritocracy — that the best representatives of humanity will rise to the top in a free market — is easy enough to pick apart with a little bit of research. There should be plenty of proof in the fact that so many people inherit wealth, that economic classes tend to propagate from one generation to the next, and that the divide between the richest Americans and everyone else keeps growing.
But it's such a comforting notion, so ingrained in our culture, that many people still cling to the idea that society rewards people who deserve to be rewarded. Elon Musk is the antidote to that delusion — that warped American dream.
No complex argument about cultural forces could ever be as powerful as the tragiccomic tale of a petty, egotistical, cringelord ascending to become the wealthiest person on Earth. The myth of meritocracy is dead, and Tesla's Technoking is the man who stabbed it through its rotting heart.