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Genius Elon Musk is not so smart about Twitter
Elon Musk fans want you to believe that, because Musk successfully launches rockets, that he knows all about social media and content moderation.
Elon Musk seems to have made a huge mistake buying Twitter, and has been making mistake after mistake with the social media platform. But remember — Elon Musk runs SpaceX and Tesla. The guy’s a genius. And, therefore, he knows what he’s doing.
Except that doesn’t make sense.
I’ve seen versions of this cognitive bias all my career. Some people who are very good at doing something hard automatically assume that they are also good at things they believe to be less hard.
Most technology journalists, for example, are either journalists who later learn about technology or they’re technologists (usually software developers) who later learn about journalism. Some of the latter type come to journalism with an unearned arrogance, believing something like: “Only Gods like me can code, but anybody can write.” And then they suck at writing. (It’s also true that many developers-turned-journalists are very good writers — but only when they approach it with humility as something to work hard at.)
Another example is Silicon Valley’s obsession with food. VCs, serial entrepreneurs and valley technologists sometimes believe something like: “Only Gods like me can launch AI startups, sharing economy apps and robots. But anybody can make food.” And then they launch pizza robot companies, lab-grown meat companies and products like Soylent. (As if the problem with food is that it employs people... or involves actual food and meals and should be replaced with fake food and meal replacements.)
Intelligence doesn’t confer knowledge. Only study and experience does that.
And that’s why the argument that Musk only appears to be failing but is really playing three-dimensional chess that we mortals cannot see is false. If anything, the fact that Musk has been working 18 hours a day running several companies means that for years he’s had zero time to learn about media, social networks, moderation, free speech and all the other topics he’s proving to be so ill-prepared for.
It also explains his weirdly naive tweets that appear to be ripped right out of the year 2001, where he’s discovering basic concepts like citizen journalism. Such as:
People used to say this kind of thing all the time back in the day. But that conversation has evolved, becoming more complex and nuanced — and Musk missed it all because he was busy being a genius and running his companies.
It also explains Musk’s odd public groping in the darkness to understand how free speech works.
If it seems like Musk is just now learning about the basics of free speech, citizen journalism, content moderation — and the link between moderation and advertising revenue — that’s because he almost certainly is.
Mike’s List of Brilliantly Bad Ideas
1. Volkswagen makes an office chair that works like a car
Finally, an office chair with headlights, seatbelts, a seat warmer, an entertainment system, a horn and a tow hitch. Topping out at 12 MPG, and with a range of 7.5 miles between charges, the electric conveyance means you don’t have to stand up to go down the hall for meetings. (Sadly, the chair was made for promotional purposes, not for sale.)
2. Finally: clear, ridable luggage
A company called Airwheel is crowdfunding the worst luggage idea ever. It’s transparent luggage, so everyone can see your underwear at baggage claim. It’s also ridable, so everyone can point and laugh at you as you ride your visible underwear around the airport. The luggage works with a fold out set of handlebars and a removable battery. Airwheel is apparently targeting that lazy, attention-whore demographic.
3. New mod gives you a virtual girlfriend inside Minecraft
Obsessive Minecraft users who somehow haven’t met the girl of their dreams can now download one. The Minecraft: Jenny Mod adds a character to your PC-based Minecraft world where you can “engage in steamy conversations and have adult interactions.” Well, there’s no steam in Minecraft. And flirting with pixels isn’t normally considered an “adult” activity. But, hey! Who am I to judge? Some people like ‘em fake and blocky.
4. Developers: This site will fax your code to Elon Musk
After buying Twitter, Elon Musk famously demanded that engineers literally print out their code for him to review (as if the key to “fixing” Twitter was tweaking at the code level). Still, if you’re a developer, the Elon Code Review website exists to print out your code and they’ll fax it to Elon Musk for review, they say. Yes, this is a gag website.
Mike’s List of Shameless Self Promotions
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