Many people and politicians tend to point to billionaires as a result of an unfair system that doesn’t work for the masses. However given a chance, they would jump at an opportunity for earning that kind of wealth.
Being a billionaire should never be a reason to mock or villify someone, however being a public figures (well, most of them) it does matter how they put their wealth to use.
On one hand we have someone like Bill Gates, who chose to let his business earn for him, with competent people at helm, as he focuses on philanthropy. On the other hand we have people like Bezos or Elon who are actively involved with pushing the boundaries and taking industries they are part of to newer heights.
While most of the Bezos business are purely driven by economics, in case of Elon, they are also driven by vision for our species.
Elon is one of the few billionaires actually moving the world in new direction using his wealth for pushing our species towards a change that was much needed.
Everybody understood that electric mobility is the future but nobody was willing to bet their bottomlines on electric cars. For large part of last 2–3 decades hybrids remained safe bet for major manufacturers while making electric cars only as concepts meant for a niche market (case in point BMW i3). Nobody was really pushing the boundaries of battery technology or looking at drastically increasing the performance of electric cars to make them appeal to larger audience.
Then came Elon Musk who became part of Tesla and persevered through a vicious public scrutiny and record bearish sentiment from stock markets to deliver on promise of a viable electric car which can give ICE powered cars a literal run for their money.
So many times Tesla lagged behind expectations on manufacturing or deliveries, everytime the issues being exaggerated in public domain and Tesla/Elon being declared has-beens in automobile business. But they continued with the efforts and today Tesla is not only the highest selling electric car in most of the markets its introduced in, its also outselling ICE cars in a lot of them.
The fact that every major manufacturer today has a fully electric car in its portfolio shows that Tesla has pushed automobile industry beyond a point of inflection and now there is no looking back.
Now electric mobility is too widespread for it to be suppressed by short-term corporate visions or oil money such as in case of GM’s EV-1 (Read how an electric car was scuttled back in 90’s http://www.ev1.org/). Without Tesla it would have taken atleast another decade for this to be a reality.
Tesla did for electric mobility what COVID has done for remote working.
There is so much that I would still want to say about Tesla however I want to move on to Elon’s other baby SpaceX.
Space has largely been a domain for the governments. Due to the massive funding needed and risks involved, private enterprises had never really gotten into the business of space in a big way. Sure they were building in collaboration with governments and there are companies trying to commercialize space (Bezo’s Blue Origin and Branson’s Virgin Galactic) but none of them went as far as SpaceX did.
While the primary aim of Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic was to monetize space travel, SpaceX aimed higher and farther (~65Million Kms far), colonizing Mars.
Of-course such an aim would require humongous amounts of money and you need to have a profitable operation to do that. Thus came the need to perfect reusability of rocket boosters to negate the price advantage that countries such as India offered in launching satellites reliably. SpaceX failed multiple times before sticking the booster landing. They have never looked back since.
Who can forget the almost synchronized touchdown of twin boosters from Falcon heavy launch in 2018. It was a sight to behold, almost like science fiction.
Persevering with the idea of reusable rocket boosters was one of the primary reason for SpaceX’s success. As a private enterprise they took risk of sticking with a concept they believed in while paying high cost for each failure on the way. However eventually they made it across in spectacular fashion and changed the space industry dynamics forever. Apart from providing cost effective launch capabilities, SpaceX is now a reliable partner for NASA and is soon expected to start launching astronauts as well to space station.
The SpaceX Starlink is another groundbreaking venture which aims to make satellite internet a mass market product. If successful, this will disrupt the telecom industry in a big way, especially the fixed line internet providers.
Elon has his idiosyncrasies and enjoys a bit of drama, with his frequent run-ins with SEC or controversial tweets. But this, in my opinion, is a little price to pay for the immense value that he brings.
The changes Elon’s two ventures have brought(and will bring) to our lives will have far reaching effects. The amount of emissions saved due to the push towards electric mobility by Tesla would be huge in coming years. Similarly with a target of colonizing Mars in next few decades SpaceX may help ensure the survival of our species, as no matter what Greta might say about actions governments need to take to save the planet, the damage we have done is irreversible and our planet will eventually have an extinction level event that may be the end of our species, unless Elon is able to achieve his targets.
Imagine the unifying effect of a manned Mars mission on a world divided by geopolitics and religion. It would have everybody’s attention for the duration of the mission, giving world a much needed space when people are connected by something positive. People from 1972 would be really disappointed that in 2020 we are yet to even try a manned mission to Mars and don’t have a base on Moon. Elon is currently our best bet to deliver.
So while Warren Buffets of the world are focused on creating more and more value for their shareholders, Elon is expanding the limits and helping us become a sustainable spacefaring species. More power to him.