The dark side of Silicon Valley is on full display.

Elon Musk and his Bizarre 2018 Meltdown

In what amounts to a Twitter renaissance, it feels a bit like the POTUS has divorced the media (not to mention the very concept of international trade) and our favorite Silicon Valley alley cat, Elon Musk, fell in love and had some kind of a breakdown in 2018. Well, at least, in a “to be continued” sort of way.

We aren’t quite sure if this should amuse us or terrify us either. Tesla, once the darling of Wall Street, feels like a very flaky stock with talk of going private under Saudi royalty management.

Dark days for Facebook, dark days for Google and Tesla is making Elon Musk look very mortal. 2018 has a very morbid character and it’s making Silicon Valley look downright primal.

You want to like Elon Musk and you hope that everything he touches will turn to gold amid his warnings of Robot overlords and Singularity end-of-times, but reality however is not so kind to the ups and downs of high-risk high-reward entrepreneurs. Tesla has lost $8 Billion this week and while it’s nothing compared to what we saw with Facebook, poor Musk is under an unbearable amount of stress. When your stock plunges nearly 9% in a single day, Elon and Tesla are feeling a bit fragile with all those robots and back-stabbing ex-employees.

Musk is usually a role model of steely composure, but Tesla has always been one of those stocks that just seemed “a bit off”.

While reality tests Tesla, it makes you nearly appreciate Elon Musk even more. The summer of Tesla’s 2018 story pivots around a weird event: Tesla CEO Elon Musk shocked observers when he said on August 7 that he was thinking about taking the company private. On Twitter!

This is your favorite startup CEO, when he doesn’t get enough sleep:

  • Since then, Musk’s comments have captivated Wall Street, drawn the attention of regulators and raised questions about how close the company is to locking down the financing necessary to leave the public markets.
  • CNBC is calling his recent interview with the NY Times as being “off-kilter”.
  • Part of the problem is also the SEC violation faux-pas here, as Musk’s tweet last week that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share is very likely a violation of SEC rules.

Musk has only 22 million Twitter followers, but like POTUS he’s seemed increasingly obsessed with using Twitter as his M.O. of how he interacts with the world. Which is indeed terrifying and somewhat sad to behold. It just makes you wonder who has hacked Elon Musk’s brain!

From NIO IPOs to Tesla fallouts to Waymo likely soon ruling the world with self-driving cars, the automobile industry is one sexy industry to watch these years. Even Apple is expected to come out with a smart car in the mid-2020s. If last year it was Uber that was fun to follow, Tesla might be the heir apparent this year. This is a man intoxicated with some kind of future craving; we do not yet have the words.

From missions to Mars with SpaceX, to Tesla trying to get a footing in China, it’s just an overall weird time in Tesla’s possible transition from a public company that’s widely overvalued to a private company with the help of Saudi money.

Musk basically fell in love with the idea of a fully-automated assembly line and Grimes, all at possibly the worst time!
Grimes may have pushed Musk over the edge, even for his usual workaholic self.

These are days Musk has to prove or assert that’s he’s not high on 420. Musk seems ever confident that the Saudi sovereign fund has Tesla’s back, but the confusion it has caused via Tweets is more than considerable. Love might have a price and, if automation didn’t favor Tesla’s production of his cool cars, it’s not quite clear what Musk’s brain on love — well, if it’s been a boon for his pet projects much.

We should have compassion for Musk though. He’s not a thug who hates the media or anything. If anything Elon’s narcissism is rather positive and jolly. If there was a member of the 1% you wanted to go on to achieve immortality, it would probably be Elon Musk (with Jeff Bezos maybe in 2nd).

Elon Musk, the chairman and chief executive of the electric-car maker Tesla. “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,” he said. Credit Noah Berger/Bloomberg

Elon has an uncanny personal brand that’s stunning, I think, to us all in the sense that when Silicon Valley was once sexy, Musk’s passion for innovation still feels visionary.

This at a time when Apple feels like a pinball machine of profits without innovation, and Microsoft itself lags behind in AI as compared to upstart Amazon, and an Alphabet that has quickly proven itself to be more ‘inclined to evil’ than we ever thought good samaritan Google was capable of.

Elon gets obsessed. Elon thought autsomating electric-car manufacturing was going to be the end game for Tesla, but it’s been hurting the company’s ability to deliver on its Model 3 production goals in 2018 in an epic way. Out of all of us, Elon might fear AI outpacing humanity the most, but this is only in comparison to his love for robots and automation. The ultimate Silicon Valley tycoon syndrome personified. Elon Musk, however, is unabashedly charismatic, in equal part opposite to how Mark Zuckerberg is unlikable (as we found out in Congress interviews, much less).

John Moore / Getty Images

Elon Musk lives in the fast lane and runs more or less 4 companies with an interesting web of investments. Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, Neuralink and the Boring company. There’s also then the Musk Foundation and key investments of the likes of Stripe and Google’s DeepMind.

So essentially we are talking about spacemen who are basically cybernetic tapping into AI to augment themselves to keep the human species alive, you know.
Illustration: Ward Sutton — Photo Credit: New York Times.

If Elon Musk looked like an evil genius we would be frightened. Instead we have boyish good looks and the kind of CEO that makes you want to give them as much slack as Amazon, if Jeff Bezos were perpetually high on LSD or some such thing.

So what makes an immortal ascended one such as Musk struggle to keep his composure? Just a really bad year professionally and personally. Falling in love, and potentially failing to deliver with Tesla. Time catches up to even the best of us. Especially on Twitter.