Is Elon Musk malingering?

Aren’t we all? I know I am.

Do you have to listen to the mindjacking chillwave theme while taking the ride? Because if so, that’s a definite no.

Musk holds employees up to unrealistic standards and I’ve known and heard of people he has fired for capricious and absurd reasons. I’ve also watched him on numerous occasions take personal credit for the work of other people. As syncophantic as his adulators, nobody has as much love for Elon Musk as he has for himself.

So, fuck that guy.


I know too many people like him. Act like “coming up with an idea” is the hard part, and take credit for the thousands of person-hours spent by those toiling away to make the idea work.

just look at how the default Muskophile response to posts like yours is “get back to me when you’re building rockets” as if St. Elon is personally assembling Falcon 9s.

How has such a character lasted so long then? And had success. Silicon Valley types don’t last too long in different fields usually.

He almost hasn’t; in 2008 both SpaceX (which Musk founded by hiring TRW/Northrop Grumman propulsion engineer Tom Mueller who had worked on the TRW Low Cost Pintle Engine from which the original Merlin was essentially developed) and automaker Tesla (which Musk did not found, but was an early investor who drove out the actual founders Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard) were on the verge of bankruptcy, and he basically went around begging other venture capitalist friends to provide some sustaining funds.

Both Tesla and SpaceX have gone on to some measure of success, though Tesla is so deep in a financial hole of capital investments and so radically overvalued it is difficult to see how they are ever going to turn a profit without restructuring, and while SpaceX is unquestionably successful in entering the commercial heavy lift market and winning valuable EELV contracts while maintaining a impressive launch tempo, the fiscal solvency is almost a complete unknown; I have previously expressed doubts that they are going to be able to save enough money through first stage reuse to materially reduce the actual (not advertised) launch costs, and the focus on building the Big Fing Rocket and Big Fing Spaceship with no apparent plans for a return on investment. (Do not speak to me of space tourism as a multi-billion dollar industry until there are actual 2001-style hotels in orbit being serviced by Pan Am Space Clippers, and certainly not fool schemes to “retire on Mars”.) I think SpaceX can be sustainable, provided they control costs, and encourage the satellite industry to grow to support a higher capacity, and their plans for a global satellite-based Internet interface seem on the face plausible though I don’t know their profit model (subscription, gov’t subsidy, access-for-advertisement, ?).

However, it is clear listening to Musk that he knows fuck all about the details of propulsion and launch system engineering, and barely more about electric vehicles. He styles himself as a modern Henry Ford with his emphasis on employing automation to the maximum extent possible with Tesla, but while Henry Ford spent an obsessive effort studying how to run an assembly line efficiently without stoppage or loss of quality, Musk just assumed that you can throw robots at a problem and they’ll somehow make production faster and more efficient, and while automation can provide definite productivity gains in some tasks, there are many tasks that robot automation is just not up to task for, especially handling textiles or flexible assemblies, anything requiring fitment decisions, et cetera. The smart thing to do with Tesla would have been to partner in production with an existing manufacturer like GM or Toyota which have both experience in automation and extensive supplier networks that are intricately managed for absolute lowest cost and just-in-time delivery while retaining rights to what proprietary intellectual property exists, but Musk and the board were so certain that they could somehow ramp up to mass levels of production.

Elon Musk has convinced a lot of his people of his genius, and many of them are now starting to get pretty nervous about his erratic public behavior though anyone who has worked around him will recognize this as being the way he has behaved for years in private. Musk is the kind of person who can get people energized as long as they don’t have detailed experience in the areas he is talking about, but like his Mars colonization plans they make absolutely no sense to anyone who has worked on studies involving crewed Mars exploration, even assuming a lot of cutting corners and taking risks that NASA would not accept.


^ and I think that’s one thing which really annoys me. his fans act like he’s personally doing a lot of the work to make these things happen because he can go on talk shows and podcasts and go into “great engineering detail” about things. when he really isn’t; he can say just enough to sound like it’s “great engineering detail” to people who don’t know any better. I’ve dealt with that in the past myself; having a supervisor or manager ask me a bunch of questions, then later I found out they simply regurgitated what I told them in a meeting with their superiors.

There’s an idea that a genius who has no practical experience in a certain field can revolutionize that field by disregarding conventional wisdom, especially the part of conventional wisdom that says “you can’t [something], because [false limitation]”.

It’s a legitimate idea, but it’s only true when that limitation is really false. Some limitations do exist. Some limitations can’t simply be ignored or swept out of the way.

Musk’s MO seems to be permanently set on “damn the torpedoes”. This means he will likely get further than anyone else. It also means he will ultimately be sunk.

LA Times says the Hawthorne tunnel will be open to the public tomorrow (only a week late), but it’s unclear if anyone will be riding anything; they imply that Musk’s tweets contradict an agreement the company made with the City of Hawthorne.

The tunnel goes from a (former) Spacex parking lot (shielded from public view) at Crenshaw and Rocket Road to the corner of Prairie and 120th. The article also says they’re using the garage of a small residential house they bought (at 3834 119th Pl.) to take equipment out of the tunnel. Apparently they were able to do this without causing any disruption in the neighborhood.

Obviously the cover of the hidden parking lot makes a big difference in limiting disruption, but still, I’d say that’s something to their credit. I remember when they were digging the L.A Metro underneath Hollywood, and they turned half of Barnsdall Park (with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House) into a huge pit from which they would extract the dirt and rubble. Rubble hauling trucks would line up along Hollywood Blvd. through the late night hours to take it away. I know 'cause I lived a block away and could hear them all night long. At one point, they caused a huge sinkhole that swallowed nearly the whole width of the Hollywood Blvd.

Even so, if it’s just a tunnel–no different than the tunnels they made for the Metro–I don’t know what the point is. Unless they can actually make something work like in that video, they’re just extending the transit system that’s already there. I guess at least all those people flocking to the glamorous intersection of Prairie and 120th will be happy.