Perhaps it’s a function of the modern news cycle, driven by clicks and speed to publish rather than the traditional print media that produces these archetypes such as Steve Jobs and, recently, Elon Musk.
One can’t log on to social media or news sites without being presented with a quotation meme, spurious story about their management style or genius of innovation.
These must surely be taken with a large pinch of salt; nobody is perfect and, sure these people have been very successful, but not all of it was due to their intellect or perspiration.
Take Musk, for example; his high profile spacecraft business, SpaceX, is partially-funded by Venture capital, but the majority owner is Musk.
Where did Musk make his fortune? His other company, Telsa Motors Inc., which has been the beneficiary of nearly $5bn in government subsidies. He may be good at manufacturing solar panels and lithium batteries but he’s no John Galt. Many of us would probably indulge ourselves in a spacecraft hobby if we’d been given billions of dollars of government welfare.
There are also suspiciously few voices questioning how Musk reconciles the green credentials of Telsa with the massive amount of traditional fossil fuel burned with each SpaceX flight.
The government handouts continue in Australia, a country which loves to fawn over famous Americans as if Übermensch. The state government of South Australia made some pretty poor decisions for ideological reasons over the last few years with regards to their energy supply, resulting in several disastrous state-wide blackouts last year.
Like a knight in shining armour, Musk made a now famous boast that he could solve their problems with his batteries and, if he’d not completed this solution within 100 days, South Australians wouldn’t need to pay a penny. Again, after being the recipients of $5bn from taxpayers purses, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at most people’s generosity.
There is also the question of how much of the problem the 100MW battery will actually solve? Various reports suggest that it will have an hour’s capacity. What happens in the 2nd hour of an outage?
Also, given that the installation will have a price tag over over $150m, South Australians could be forgiven for asking about the probity of the government procurement process that selected a supplier on the basis of a Tweet?
Musk is likely a very talented engineer with some excellent innovative ideas. He is, however, even more talented at self-promotion and convincing starstruck government officials into handing over other people’s money.
Nice trick, if one can pull it off.