Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are on the outs. Last month, Musk gave a speech in which he suggested that, left unchecked, artificial intelligence is maybe possibly going to kill us all. Afterward, Zuck, whose company recently shut down some A.I. robots because they had developed their own language to talk to each other about (probably) exterminating the human race, criticized Musk’s statements. This prompted the PayPal cofounder to tweet that he has discussed A.I. with Zuckerberg and found Zuck’s knowledge of the subject to be "limited." And how!
And then, yeah, there was that whole thing when Musk kinda, sorta blew up Zuck’s satellite last September. It was an expensive satellite, and one that would have brought Facebook all sorts of good PR and potential new customers, and Zuck did not like this one bit. He posted online that he was "deeply disappointed," which when put into my Nerd Translator produces a series of *&!^*#!%#!(!&^!&!@***! characters so long that I have actually had to switch computers to write this. My basic point is this: Things are not good between two of society’s megabillionairest megabillionaires.
So I ask you one of the most pressing questions this universe has ever seen: Who, in the inevitable psychotechnofiduciary showdown between Musk and Zuck, will win a battle to the — well, not to the death, but maybe to the eternal, teen-blood un-death? And how will the war’s battles be fought and, maybe more dangerously for mankind, judged? Below, I have attempted to find out.
Cults of Personality
Zuckerberg, who has just shy of 95 million Facebook followers, possesses the ability to inspire a kind of frighteningly sincere love. A recent picture of Zuck, his daughter, and the sentient mop they live with drew 418,000 likes and counting as of press time; a comment below that identified said mop as a puli has drawn another 4,100 likes of its own. Acolytes paint him and his family and send him the results. On Etsy, you can buy a latex puppet of him for $275.43.
But it’s Musk who inspires true fanaticism. Sure, he has only — "only" — about 11 million followers on Twitter. And OK, he doesn’t have his own captive social network. But the dreamy improbability of many of his ideas has led people not just to venerate him as their originator, but to gaze between them and piece together a greater Musk ideology to worship in its own right. Some sample blog posts, written by (probably) adults who do not outwardly appear to be employed or imprisoned by their subject: "Why Elon Musk Is Loved So Much." "Why Millennials Love Elon Musk." "Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man." Elon Musk once tweeted out a link to a story I wrote, and to this day I’m pretty sure it’s the most traffic anything I’ve written has ever gotten.
Grasp of Reality
Look, I recognize that most people deeply believe that flags on space rocks are a point of national pride and that this is an unpopular opinion, but I am on the record as team Space Is Bad. It is cold, far away, expensive, and pointless as anything other than a science-fiction thought exercise. (I apologize if you disagree; we will not convince each other.) So this should be a clear-cut issue, at least as far as my voting duties go: Zuck appears content on using the good parts of space and not being terribly interested in firing people into the bad parts (all of it), while Elon runs a company whose stated mission is to put people into space.
But what if … not? What if Elon is messing with all of us? Hear me out. Even as news of SpaceX’s ambitions grows flashier by the day, Musk has steadily rolled back the company’s targets. That Facebook satellite that met an untimely end? Whoops, looks like it’s going to mean a major delay. Sending people to Mars by 2018? Ehh, maybe wait till 2020. What if SpaceX’s mission is not to put people on Mars, but to offer to do so and fail so frequently, so publicly, so spectacularly that the American public decides to hell with all of it? The truth is out there. Just not anywhere beyond the habitable zone.
Mark Zuckerberg is going to run for president. I’m sorry, but he is; with all due respect to all the lovely people who live in Alaska, there is just no other reason people who are not on cruises go there.
Musk should know that money can buy you a lot of things, but at the end of the day you’re still waiting for the government, whether it’s regulators to approve your boring of apparently the entire United States, or agencies to buy all your gadgets. Sooner or later, Zuck is gonna be sitting at the big desk. Hopefully Elon can get a meeting.
Elon Musk used to not have much hair. Now, his hair is thick, luminous, dense, triumphant. The general public has settled on this change being the result of hair plugs, which would make sense if our man had appreciably aged in any other way.
Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has used his 13-ish years in the public consciousness to go from looking 11 years old to 12 years old. And, well, the great thing about believing that A.I. is not going to disembowel you at its first opportunity is that you’re that much more likely to upload your consciousness to the cloud, or a cyborg, or whatever it’s going to be when the time comes. Do you believe that, in the days before the singularity arrives and our families become the eternal prisoners of indifferent robots, Zuck will not be hard at work on Zuck.exe? That, when we are all shuttled into assembly lines to fasten legs on sentient iPhones, Zuckerborgs won’t be scuttling around behind us, zapping us for lack of productivity?