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Very ordinary men

This is good on Musk and Musk’s biographer Walter Isaacson. A couple of things worth noting. Firstly, the intellectual world Musk inhabits:

It’s [Roko’s Basilisk, the subject of a thought experiment] a friendly AI, in the future, that has used its godlike powers to solve all human problems. Because it’s a friendly AI, it wants to exist as soon as possible so it can reduce the total of human suffering across time. Therefore, it makes an acausal blackmail. It promises to create a perfect simulation of anyone who is aware of the incredible power of AI but doesn’t do anything to help bring it into being, and then torture that simulation for eternity. Obviously, for the acausal trade to work, you need a simulation of the basilisk and its preferences, but I’ve just given you one. You have learned about the basilisk, and if you don’t immediately donate all your money to an AI research lab, you will now be going to Machine Hell. The basilisk may seem fairly silly, but it has sent some people into a state of nervous collapse. Long sleepless nights, terrified of being tortured by the basilisk. You can’t even tell your friends or family, because then the basilisk will get them too. This is the intellectual world Elon Musk inhabits; these are the ideas he imbibes.


But most interestingly, how Isaacson posits Musk’s goal to colonise Mars as something that is somehow true and has actually happened:

It’s implied throughout the book: the manned mission to Mars is a historical fact that justifies whatever might need justifying. Isaacson seems to view it as an only mildly inconvenient triviality that the Mars landing hasn’t happened yet. But it really hasn’t happened! The original plan, the one with the greenhouse that Isaacson finds so lacking in audacity, at least involved putting something on Mars. The current plan hasn’t even come close. Musk says that he wants to go there, but frankly I can say that too.

This reality bending also characterises how we’ve interpreted our tech overlords’ activities over the last 20 years.