Kevin Dowd December 13, 2016
A billionaire business tycoon, investor and scientist comes to a city that in many ways functions as the center of the modern world. A brilliant man, he brings to life previously unimaginable inventions with the potential to change the lives of millions for the better. The thread of space exploration winds throughout his career, including a desire to visit other planets. He’s known in part for his philanthropy. There are rumors of an eventual career in politics.
We’re talking, of course, about Lex Luthor.
Look, Elon Musk is almost definitely—like 99.9%—not a megalomaniac bent on galactic domination. But this is 2016. Brexit happened. Donald Trump happened. For the past 12 months, rationality has not necessarily been the best policy.
As Musk and some of the tech industry's other brightest luminaries prepare for a summit at Trump Tower on Wednesday, it seems like we should at least be prepared for the insane.
So, what is a supervillain? Some—think Magneto or Loki—are superhuman in some way. But others—more in the mold of Luthor or the majority of Bond villains—are simply ordinary men with extraordinary talents (and/or extraordinary wealth). They tend to have unique, striking names. Often, their villainy isn’t immediately apparent. Otto Octavius is a highly respected nuclear physicist before he transforms into Doctor Octopus. Many supervillains are engaged in some sort of major infrastructure project they later deploy for ill means. Ernst Stavro Blofeld in “Diamonds are Forever” launches satellites. Syndrome, from “The Incredibles,” builds an island lair.
Musk spent the first three decades of his life in relative obscurity before the sale of PayPal in 2002, from which he netted $165 million. That money served as the nest egg for an ever-growing fleet of projects. From electric cars (Tesla) and solar power (SolarCity) he progressed to interplanetary exploration, in the form of SpaceX, which plans to launch its own fleet of satellites and eventually colonize Mars. Another Musk brainchild is hyperloop, the futuristic transportation idea he publicized and that two different companies are now spending millions of dollars trying to bring to life.
A paranoid person might read that list and start to worry. There’s no reason to think electric cars won’t become more and more common; before long, a large portion of the citizenry might drive Teslas or other cars that use the company’s technology. Someone who’s watched “Black Mirror” might consider the possibility that those cars could be a Trojan horse: A way to spread millions of pieces of technology—all connected to and communicating with Tesla headquarters—throughout the world.
If some major cyberattack occurred, potentially bringing down the electrical grid, a capacity to activate massive stores of solar power might come in handy. The same would be true if, for instance, the instigators of an attack desired to flee Earth. They might have a relatively nearby destination in mind, one that—perhaps—they’d been attempting to convince civilians to colonize as a trial run, to determine the likelihood of their own survival.
Just, you know, to throw out some possibilities.
Is Elon Musk preparing everything he needs to escape the planet and survive after destroying Earth with a secret doomsday device? I mean, no, he’s not, but you can kinda talk yourself into it, right?
So when Teslas attack and Elon Musk rides a hyperloop to his rocket that blasts off to Mars once and for all, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
(And Mr. Musk, if you need company for that trip…let me know.)