The Elon + Twitter + autism disaster

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 4, 2022, 7:40 PM | comments: 0

When Elon Musk closed on Twitter last week, it was pretty clear even then that this acquisition was going to be a disaster. I recently mentioned an example about how self-awareness can help you rise above a hard problem to enable you to solve it, or generally be the source of hubris and failure. Musk's pursuit of Twitter, and his odd and idealistic obsession with "free speech" I think is an example of what a lack of self-awareness, with a healthy bit of autism can do.

Now, I know the rules, never assume you understand an autistic person even you are an autistic person, because we're all different. I get it. But it doesn't mean that there aren't similarities or identifiable patterns. One hard thing about autism is that you can be logically brilliant while lacking the social skills to work effectively among other people. Musk personifies this in so many ways, as he's led an EV company to enormous success as well as a private space company. If you think he's not a legitimately brilliant person, listen to him talk about rocket engines. He's not just the guy with the money.

Unfortunately, he seems to greatly lack the situational awareness around things he says out loud, especially on Twitter. It's completely bizarre how a few years ago people pegged him for a lefty socialist because of his hippy electric car company, and now people are casting him as a right-wing fascist because he thinks it's OK if Kanye West says stupid antisemitic shit. I would argue that both sets of people are wrong. He pursues sustainable transportation because it's necessary for humanity to move forward and not kill the planet. This is a logical acknowledgement that's the opposite of political. He thinks Kanye should say what he says because of a logical belief that we can only move forward if all people can speak freely. This latter case is obviously very naïve, and free speech has nothing to do with the operation of a privately owned social platform. But his motivation is still not political in nature, because autism.

But here's the problem with all of that... he's a grown-ass man, who has developed enough coping mechanisms to be successful in life, and autism is not an excuse to be an asshole. The acquisition of Twitter was rooted in the hubris that he could make it profitable, and let anyone say anything, but the reaction from advertisers has been mostly negative. I saw one exchange where he seemed to not understand that his behavior, whether it be validating Kanye or decimating the employment of the company with little regard to the humans involved, was turning off advertisers and users en masse. And his response to this was that he was just trying to make it a viable business. More importantly, he didn't understand that now he is Twitter. He's the sole controlling person of the enterprise. What he tweets he does so now as the owner of the company, and that has consequences.

Elon doesn't understand that accommodating free speech doesn't mean that it isn't without responsibility. And while I still don't believe that he's right or left, it doesn't matter, because he's being perceived that way because of the stupid shit he posts.

And this isn't a new phenomenon. Long before he fancied buying the Twitter, he took a hardline stance against remote work for employees of Tesla and SpaceX. If you work on the front lines of a technology company, especially if you have to hire people, then you know how insanely stupid this is, because the job market simply isn't on your side. The pandemic accelerated what was already in progress, that the shortage of tech workers meant that remote work would force all tech companies to compete for talent. I'm sure that if he had a healthy work culture, that his underlings would have explained this to him, but as he has doubled down on it, I'm sure he hasn't heard that from anyone. The Twitter layoffs were essentially anonymous and without explanation, so in addition to not seeing the market for what it is, he's lost everyone's trust.

I don't know what will happen next. Twitter has never been a real business, as far as I'm concerned, and it's a dumpster fire of hate and toxicity. But I've always considered Tesla and SpaceX as great American success stories. The latter at least is run mostly by someone else. It's very sad that a brilliant person is so oblivious to his own behavior and the consequences of it.


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