The truth about Musk, though, is that for all his visionary cant there is nothing especially revolutionary about him. He is, in fact, a typical example of a type that is painfully familiar in American life: the shamanic huckster. Such persons have flourished in the fertile soil of this continent and the equally fecund imaginations of our free-thinking citizenry almost since the Mayflower. Sometimes people like Musk convince their fans to follow them into the desert and eat magic mushrooms in between a capella campfire renditions of “Masters of War” and freeform rap sessions on the mysteries of consciousness. Sometimes they see visions of both Jesus and assorted Hindi deities and declare themselves “greater than God.” Sometimes they convince the Beatles to go with them to India. Sometimes they just hand out pamphlets outside train stations and bum cigarettes from tired commuters.
Musk is, thank goodness, much closer to the anodyne type of messianic lunatic than to the Jonestown variety. If it weren’t for his peddling of high-priced death-traps that federal regulators have so far allowed to traverse our crumbling roads, I would feel comfortable declaring him essentially harmless. As things stand, Musk is someone we should mostly ignore rather than worry about. When the robot overlords somehow fail to take over the digital simulation we all inhabit, even he will be relieved.