August 22, 2013 7:00am PT by Marc Bernardin
Elon Musk: Good Samaritan or Great Supervillain?
A short while ago, inventor and captain of industry Elon Musk — who is most often referred to in the media as an armor-less Tony Stark — announced his intention to build what he calls “the Hyperloop,” a tube that will shuttle civilians between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the time it takes to watch an episode of Catfish. This comes on the heels of Musk helping redefine online commerce with PayPal, delivering the world’s best electric car with his Tesla Motors and pushing the boundaries of privatized space travel with SpaceX.
All of which seems amazing.
If you’ll think back to, well, almost any billionaire industrialist supervillain’s plot, it usually begins with him offering the world something that is beneficial to mankind, on the surface, but eventually is revealed to be a sinister tool of either world domination or murderous intent.
Take Lex Luthor, for example. Comics readers have lost count of the number of times Superman’s great nemesis -- who has no powers besides a keen intellect and a bottomless bank account -- has offered the citizens of Metropolis something shiny and science-y only for there for be a devious motive behind it. (Remember that time Lex built a Science Spire, which harnesses the world’s Chi energy? Nothing bad could possibly happen there.)
Dr. Otto Octavius, in Spider-Man 2, simply wanted to give humanity free energy — by solving the pesky fusion problem, thanks to his crazy mechanical arms — only to eventually go mad and try and blow up New York City.
The alien visitors of The Twilight Zone’s “To Serve Man” deliver on their promise to erase Earth’s troubles: they turn deserts into gardens, neuter every nuclear weapon, offer cheap, unlimited energy. And they offer up an exchange program so humans can see how awesome life is on their planet. Except — and 51-year-old spoiler alert — when you get to their planet they eat you.
Speaking of eating humans, it’s worth remembering that the “Soylent Green,” from the movie of the same name, was a corporate gift to mankind to solve an overwhelming food shortage.
In Die Another Day, Bond’s adversary unveils a satellite named Icarus, which uses mirrors to focus the sun’s rays to provide an abundance of sunshine for crop development...and not at all to eradicate the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Because of reasons.
Now, it is entirely possible -- nay, probable -- that Musk’s intentions are honorable. That he isn’t luring us into complacency with amazing inventions, earning our trust, so we won’t blink when he builds the equivalent of a HUMAN PIPELINE designed to more quickly deliver souls to the hungry Elder God that resides beneath San Francisco to whom he pays fealty.
As G.I. Joe used to warn us on a daily basis, knowing is half the battle.