Elon Musk’s secret obsession with human extinction explains everything he does

On Thursday, The guard published an interview with Olena Zelensky, Ukraine’s First Lady, in which she touched on an unlikely topic: Elon Musk’s role in Eastern Europe, where his Starlink internet service is becoming increasingly important to Ukraine’s war effort. Gently rebuke the tech mogul previously advocated for it Ukraine cedes territory to Russia in exchange for peace, the First Lady expressed her gratitude for Starlink but hinted that Musk’s allegedly pro-Kremlin views on Crimea are a product of ignorance. “Let’s face it, even the smartest person can’t say the smartest thing 24 hours a day,” she said.

Of course, Zelensky isn’t the first person to question Musk’s intelligence in recent times, especially after releasing his lyrics in September amid a legal battle over his Twitter bid. in the The Atlantic, Charlie Warzel wrote that the Twitter uproar shattered the myth of Musk’s genius, while Sarah Jeong, editor at The Verge, quipped on Twitter that his lyrics “make him look damn stupid.” The billionaire’s official takeover of Twitter this week only reinforced those sentiments. Disinformation reporter Ali Breland wrote Mother Jones Thursday that Musk’s twirling with Twitter exposes the tech guru as “stupid” and that Musk provides “one of the clearest pieces of evidence that meritocracy is a myth.”

In a way, these accusations are not surprising. The media has long portrayed Musk as an impulsive male kid who has no beliefs but chaos and is always just a bong rip from his next mistake. And taken in isolation, many of Musk’s decisions and concerns – from his fixation on colonizing Mars to his “free speech absolutism” – might seem immature or irrational to a casual observer.

However, as someone who has followed Musk closely for years, I think his actions are not as erratic as they seem. In fact, even Musk’s most impulsive decisions and strangest ventures begin to make sense when you realize that they are all a reflection of his deepest aspiration, one he secretly cherishes above all others: to prevent human extinction.

Though the media has often dismissed Musk’s thoughts on existential risk as the boyish enthusiasm of a sci-fi obsessed megalomania, for years the billionaire has steadfastly and repeatedly asserted that his only purpose in life is to be Prevent human extinction by making life multiplanetary. If Musk’s fixation on human extinction is a secret, it’s not because he’s hiding itbut because few in the media take him at his word when he says that saving humanity is all he cares about.

And he puts his money where his mouth is. Quietly, the Tesla co-founder is one of the largest donors to human extinction research worldwide, generously funding university think tanks in the US and UK that study existential risks. He even sits on the board of directors of the Boston-based Future of Life Institute, an organization focused on saving our species.

“Even Musk’s most impulsive decisions and strangest ventures begin to make sense when you realize that they are all a reflection of his deepest aspiration, which he secretly cherishes above all others: to prevent human extinction.”

Musk is not alone here. These think tanks – notably Cambridge’s Center for the Study of Existential Risk and Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute – get much of their funding not from traditional academic sources, but from billionaires and tech moguls. This includes not only Musk, but other people like Dustin Moskovitz (co-founder of Facebook), Jaan Tallinn (ex-Skype), Len Blavatnik (a former USSR oil oligarch), Yuri Milner (another oligarch-affiliated venture capitalist), and a host of others absurdly wealthy people.

Apparently, the fact that these university think tanks are well-funded to study existential risk sounds like a good thing – doesn’t it? Human extinction would not be rad, and we should Research its prevention. But when you delve into the work of these institutes, some disturbing ideas emerge. Many of the scholars associated with these think tanks hold a strange and sometimes disturbing ethical philosophy called “long-termism.”

Emerging from the booming “effective altruism” movement, the long-termists attach overwhelming moral importance to the distant future, claiming that we must prioritize the people of the distant future—who will live in millennia or even millions of years—in our present decision fell. The philosopher Émile Torres has written a thorough account of the dangers of long-term thinking, noting that followers of the philosophy often blithely reject all problems – even really, Yes, really bad ones – those that don’t threaten human extinction.

“Long-term thinkers often blithely dismiss any problems—even really, really bad ones—that don’t threaten human extinction.”

For example, from a long-term perspective, catastrophic climate change, an increasingly likely future, is unlikely to cause human extinction, even if it results in the deaths of millions or billions around the world. It is therefore a less morally pressing priority than preventing the rise of malicious artificial intelligence that is ending the species, even if the latter is a much less likely outcome.

Aside from willfully rejecting serious societal threats, many long-termists are also willing to embrace extreme “solutions” in the name of mitigating all risks to our species. Of particular concern to existential risk scientists is the possibility that technological “progress” will make it ever easier for lone fighters to develop doomsday devices such as novel bioweapons. In a famous 2019 essay, Nick Bostrom – a leading existential risk philosopher at Oxford – argued that the only way to prevent such an eventuality was through mass surveillance. He even speculated that one day it might be necessary for every man, woman, and child on earth to wear an “advanced device, worn around the neck and adorned with multi-directional cameras and microphones.” In an Orwellian stroke of genius, Bostrom proposed calling these human dog collars “Liberty Tags” and the police who care for them “Liberty Officers” who work at “Patriot Monitoring Stations.”

These sci-fi tinged philosophical fever dreams could be amusing if the stakes were lower or their followers confined to the ivory tower. By the looks of it, however, Bostrom’s work has had a massive impact on the long-termist community, and his extremist philosophy is being voiced favorably by billionaires like Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, and – of course -.Elon Musk.

Still, most media outlets still tend to treat Musk’s engagement with these philosophies as silly flirtation. A comment The guard The analysis, released last week, analyzed the tech mogul’s long-term perspective, concluding that “Musk is frivolous but plays with dangerous ideas.”

I would also argue that it is deeply dangerous to spread the narrative that the richest man in the world is just “playing” with these ideas instead of living his life in accordance with them.

For years, Musk has been telling us where his priorities lie: securing the future of humanity by making intelligent life multiplanetary. He has pledged long-term ideas, donated millions to long-term causes, and his two largest companies – Tesla and SpaceX – both aim to secure a long-term human future through green technology and space colonization. Musk was in talks with longtime expert William MacAskill during his bid to buy Twitter. From those writings, we know that the philosopher introduced Musk to Sam Bankman-Fried, another longtime billionaire who viewed transforming Twitter into a haven of free speech as part of his goal to “shape the long-term future of humanity for the better.” “.

Given what we now know about Musk’s priorities, and those of the people he spoke to when making his decision to buy Twitter, it’s worth wondering how exactly owning the biggest megaphone on the web contributed to the bigger ones Ambitions of the billionaire for the future of our species fit security. Though outside observers view his acquisition of the social media company as a sideshow to his loftier aspirations, Musk has made it clear that he sees this new Twitter chapter as a continuation of his work to protect humanity: “The reason I took over Twitter is because It’s because it’s so important to the future of civilization,” he told Yahoo Finance.

At the very least, Musk now has a very large platform to disseminate his long-term ideas, and the means to censor or raise voices — including political figures and others with real power — who may or may not join his futuristic crusade. His recent foray into foreign policy and his ability to shake up the geopolitical landscape with a single tweet show that he is more than willing to use the technologies he controls to unilaterally intervene in world politics whenever he perceives an existential crisis.

Musk’s meddling in Ukraine, for example, has shown that his commitment to the long term runs deeper than rhetoric or a few million dollars donated here or there. In early October, the CEO of SpaceX blocked Starlink in Crimea out of concern that any successful Ukrainian counter-offensive into that area would risk nuclear war. He warned that if we don’t start negotiations with Russia, we are headed for a conflict that will mean “civilization is over.” Since then, he has repeatedly spoken out about removing Starlink entirely from Ukraine. While he has agreed to continue funding the satellite internet service for the time being, his previous comments suggest he could take Starlink offline at any time to cripple Ukraine’s military and reduce the risk of nuclear war, which he believes is too high.

To put my own cards on the table, I actually share Musk’s concern that the West is headed for a nuclear confrontation with Russia and that the Biden administration is thoughtlessly pursuing a restrictive and inept policy of intervention. Like Musk, I believe that uncomfortable compromises over Ukrainian territory are probably the only way to prevent a metastatic world war.

The question, however, is not whether Musk is right in this particular case, but what it means for the world’s richest man to directly interfere in the foreign policies of democratically elected governments.

With Musk’s meddling in Eastern Europe, we have entered a brave new world: a world where a man guided by long-term ideals seems willing to take it upon himself to save the planet from nuclear Armageddon. As we move into an increasingly vulnerable 21st century — and as long-termism becomes more popular with a broader cross-section of the elite — we have every reason to worry that Musk’s dalliances could be a sneak peek of what’s to come. Elon Musk’s secret obsession with human extinction explains everything he does

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