Science/Tech

BET ON IT: ELON MUSK WILL TURN TWITTER AROUND

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor-in-Chief of usindiamonitor

Elon Musk is a complex fellow.  And mark my words: this complex fellow is going to turn around Twitter and make it a resounding success beyond what it has ever been.  You read it here. Please bear with me.

As with all of us, there is plenty that is positive and also negative going on with him.  Most of the people in my social circles fundamentally dislike Elon, or are even disgusted by him, and are rooting for his grand ambitions to fail spectacularly.  It’s all too predictable, yet the constant beatdowns of his reputation disappoints me, when taking the full measure of what he means to the world and our future into account.  I thoroughly understand why he is hated so fiercely, but I still vehemently disagree with those people on this particular subject, including those who are close to me and I’d agree with on most important values. To be clear I definitely don’t agree with all of Elon’s blunt methods and strange sequences of words he chooses to Tweet or declare sometimes. The last few days at Twitter do not represent Elon’s finest hour in my opinion. They’ve even made me, unashamed fanboy, a bit nervous.  But we should all want the platform to succeed regardless of our feelings about Elon Musk.

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It’s quite likely he doesn’t care what any of us think, which is ultimately for the best.  He is future looking, has deeply held convictions, and amazingly thick-skinned for a public figure.  And because he is far and away more accomplished than I am, and the good far outweighs the bad in my estimation, I have never judged him as harshly as some.  Yes, I even believe he is a fundamentally decent human being possessing a good heart, and the right general intentions, which is an important component of this Twitter saga.

I’m not technically qualified to diagnose the guy but if we are to take him at his word, he sits somewhere on the autism spectrum, which may or may not bear at least some responsibility for his legendary lack of discipline and control in public relations that if he instead harnessed would actually stand him in good stead and help him reach his daunting, lofty goals more smoothly and rapidly.  I wish he’d improve in that regard for his own good.  For example, I bet an improved public personality could help him get to Mars sooner than otherwise.  But I doubt we’ll ever get to see root changes to those disagreeable sides that help define him, to his ongoing detriment.  Without those mean-spirited, passionate, spontaneous, unpredictable and brutally honest lines of code that make up the unique, complicated and utterly brilliant Elon operating system, he would simply not be the person that he is. On a deeper, fundamental level it doesn’t seem like he can help himself from shooting himself in the foot sometimes, and these earliest weeks of the Twitter takeover have been cringe-worthy to watch, even from a place of longstanding sympathy and respect for what he is trying to do.

Despite the rocky start to what promises to be a drama-filled, long and winding path to successfully transforming the critical global social media platform, a challenging adventure to say the least, again mark my words: Elon Musk will turn Twitter around.  It’s only a matter of time.  I see the mainstream media pundits with their monotone hit pieces and my friends gleefully predicting the untimely demise of Twitter, flushing down the toilet with it the massive investments of money, time, legal woes, and reputation the Chief Twit put into the high-risk adventure.

My confidence in Elon’s Twitter move is rooted in the perspective of the long view.  Give the guy a chance. It’s only been three weeks, people!  A close look at his history reveals that he has done incredibly difficult things many times before, stuff I would argue is even harder than turning a struggling Twitter around.

While many disagree, I also am 100% sure that he bought out Twitter not as a money-making scheme, or even as a remotely wise investment for that matter, but above all as an altruistic (if fun) public service, whatever his idea of that is.  Elon is always incredibly honest despite his other faults, and can be taken at his word including about his intentions for the buyout.  I wish more would believe him, for their perceptions of his actions would change. And I wish him well in the endeavor.

I find it impossible not to be impressed by his great accomplishments and uncanny ability to get exquisitely difficult things done against long odds. His career represents a litany of categorically complex and cutting-edge engineering problem sets, filling important voids that nobody else alive on the planet has managed to do, leaving competitors in the dust time and again.  Co-founding one of the Internet’s first viable, secure, instant universal payment systems?  Check.  Building the most advanced rockets ever launched into orbit on a shoestring startup budget?  Check.  Ramping up the first American startup automobile company to succeed in 100 years, spitting out not only the best electric cars ever made, but the best automobiles ever engineered, period? Check. Hiring the world’s best engineering talent? Check. Creating new types of underground tunnel boring machinery operating at unheard of pace with the eventual goal of terraforming a bizarre, entirely new mode of public transportation beneath our cities?  Check.  Brain surgery with a dose of microchips? Humanoid robots that can do our dangerous, undesirable, or boring work for us?  Why not?  The guy is a machine of endless great ideas backed up by goal-setting, hard work and relentless trial and error. He is willing to fail, which is the only way one can shoot so many arrows in different directions. We need more Elons, not less. With his empire of influence extending to so many things, no other person on the planet is ahead of him on leading the charge against climate change and other grand problems of our time.

As impressive as all of this might seem, we are only scratching the surface.  In fact, the parade of engineering excellence in the wake of Elon Musk and the dream teams he leads is so long, it deserves a list here. More to the point, each of these is only at the beginning stages of a revolutionary paradigm, with the best in all cases yet to come, and coming sooner than most can imagine.  All of these efforts are useful for humanity, have major future upside, and deserve to be universally applauded:

  1. The best cars, SUVs, pickups, and semi trucks ever made if taking into account the dominant Tesla combination of growth trajectory, scale, engineering quality, environmental sustainability, safety, profitability, and price value.  There are no viable challengers today or on the horizon.  Legacy auto manufacturers and startup EV ventures alike are struggling to even attempt to keep up. More importantly Tesla is slowly and single-handedly dragging the entire global legacy automotive industry, kicking and screaming the entire way, into the transformative EV revolution unfolding before our eyes by setting the gold standard everyone else is chasing and making much of the technology open source and replicable by others on purpose. His openly published Tesla master plan stage 1 from many years ago has come to fruition, as will the next stages. What a visionary.
  2. The best automotive marketing plan in world history. Tesla is the only car company out there I can think of that refuses to spend a single penny on advertising. The company’s hypersonic growth in sales is based entirely on personal experience and word of mouth, which only works because the product is so superior it speaks for itself without marketing, or independent dealerships acting as the inefficient middlemen with varying prices and negotiating tactics. Just get on the official website, buy the Tesla you want at the price point listed transparently up front. That’s the entirety of the marketing plan.
  3. The best, most advanced large manufacturing facilities ever built, just one example of those being the new Giga Texas plant in Austin, a mammoth 10 million square foot building featuring unrivaled robotic systems, productivity, and efficiencies including space management and relentlessly deleting unnecessary parts and processes that bog down the legacy auto industry and most of the existing manufacturing in any industry.
  4. The best residential solar and battery storage products available in the US market and some others, also under the Tesla banner.  Tesla Solar is making revolutionary leaps at the scale of individual household and business products and beyond those also at grid-scale that I don’t even completely understand. These renewable energy leaps are turning the energy industry on its head and taking a chainsaw to carbon emissions along the way.
  5. The best EV battery technology, in partnership with other companies.  Safe and dependable batteries are the most important component of EVs, and in this area Tesla has such a dominant head start it will be hard for any competitor to catch up. All they can hope for at best is to follow.
  6. The best EV charging network in the world, by far.  It’s still expanding globally and its scale is matched by quality and reliability, which is by no means a universal trait of the fledgling charging station industry.  When Tesla opens them up to other EV brands it will be a watershed moment for charging availability for members of the general public who cannot charge at home or work.
  7. The best vehicle microchips ever fabricated to handle the thousands of complex electronic functions of every Tesla, including its rapidly improving driverless technology, and this assertion is on the authority of highly respected automotive engineer Sandy Munro.
  8. The best automotive self-driving technology easily belongs to Tesla too, speaking of.  It has many millions of miles under its belt in beta mode, with wider rollouts on the way.  It uses advanced cameras linked with AI that actually recognizes and can interact with the physical world increasingly safely each day that goes by, as the AI is machine-learning from every mile driven by every Tesla to get better mile by mile- for the entire fleet of Teslas on the road.  Many companies large and small around the world are also working furiously to crack this autopilot nut, but Tesla is running away with the race. Although Full Self Driving is still a work in progress, Tesla is on track to finally roll out the long-awaited driverless robotaxi in the next few years. I can’t wait to get my first ride in one.
  9. The best automobile insurance policy is offered only by Tesla, highly tailored to individual drivers in a growing number of markets using a revolutionary new concept that will permanently disrupt the automobile insurance industry. Tesla Insurance uses actual, objective real-time driver behavior data constantly collected and updated by the vehicle’s computer to assign driver scores and targeted insurance rates for policy holders, rather than relying on actuarial tables that assign costs based on old historical data, age, sex, and the vehicle rather than the quality of the driving behavior. This has always been an unfair way to do insurance, especially for safe and skilled drivers.
  10. The best vehicle over-the-air operating system that includes automatic updates to every single Tesla in the world over the Internet. Every Tesla globally is connected to one giant software brain, saving customers from needing to take vehicles into a dealership for improvements, services or recalls.  OS updates are just patched through while you sleep.
  11. The best, most advanced humanoid robots with generalized AI.  At the second Tesla AI day in 2022, Elon and company rocked the high-tech world by unveiling on stage for the first time two versions of the Tesla Bot, cool as shit robots that can independently walk around and perform tasks such as picking up and moving boxes or watering office plants, using camera vision to make its way around.  I could not believe my eyes- the team had thrown these early version robots together in just over a year!  That is warp speed progress on some of the most difficult engineering problems man faces. The Tesla bot has marched forward in such a short amount of time thanks to the brilliant idea of repurposing the vehicle self-driving AI program, already far along, and inserting it into the brain of a humanoid robot. This feature immediately separates it from all other robotics concerns by a mile.  There are other promising humanoid robot projects out there, some under continuous development for decades, but all rival bots are more limited in what they can do with dramatically inferior software integration that only Tesla has in its wheelhouse.  In fact Tesla bots may go down as Elon’s greatest accomplishment of all once they hit the market in a few years, far beyond his advancements in automotives and even space travel.
  12. The best large tunnel boring machines.  Many people aren’t aware of the Boring company and its revolutionary machines, which bore faster than others, or the innovative pilot projects the company is either operating or working on in partnership with local governments and other groups.  These underground projects are mind-blowingly ambitious in their own right although Boring Company has gotten less attention so far than Tesla or SpaceX.    
  13. The best US company manufacturing operation in China.  Already ramped up and producing new vehicles at a breakneck clip, the giant and still-expanding Giga Shanghai factory is being run by Tesla independently, not as a joint venture with a Chinese company, as with most American companies that manage to operate in China.  The Big 3 Detroit automakers have minimal operations or sales in the country at all.  I don’t know how Elon Musk pulled this off in a very difficult environment for any foreign business.  At minimum it proves that Elon possesses great political acumen, and is capable of high-stakes diplomacy with the government of a rival nation typically hostile to American interests and cooperation. Giga Shanghai currently produces the most vehicles of any Tesla facility, employs thousands of Chinese workers, and sales in China have been healthy for years.
  14. SpaceX has built and launched the best and most revolutionary rockets ever made.  Just as Tesla did for EVs, SpaceX is leading the entire global space industry into an exciting new era with new satellite technologies such as Starlink to provide Internet access for people down on planet earth, and the reusable rockets that nobody else could come up with.  These can take off and land again intact, and can be re-used over and over again. This is a feat that neither NASA nor any other space organization could achieve with far more funding.  SpaceX is encouraging the growth of the private sector space industry as far away as India and bringing Internet to the Ukrainians fighting for their country in areas without access.

This list is by no means even close to being comprehensive when it comes to presenting the things that Elon is doing better than everyone else.  Writing down the others would take more time than I think it’s worth to prove my central point, and if the above list doesn’t help prove my point, I cannot fathom what possibly would.

The point is because of his long history of spectacular successes, all with global implications, I am betting with confidence that Elon will eventually manage to not only push Twitter back on its feet, but get the little blue bird chirping happily along, finally freed from the cage of mediocrity it has been trapped in for so many years.  Turning Twitter into a successful, profitable, reliable platform that unlocks its full potential by using innovation and experimentation has got to be easier than most of what was listed above.  I could be wrong but that’s what my instincts point to at this time when there is much uncertainty around Twitter’s prospects. The risk of failure is something that Elon welcomes head-on along with the high-quality people his companies reliably hire.

By and large in my experience success breeds happiness at work for most.  Elon’s companies are extremely hard to get into, and demand hard work across the board, but millions still apply for openings and hundreds of thousands are gainfully employed.  Tesla and SpaceX are the most desirable destinations for fresh engineering graduates year after year according to surveys.  They continue to attract the top engineering talent in the world. I have no doubt that the majority of employees at Elon’s companies are excited about their work, willingly work above and beyond the expectations of most organizations, and still believe they are well-compensated. This isn’t something we can say about all workplaces or careers.  

The culture of those places, however, is notably different from that of Twitter, which has lumbered along for years with the overhang of mediocrity, the default option of working remotely, an unforgivable lack of technological innovation and creativity for a Silicon Valley company, user interface issues that badly need revamping, and an uninspiring financial position since the very beginning.  While Elon lost many staff due to the sweeping layoffs and resignations based on the controversial choices he made with conviction, that was a necessary and obvious first step that needed to be taken to change the culture into one resembling Elon’s other companies at least somewhat.  The band-aid had to get ripped off, and the disruption was inevitable. This process was going to be ugly, chaotic, and unfair no matter what, and it sure ends up looking that way to those of us on the outside.  Perhaps it could have been managed better, mostly because I’d guess some percentage of those who were fired or resigned due to Elon’s attitude and the uncertainty around the takeover, probably could have been useful to the company’s transformation plans instead of walking out on bad terms with a sour taste in their mouths.  I feel bad for some of them, if they embodied excellence during their time at Twitter and were proud of working there.  Not all of them though, as the bloat from cycles of over-hiring was obvious and a company only does this badly for that long if a majority are low-performing employees. In any case they are now gone, these decisions and tone are fully management’s prerogatives in any private company, and from my knowledge of the tech industry the departed staff that created vacancies needing to be filled are easily replaceable in the current job market. Nobody is indispensable besides Elon at Twitter 2.0 now.  Replacements and the ones who stayed must come prepared to match Elon’s mindset on passion, innovation, intensity, and creativity. If Twitter management can pull that feat off, the culture will improve for the better. The remaining workforce does actually need to be hardcore if Twitter is to have a shot. It’s still in a big hole.

But guess what, sports fans?  The transformation is going to happen anyway regardless of who left and who stayed.  Of course there will be mistakes made along the way by Elon Musk. After all he is a human being, not a Tesla bot.  An imperfect human being to be sure.  Who isn’t? But by and large, he sets reasonable if aggressive goals and he methodically knocks them out one by one over time.   I expect no different this time.

So count me out from the vicious noise about all the negativity engulfing the start of Elon’s tenure as Chief Twit.  Don’t believe the breathless hype of the mainstream media’s endless stream of hit pieces throughout 2022 about the Twitter takeover, or pay much attention to the large mob who are convinced that the takeover is already a failure- just three weeks in!  I choose to believe Elon does know what he’s doing, though I sure as heck don’t. Give the man some time, people!  He has earned the funds, the legal right, and the credibility to run things his way, whether you agree with the methods or not.  I’d encourage you instead to study the undeniable results of all of his past and current ventures.  No other living human has accomplished as much, at least when it comes to the private sector as opposed to leading a country.  Many would have retired at his level of wealth rather than working 100 hour + weeks without an end in sight. Few CEOs in any industry outwork him, or lead as many different types of companies engaged in creating deep, cutting-edge engineering marvels from the ground up.  And Elon is going to turn around the beat-up Twitter he inherited recently too, given time. 

This is probably not the outcome many of you are predicting or hoping for. It is so much easier to constantly, reflexively dump on, criticize, and demean successful and wealthy people who do things, and this bothers me especially about liberals, who should be rooting for Twitter to be a success for all of the good it represents in robust alignment with liberal values, and potentially can do in the future for a growing number of people, not least in helping advance the fight against climate change, the epic battle of democracy vs autocracy playing out across the globe, and most importantly of all helping foster peace across nations as a highly populated, highly trafficked, mostly honest, safe and credible global town square, one with copious amounts of dialogue and knowledge sharing without any borders. Today this may seem like an elusive dream, but all should be able to admit it’s a beautiful vision worth pursuing with full force.

I for one have chosen to take the optimistic outlook on the many tough questions facing Elon and the skeleton crew now toiling at Twitter. Though the road to recovery looks long I think the best days are yet to come, and Twitter is going to hold a central role in society for years to come, including ways we cannot predict. It’s also going to go down as the most epic turnaround story in the history of tech companies, if the guy can pull this off.

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