Elon Musk has been dubbed by TIME Magazine as its 2021 Person of the Year. The award, which the magazine gives to an individual or group who most shaped the previous 12 months, for better or worse, has been ongoing for nearly a century. Musk, however, tends to lean on the former, as his influence, from saving American taxpayers billions through SpaceX and shifting the auto industry towards electric vehicles, has been relatively positive overall.
Musk may be a controversy magnet — his personality and presence both in real life and online make it quite easy — but he does accomplish many things that critics previously thought impossible. As per TIME, 2021 was the year of “Elon Unbound,” from SpaceX winning an exclusive NASA contract to put US astronauts on the Moon for the first time since 1972, to an appearance at Saturday Night Live in May where he revealed he has Asperger’s Syndrome, to Tesla hitting a trillion-dollar market cap after weathering the chip crisis and delivering a record number of pure electric cars during a pandemic.
Perhaps what truly makes Musk remarkable, however, was the fact that he is an innovator that still helps create tangible things. And these tangible things can truly make a difference, provided they succeed. The journey towards Musk’s endeavors’ goals is long and difficult of course, but their potentials are vast.
“Musk is easily cast as a hubristic supervillain, lumped in with the tech bros and space playboys, for whom money is scorekeeping and rockets are the ultimate toy. But he’s different: he’s a manufacturing magnate—moving metal, not bytes. His rockets, built from scratch on an autodidact’s mold-breaking vision, have saved taxpayers billions, reinvigorated America’s space dreams, and are launching satellites to expand Internet access across the globe.
“If Tesla delivers on its pledges, it has the potential to strike a major blow against global warming. The man from the future where technology makes all things possible is a throwback to our glorious industrial past, before America stagnated and stopped producing anything but rules, restrictions, limits, obstacles, and Facebook,” TIME noted.
Musk is imperfect. A look at his Twitter feed would immediately prove the point. But this is exactly the reason why he is compelling. Bold and brash and optimistic to a fault, Musk may very well indeed make tangible, long-lasting change in the world through the companies that he runs. And as per an interview with TIME for his Person of the Year feature, Musk noted that he actually welcomes competition, and he doesn’t mind being beaten provided that the competitor has a better product.
Tesla, SpaceX, and his other companies would fight tooth and nail before such a thing happens, of course. But it does show that Musk knows that just as ever, the risk to his endeavors is still there. And for innovators like Musk, such challenges are what make things exciting. “If somebody makes better cars than we do, and they then sell more cars than we do, I think that’s totally fine,. Our intent with Tesla was always that we would serve as an example to the car industry and hope that they also make electric cars, so that we can accelerate the transition to sustainable technology,” Musk said.
Read TIME’s feature on Elon Musk for his 2021 Person of the Year award here.
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