All posts in “Thailand”

Ugh, Elon Musk attacks British diver who called his submarine ‘just a PR stunt’

Image: Kiichiro Sato/AP/REX/Shutterstock

After Vern Unsworth, a British diver who helped rescue the trapped Thai soccer team, called Elon Musk’s attempt at a submarine rescue “just a PR stunt” that had ‘absolutely no chance of working,” Musk has chosen to be angry online. 

Surprise!

In a series of tweets Sunday morning, Musk referred to Unsworth as a “pedo,” requested video of the cave rescue, retracted that request, then promised proof that his submarine could have, in fact, performed the rescue.

It’s a lot.

The tweetstorm was in response to a tweet from professor and New York Times writer Zeynep Tufekci, who wrote an op-ed arguing that Musk could learn a lesson about Silicon Valley hubris from the incident. (Her thread on celebrity intervention in rescue efforts is a great read.)

Never has a man so desperately needed to log off.

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Following his Thailand visit, Elon Musk is going to, um, save Flint?

Elon's here to save the daaaay.
Elon’s here to save the daaaay.

Image: Diego Donamaria/Getty Images for SXSW

Fresh off saving a soccer team visiting Thailand with a tiny submarine, Elon Musk is embarking on another heroic mission: bringing clean water to Flint, Michigan. 

On Wednesday, Musk was gently needled on Twitter by someone seeking help for the people of Flint, where there’s been a water crisis since 2014. 

Musk replied he was up to the task, pledging water filters for anyone in Flint who needed one. 

Hopefully, he can be a little more effective this time around. (No, he didn’t save a soccer team from a cave in Thailand. The real heroes were Thai Navy SEALs.) Despite the fact Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder ended the city’s free bottled water program in April, Flint still uses lead pipes, and some residents say they don’t trust the water coming out of their taps. 

Back in 2014, the city started bringing in water from the Flint River. The problem? It wasn’t treated properly, and lead leached into the water from the pipes. There were also two outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, a bacterial infection that spreads through contaminated water supplies. 

So, how might a Flint resident ask for Musk’s help? He’s setting up an email.

Although, as Musk himself admits, he might not actually have to do much.

Yep, Musk is committing to a weekend in Michigan to install filters. Not a bad way to generate a bunch of “Elon Musk saves Flint” headlines. 

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Thai cave rescue saga shows how Elon Musk’s narcissism gets the best of him

Elon Musk’s kid-size submarine may have gone unused. But his efforts to help with the rescue of the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave were definitely useful for anyone trying to understand what motivates his eccentric genius.

Elon Musk has literally offered to move mountains in order to help save 12 children and their soccer coach on the other side of the world. 

His actions, the social media response, and his own defense of his involvement in the Thai cave saga, have prompted two big questions about the controversial inventor and mogul.

What was Elon really after in all of this? And what drives him to do the possibly maddening, certainly meddling, and often amazing, things that he does? 

The answer, of Musk’s own admission, is that he “might” be a narcissist who justifies his actions with the thought that he is contributing to the greater good. But it’s that same conviction that also gets Musk into the messy, unflattering positions, in which he so frequently finds himself these days.

The story of a Thai boys’ soccer team trapped in a flooded cave took an odd turn on July 4 when Elon Musk offered his services to help on Twitter. He did so in response to a plea for help from the Twitterverse. His initial answer was humble yet earnest, and he deferred to the efforts of the Thai government.

But then he sprung into action, commissioned the development of a whole new piece of technology, basically live-tweeted the construction and testing of the “kid-size submarine,” and deployed it to Thailand as a backup — where the rescuers ultimately didn’t end up using it.

That should have been the end of it; Musk, beneficent billionaire, really put his best foot forward. And while the tech wasn’t useful in that specific instance, it was appreciated and impressive. Ultimately, I thought, as of 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, it’s a good thing that there is a person in the world willing to move heaven and earth to save children. He was even willing to not take (much) credit.

But then, at 10:03 a.m., Musk went on a weirdly defensive Twitter rant in response to reports that his tech was ‘not practical.’ He provided email evidence that the mini-sub was both sanctioned and praised by rescuers. He insisted that it would be useful in the future. And he lamented that being labeled a “billionaire” was basically a slur. 

Elon, this was a win for you. You had managed to avoid making this rescue about you. What were you thinking?

The saga of the mini-sub left me wondering: what were Elon’s motivations for getting involved? This is a question on a lot of people’s minds. Since Musk first started working on possible rescue solutions, people on Twitter have been alternately lambasting him for egotistical busy-body-ness, and praising him for the big brains and surely huge sum of money he devoted to literally saving children. Several people I spoke with, and many people on Twitter, even seem to think it was all a publicity stunt. 

I was never in the publicity stunt camp. As I’ve watched Elon’s involvement begin and then deepen and then implode, I’ve come to believe he genuinely wanted to help, and also can’t resist an engineering challenge. He also probably believed that he really could make a difference. And, he had the financial and braintrust resources to make it happen; clearly, he’s the kind of guy that when he says jump, those around him say, “how high?”

Up until this morning, he managed to (mostly) stay above the fray about his motivations. His tweets had consisted of practical updates and demonstrations of the mini-sub. And, erm, some odd statements about the natural splendor of Thailand.

But then, the BBC and multiple news outlets published that Thai rescuers criticized the mini sub as “not practical.” And Musk’s Twitter tone changed.

Although he had previously said that his team hadn’t been useful “yet,” apparently allegations that the actual tech wasn’t useful — and that his help wasn’t wanted — was the last straw. 

The rant changed how I viewed the story. Even if Musk really had wanted to help, his publishing of the emails and negation of the “not practical” narrative added a gross look-at-me, give-me-credit sheen to his efforts that hadn’t overtly been there before. It had been about getting credit, after all. 

It’s easy to see why reports that his invention wasn’t useful pushed that Initiate Egotistical Tweet Storm button — the kind of Twitter storms that Musk has been more famous for lately than his world-changing inventions. The allegations that everything he’d done had been useless was too much for him — and one tweet shows why.

Over the weekend, Musk tweeted “If I am a narcissist (which might be true), at least I am a useful one.”

This tweet shows that Musk’s defense for what some would call narcissism, what others would call ambition-and-brains-in-action, is that he is ultimately doing good in the world. 

For Musk, that’s why it’s ok to skirt normal construction regulations in order to dig tunnels beneath Los Angeles. That’s why it’s okay to launch driverless cars that sometimes get in crashes. That’s why it’s okay to push your factory workers to the brink. That’s what gives him the confidence to think he might have answers that rescuers on the ground don’t. And that’s why it’s good and necessary to insist that some of the world’s top engineering talent work around the clock on a national holiday and weekend to create an extremely niche and timely piece of technology. It’s all for the greater good; it’s all “useful.”

This is an attitude that permeates much of the tech world in general: It wants to disrupt the way things are, and cut through government bureaucracy, because it believes in the conviction that it is making the world a better place — and that it knows better than the people standing in its way.

With many companies, this is problematic. The advent of Uber has jeopardized the livelihoods of cab drivers, and even caused suicides, so that getting a ride can be cheaper and easier for millennials. There are countless other examples of how tech “innovation” can hurt more than it helps.

But with Musk, the scope of his contributions means that that narrative may not be exactly the same. In Beverly Hills, I saw the preferred luxury car transform from a gargantuan, climate change-causing Range Rover, to a clean, lean, Tesla. That has trickled downmarket to nearly every other luxury car-maker. Electric vehicles are starting to replace luxury gas-guzzlers, and it might be thanks to Musk’s narcissism; he believed that he was the guy who could make an electric car cool, before every other automaker would do so. 

He is also, apparently, doing all of this to support what he believes to be the future of the human race on Mars. Even if you think that’s ridiculous, it definitely falls under the umbrella of the “greater good.”

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Then again, that egotism has also been responsible for a lot of Musk’s behavior that people most routinely criticize. He lashes out at the press when  he doesn’t like what reporters they write about him, which makes him look egotistical and petty. He has dismissed concerns about the way he treats his employees, which has made him appear cruel. Now, that same narcissism gave him the confidence to push ahead on the invention in less than a week of a mini-submarine that could save lives in the future. But the anger-tinged egotism also totally changed the narrative from one of Musk just trying to help, to one of Musk trying to take credit in the midst of a crisis. 

Elon Musk does not deserve the credit for rescuing the Thai boys — that, even Musk has acknowledged, goes to the actual rescuers. 

But maybe some appreciation is still due our generation’s alternately benevolent or volatile billionaire with, clearly, a bit of a God complex — fueled by a narcissistic motivation that both enables his greatness, and causes him to turn around and shoot himself in the foot, at least in the court of public opinion.

In Greek tragedy, every hero has a fatal flaw; the driving quality that formulaically pushes the story forward, and leads to the hero’s downfall. Elon Musk’s tweets, inventions, and tweets again, follow a formula as predictable as any ancient play.

And, it sure is fun to watch.

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Elon Musk goes on Twitter rant after reports that his mini submarine was ‘not practical’

The Wild Boars live on.
The Wild Boars live on.

Image: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Elon Musk is not here for the kid-size submarine haters.

On Tuesday, the Thai government successfully completed the rescue of all 12 young soccer players and their coach from the narrow, treacherous cave system they had been trapped in since June 23. They did so without the use of the mini submarine that Elon Musk’s team developed for the mission, and that the billionaire helped drop off on Monday in case it was needed as a backup.

The submarine arrived late on the second to last day of the mission. The person whom the BBC described as Thai NavySEAL’s head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osotthanakorn, told the BBC that “the equipment they brought to help us is not practical with our mission.”

However, Musk was having none of that.

He took to Twitter Tuesday morning to defend his fun-size rescue invention. Musk claimed that Osotthanakorn was not the head of the rescue effort — that he was instead the former provincial governor. And that, instead, the REAL head of the rescue effort, Dick Stanton, was very into the kid-size submarine. 

He even provided email proof.

“Please keep working on the capsule details,” Musk posted to his 22.3 million followers.

The BBC has not issued a correction of their characterization of Osotthanakorn. Previous reports confirm that he is the former provincial governor, as well as the leader of the rescue mission. The Guardian described him as “the head of the joint command centre coordinating the operation.”

Just for good measure, Musk went on to tweet how the kid-size sub would definitely, for sure be useful in the future.

He also took exception to dismissals of his work, just because he’s a “billionaire.” Man, billionaires, so misunderstood!!!

Earlier, Musk tweeted about his visit, saying that he would leave the mini-sub — which he named the Wild Boar, after the soccer team — in Thailand, in case it would be of further use. He also, um, shared how beautiful he found Thailand to be.

According to CNBC’s transcript of a press briefing, the Thai Prime Minister echoed Musk’s sentiments about the Wild Boar potentially coming in handy in the future. He said that the tools Musk’s team brought to Thailand were “useful” and could possibly be “modified and adjusted for future use.”

Osotthanakorn response was more of a straightforward thanks-but-no-thanks. 

“Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn’t fit with our mission to go in the cave,”Osotthanakorn said.

For his part — BEFORE he went on a tweet storm to prove his own usefulness — Musk gave all the due props to the rescuers, too. And has all along been deferring to the government’s efforts.

Good effort, team. You too, Elon.

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Elon Musk tweets photos from cave where Thai soccer team is trapped

Me. It's about me.
Me. It’s about me.

Image: Brian Lawless/getty

Elon Musk is here to save the day, even though it’s probably not necessary

The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX was  — if his Twitter and Instagram accounts are to be believed — in Thailand on Monday touring the cave where a team of 12 soccer players, aged 11 to 16, became stuck with their coach on June 23. Musk says he’s there to help, and you better believe he brought his kid-sized submarine with him. 

Importantly, as of the time of this writing, eight of the 13 trapped people have already been saved by the heroic actions of rescue divers and support teams. Musk, who has been documenting his efforts to build the aforementioned sub to possibly help in the rescue, still clearly felt like he had something to offer. 

“Just returned from Cave 3,” tweeted the CEO. “Mini-sub is ready if needed.”

“Thailand is so beautiful,” he added.

Musk also acknowledged the hard work of the rescuers on the ground. Which, yes. 

Five people remain trapped in the cave, and according to the New York Times, the plan is to rescue them on Tuesday. 

No word on whether Musk and his kid sub will play a role. 

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