Elon Musk, both scientific genius and media con man – rts.ch

Elon Musk bought Twitter, he flies rockets, deploys satellites by the thousands or promises the autonomous car with Tesla. A little “crook”, the billionaire is above all a “brilliant technology accelerator”, deciphers Olivier Lascar in Médialogues.

“Elon Musk has become a kind of people, that is to say, someone everyone has heard of now,” says Olivier Lascar, the magazine’s digital editor. Science and Future – Research.

This notoriety dates back to 2013, when Elon Musk unveiled “a compendium of technology devoted to the Hyperloop, this train project that would circulate in vacuum tunnels at the speed of an airplane”, indicates the author of the book “Elon Musk , the man who defies science”, guest in the program Médialogues.

“Great technology accelerator”

Olivier Lascar’s book is subtitled “Elon Musk, genius or crook?”. However, “today, I would say that he is 66% brilliant and 30% a crook. But he is still brilliant, because he is a technology accelerator (…) and he is someone one which, despite the controversy, makes you dream,” said the journalist.

During the presentation of the Hyperloop, the international media frenzy said that Elon Musk was the inventor. But “it is completely false. It takes up ideas which come in particular from Swissmetro and the Americans had also filed patents on this subject”.

>> Read about it: In Canada, the hyperloop concept is growing thanks to new funding and A Hyperloop vacuum transport test track is being built at EPFL

Nor is he the origin of Tesla. The brand is “intimately linked to Elon Musk, when the company was founded by two American engineers, Tarpenning and Eberhardt”, in the early 2000s. “On the other hand, what has become of Tesla and this obsession with the autonomous car (…) it was still Elon Musk who infused this idea“.

>> Read about it: Tesla opens a mega-factory in Germany for its European production

“We associate him with a lot of breakthrough innovations, even though he is not at the origin of them. But we have to give back to Caesar what is due to Caesar, he knows how to raise the mayonnaise and make things concrete”, continues Olivier Lascar.

When Mars hides a swarm of satellites

Elon Musk also pursues dreams of space conquest, with SpaceX, which has contracts with NASA, that is to say with the American administration. But he aims further than the Moon and talks about colonizing the planet Mars. In this case, he applies the two-shot gun method, according to an expression by Olivier Lascar in his book. He focuses attention on this still very distant space project, while he develops his network of Starlink satellites “almost quietly”.

>> Read about it: Constellations of satellites to access the internet everywhere and Smartphones look to satellites

Elon Musk is really pursuing the plan to go to Mars. But while this subject polarizes the debates, in particular because of the resources necessary while “we try to put in place the conditions which could save the Earth”, “one fine morning, the astrophysicists pull us by the sleeve saying: ‘ but what is this stuff you see in the sky. You can no longer watch the sky at night quietly’ due to the number of Starlink satellites installed in low Earth orbit to provide an Internet service to the entire Globe.

>> Read about it: Soon the lights of the satellites will shade the stars

And by the way, Elon Musk is setting up “a completely vertical business, because he designs the rockets to launch his satellites, which themselves deliver his Internet service. He is setting up a monopoly for global access to the web and Obviously it’s worrying.”

Currently, 2000 Starlink devices are in orbit, out of 9000 existing satellites around the Earth. However, Elon Musk plans to launch 42,000 in all. A huge figure which is explained by the fact that these satellites are installed in low orbit. They will gradually lose a little altitude, gradually enter the Earth’s atmosphere, and be destroyed there by friction. “Musk knows that for his global network to be functional, there will be a fairly high renewal rate. And this figure of 42,000 includes replacement satellites”, explains Olivier Lascar.

implants in the brain

Elon Musk is also investing in a project less known to the general public. With Neuralink, he wants to “equip the brains with electronic chips which will allow a playful use of a connection with computers, that is to say playing video games by thought”. It’s a lot to talk about, but it’s a “distant scenario (…), it’s science fiction, it’s Philip K. Dick”.

This company is also working on miniaturized implants that can be placed in the brains of people suffering from neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease. The product is still in the development phase, but if it succeeds, Neuralink could “swallow a market” which potentially concerns a lot of people, says Olivier Lascar.

Interview by Antoine Droux

Web adaptation: cab

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