Free speech and democracy have a chance: Elon Musk bought Twitter
Elon musk is buying Twitter and all hell broke loose. The worst doomsday scenarios and predictions are popping around the news and my Twitter and Medium feeds.
Why so much hatred? So many people threatening to leave Twitter? Those who are “against” assume the worst. Can we try to understand why, on a psychological level?
The best predictor of future success is past achievements and history. Let’s look at what that means for Elon Musk. He created the first successful electric car company in the world. If you visit the American History Museum in Washington DC you will see a 1950s electric car, production of which got shut down by the government. Fuel car companies lobbied it into non-existence back then. Elon Musk has brought it back, re-engineered and ready for the XXI century economy.
His dream is to fly people to Mars and make life multi-planetary. If a Russian oligarch tells you he wants to save humanity, end world hunger or fly humans to Mars and instead you see the next longest yacht in their fleet — you know they are not doing what they are saying. And let’s be honest — Russian oligarchs don’t say any of that. They just buy yachts.
What would you do if you had access to billions? Be honest — would you buy yachts, houses and whatever else is most expensive or would you be able to break through that bubble and find a higher purpose? The truth is that most of us would be stuck in the “buying phase”, maybe with occasional money throwing at some charity cause.
Let’s listen to the guy — he wants to leave humanity better off than where he “found” it. Curiosity is his driver. As simple as that. That’s his purpose, his goal, his reason to live. Why can’t we respect that and abandon the need to add-on our own fears, insecurities and projections? Most of us are not perfect, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else has the same flaws as us.
So, back to Twitter — it’s one of the most popular discussion platforms in the US. Elon Musk called it a “Town Square”. Town squares need free speech for the society to prosper. Looking back in history, societies and nations that did not have free speech died out. The most robust development periods like Renaissance were possible thanks to freedom to publish and speak and loosened censorship.
How did you feel when you learnt about Cambridge Analytica, swaying people’s opinions about presidential candidates and a possibility of other unfriendly countries trolling our people and running successful propaganda campaigns? If you haven’t — “Social Dilemma” by Triston Harris is a good start. The above problems left me sad, looking for answers and possible solutions even if I wouldn’t be able to immediately act on them. It’s not crazy to suggest that Elon Musk felt something similar. And knowing his inventive genius he probably had a few solutions in mind, and importantly — money to execute on those solutions. He is not the worst person to try to fix our public town square. It could have been way, way worse. In some hypothetical reality imagine someone like Putin bought Twitter. Scary.
One may suggest that hundreds of Twitter employees have a better idea on how to fix Twitter and how to run the algorithms. But do they? A group of employees can just as easily be a herd and herds can jump off a cliff. Employees are not people who are voting. Each one has a boss, each one has a task in front of them. Not everyone is fully conscious when working on a project: most follow KPIs for their team and their boss’s opinion. The loudest ones and the ones with the most power and influence are heard. Do they have a high IQ and are able to solve problems while foreseeing consequences? Do you know their values and what they stand for? Do you know them by name? Do you know who wrote Twitter’s algorithm? Do you know who runs their Trust and Safety team? What other projects have they completed? Would those people if they have a chance buy a yacht or make humanity multi-planetary? Exactly — we don’t know.
So, having someone with past accomplishments and someone we at least know by name trying to fix the town square is already a huge step forward.
Going back to free speech — removing tweets, articles and accounts because they are exploring ideas is wrong. Being a troll with a fake account pretending you are exploring ideas is also wrong. There is a lot to fix, but “problems are soluble”. Some of the solutions have not existed before and need to be invented. They are out there, we just can’t necessarily find them doing all the same old things. I have hope that a guy who brought us electric cars, revamped human space travel, is boring tunnels and working on a microchip for the brain might, just might, be able to find a solution better than most of us can. For the benefit and survival of the Western civilization.