Dec 7 2018
03:10 pm
By: R. Neal  shortURL

"My favorite fiction of 2018 was anything from Tesla Inc."

From David Moon's otherwise (mostly) serious book recommendations.

Rachel's picture

Link's not working.

Link's not working.

R. Neal's picture

Oops. Fixed. Thanks!

Oops. Fixed. Thanks!

Factchecker's picture

Can we assume without

Can we assume without clicking that he's a Tesla hater?

Moon's picture

Tesla hater?

I'm a huge fan of Tesla's conference calls. I highly recommend them. Really. (Alternate link to piece.)

Alex_Falk's picture

must-watch TED talk

love to receive inspiration from titans of tech, true thought-leaders


Factchecker's picture

Thanks for the clarification.

Thanks for the clarification.

AC's picture

A good list of books. I'm

A good list of books. I'm basically an optimist, so I'm eager to find more support for a positive outlook. I've been meaning to read one of Harari's books for a while and this will prompt me to do so during the holidays. "Factfulness" too.

I haven't read the latest Steven Pinker book, but I did read the even lengthier "The Better Angels of Our Nature" about 8 years ago, when it was highly recommended to me by a friend who is also a friend of Pinker's. It's a brilliant work and very readable - with a breadth and depth of historical knowledge that is exhilarating and inspiring. A couple of friends who've read "Enlightenment Now" report that continues the thread.

The quote about Tesla is amusing - but perhaps in ways unintended, especially when viewed in the context of the vision and content of the books mentioned above.

I haven't participated in a Tesla conference call but I have had the extraordinary pleasure of owning and driving one for the past year. It's a mindblower and I'm an unabashed fan - it's an amazing vehicle. Last quarter, it became the best selling American made automobile and also outsold Merecedes, BMW, and Audi in the USA. And if you've been reading recent reports from many analysts, the doom-and-gloom naysayers predicting the company's demise are starting to change their tune. You can google the reports yourself but here's a Forbes overview from late October that sums things up pretty well. Who knows what the future holds, but I would respectfully suggest that certainly what Tesla represents - and the rapidly approaching transition to the electric automobile - is one reason to be very optimistic and hopeful about the future.


Alex_Falk's picture

on pinker and “the neoliberal optimism industry”

great critique of pinker and his work here:

“This week we’re going to discuss the ideological project of telling both those in the West and the Global South over and over and over again, that things are, in fact, improving if not already really great. How those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, how a techno-capitalist middle-management ethos came to replace notions of justice, and how what we’d like to call The Neoliberal Optimism Industry gaslights us into complacency and political impotence.”

the discussion goes further than critique of popular optimism porn: exploring how pinker and others explicitly propagate neocolonial attitudes and charles murray style “race science.” even ignoring pinker’s explicit flirtation with the extreme right, his popular work makes a great example of “fishhook theory” — both the extreme center (bill gates, world bank, transnational capital) and the far right (intellectual dark web, white nationalists) appreciate and promote pinker’s work for reasons that are essentially the same if you take the time to examine how “the west” wields power over the global south.

AC's picture

Have you read Pinker

Have you read Pinker yourself?

Alex_Falk's picture


i have not read any his books, so i will forgive you if you do not take seriously me linking to criticism of his work. in my defense, pinker (like peterson, more recently) is a "celebrity intellectual" whose speech and ideas are widely summarized, popularized and promoted... the topic of much discussion.

he also isn't the only person working to demonstrate similar theses. i often see promoted in popular media studies produced by folks who make their careers in and around transnational capital institutions like the world bank who seem to work in much the same mode as pinker.

as someone who is a critic at heart: that institutions of power fund & the (second?) richest man favor this kind of work (which seems like so much feel-good apologia for the current order of power in the world) is certainly something i notice :)

AC's picture

I look forward to listening

I look forward to listening to the critique when I have some time in the coming days. I just wondered how you knew that it was a "great critique" if you hadn't actually read the work yourself.

I value critical thinking myself - along with problem solving - and I tend to be wary of those who don't really address the ideas themselves but instead try to label people and their arguments - using various logical fallacies - in ways that conform to their predetermined ideological perspectives. Whether coming from the right or the left, I like to think that I have an instinctive aversion to muddle-headed thinking. I try not to get distracted by whether someone is a "celebrity" or not, or by whether a rich or poor person supports their ideas or not. Ultimately, its about the quality of the ideas - the foundation on which they are based. The rest is noise.

For what its worth, I have no knowledge of Jordan Peterson's work but people that I know who do have serious reservations about it. I was told that Pinker - in particular - does as well. I don't think they see things quite the same way.

Mostly, I'm quite curious about Yuval Harari's books, which I look forward to delving into over the holiday.

Treehouse's picture

"Canadian psychology

"Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson is a polarizing critic of political correctness. His “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” is a simple, yet provocative combination of psychology, philosophy and common sense. It is my favorite book of 2018."

In response, I offer:

Alex_Falk's picture

just noticed

I was quick to appreciate any humor at the expense of megalomaniac / buffoon elon musk in the original post...

...however, I just noticed that moon included (seemingly unironically) far right ideologue and pseudoscience / self-help peddler to the alt-right / “men’s rights” / transphobic movements Jordan Peterson in his list of recommended reads.

that rates a “yikes” from me, fam.

AC's picture

There's no denying that Musk

There's no denying that Musk is a polarizing figure for reasons easily understood.

Nevertheless, his accomplishments - and those of his team - have been extraordinary and revolutionary. Even if Elon implodes and the companies fail to survive, the accomplishments have laid the groundwork for moving beyond dependency upon - or even the use of - fossil fuels and pointed the way forward to a new energy future. That's important and commendable, regardless of the excesses and bravura of Musk's personality.

Alex_Falk's picture

neoliberalism, radical centrism & the radical right

on "celebrity intellectuals" peterson & pinker -- synthesized as "pinkerson"

"We needn’t get personal, so let’s evoke a composite figure wherever possible, returning to the differences between these two figures where necessary. Call him Pinkerson. My point is that whatever Pinkerson’s motivations, he is an academic whose manner of deploying his huge platform lends credibility to other radical right ideas on the up across the culture."


AC's picture

I've been getting a kick out

I've been getting a kick out of digging into some of the Elon Musk / Tesla stories - and reading some new ones As I said above, he's certainly a polarizing figure - and he's certainly demonstrated some decidedly erratic behavior (stress will do that to you) - but its also fun to watch him tweak the delicate sensibilities of his naysayers - who are both challenged and threatened not merely by his unconventional behavior but by his vision and intelligence and the future that he and his company represent, which is approaching with increasing speed.

More serious but less fun than the recent reports of his stopping meetings to share Monty Python clips, here's a report on an interesting change of perspective by UBS, who formerly fell into that naysayer category:


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