Elon Musk, the billionaire invent-trepreneur you might have heard of, topped The Atlantic’s tally of greatest living innovators that accompanies a mega-listicle of the greatest inventions of all time in this month’s edition of the magazine.
Check out this piece of hagiography:
“In the spirit of inveterate and wide-ranging tinkerers like Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin, Musk has transformed virtually every field he’s taken an interest in. . .” [Author’s note: except for the violin.]
Sure, comparing Musk to one of America’s most randy and inventive founding fathers and authors (Franklin) and one of the greatest scientific and artistic minds in human history (da Vinci) might be just a little over the top, but clearly Musk has earned his place in contemporary times for his efforts to evolve privately capitalized space exploration through SpaceX, to invest heavily in renewable energy with SolarCity, and to build and market an electric luxury sports car you might have heard of.
The Atlantic, like all other media in the world, is spotlighting Musk and his ventures (including Tesla Motors) partly because that’s what the reading audience wants. There are people who pore over every statement Musk issues as if it were a papal encyclical. There’s even a website that collects his nuggets of wisdom and a Twitter feed that makes fun of them.
That Musk is doing amazing things at great personal financial investment only makes him giant in the minds of those who admire people who put their money where their mouths are. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, who also made the list, is another entrepreneur known for maintaining significant financial exposure to his business rather than relying solely on the equity markets to capitalize it. CEOs with high personal stakes in their ventures are simply more trustworthy.
Whether Musk has earned the right to have a statue of himself (standing chest forward, a finger pointing skyward) erected in his birthplace of Pretoria, South Africa, remains to be seen. Perhaps his companies should at least become profitable first.
In case you’re wondering, The Atlantic says the printing press, invented in the early 15th century, is the greatest invention of all time; the Tesla Model S didn’t make the list.