Donald Trump campaigned on the imperative to bring back jobs for Americans. He should turn to Elon Musk to succeed on his aims.
Elon Musk’s business acumen, ethics, and technological ingenuity have the potential to be invaluable in addressing one of the most politically charged issues in recent years: job creation in the U.S. Indeed, his company Tesla already constitutes a dynamic and growing part of the American economy. For example, Tesla is developing a 5.5-million-square-foot lithium-ion battery factory in Nevada, where it expects to employ approximately 6,500 full-time workers with a variety of skills – all of whom would be paid over $22 per hour. This would, of course, be in addition to all the jobs and innovations involved with Tesla’s other projects and Musk’s other pursuits, including aeronautically oriented SpaceX and solar energy company SolarCity.
Despite Musk’s contributions both to technological innovation and to creating American jobs and infrastructure, he has been the target of many criticisms from conservative groups and politicians. Columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin describes numerous examples in an article for The New York Times. He describes how the CEO of the largest privately own coal company, Robert E. Murray, called Musk a fraud for accepting $2 billion in subsidies from the government for Tesla. Indeed, many have criticized Tesla for having gotten wealth through corrupt political support for his interests in green energy.
At the same time that he is criticized for being a conniving capitalist benefiting from unjust political support, Musk seems to exemplify what a benevolent and productive business leader ought to do. He creates jobs, pays workers well, promotes green energy, and creates innovations in space exploration. Sorkin captures the utter dissimilarity between Musk and classic caricatures of corrupt business leaders by asking:
What other chief executive do you know who takes only $1 a year in salary and has never sold a share of Tesla except to pay taxes? Yes, he pays taxes — to the tune of some $600 million in just the past year.
Few citizens contribute more to the American economy than Elon Musk. Given President Trump’s repeated calls for creating more American jobs throughout his campaign trail, then, it may well be prudent for him to look to Musk both as a symbol and as a source of information on how to create promising and competitive American jobs while also invigorating the economy. Certainly, Musk is open to it. When Andrew Sorkin wrote to him asking if he would be willing to engage with the President on such issues, Musk replied, “I’d be happy to talk to Trump.” Here’s hoping they get a chance to have this meeting with meaningful result.
Only two things will change the minds of science skeptics: appeals to their ego, or their wallets.
People do not want to give up their cherished beliefs, says author Margaret Atwood, especially the ones they find most comforting. What appears obvious and enlightening to atheists like Richard Dawkins, for example, it isn’t so straightforward for those whose identity and community is hinged on a certain set of beliefs. One person's liberation is another's nightmare.
It’s a very human quality to avoid things that are inconvenient or unappealing. Our days are vastly improved if we know to avoid the store with the long queues, to steer clear of dairy or gluten if it makes us sick, and to not order the whole roast duck if its head, still attached, is too much of a reminder. At some point, though, it’s necessary to confront uncomfortable truths – especially when a failure to do so affects the quality of human life (and all life) in a broader context. At that juncture, our avoidance moves beyond self-preservation and enters into exactly the opposite.
This mindset is what fuels anti-intellectualism, says Atwood, and it always has. When Galileo supported and expanded Copernicus’ heliocentric model of our solar system, he was punished by the church (Copernicus died too quickly to be reprimanded). Charles Darwin came under fire when he suggested we weren’t created but that we evolved. When new ideas interrupt what's comfortable, many will reject and discredit it simply to not have to change their behavior. Is this sounding familiar yet?
There will be a point when the position of climate-change deniers will shift, explains Atwood, but it won't be until the idea starts to appeal to our ego, or to our wallets. When the green energy sector becomes profitable enough, expect a sudden reduction in the amount of climate change opposition. "That will be the real tipping point in public consciousness in this country," Atwood says. She believes Elon Musk is the "wave of the future", with Tesla cars and the Powerwall home battery. When his technology becomes affordable and therefore profitable, the idea of green energy will truly have arrived in the wider consciousness.
Margaret Atwood's new book is Hag-Seed.
In between time checks on the Doomsday Clock, Stephen Hawking is here to remind us we are living in dangerous times.
In between time checks on the Doomsday Clock, Stephen Hawking is here to remind us we are living in dangerous times. So, what are we going to do about it?
“We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans,” Hawking wrote in a piece for The Guardian on Dec 1. “We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.”
The growth of America—its path to progress—has been paved with some unintended consequences. But one could argue that in this time of disaster, we could build something better. “To do that, we need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations,” Hawking writes. Hawking also acknowledged the recent turn toward nativist populism in western political elections:
What matters now, far more than the choices made by these two electorates, is how the elites react. Should we, in turn, reject these votes as outpourings of crude populism that fail to take account of the facts, and attempt to circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent? I would argue that this would be a terrible mistake.
Some have deemed old-fashioned light bulbs as good as dead. But researchers at MIT have devised an incandescent light that's greener than ever.
Incandescent light bulbs are making a comeback. In the 136 years since Thomas Edison patented them in 1880, they have fallen out fashion in favor of more energy-efficient alternatives. Indeed, the United States and many other countries have been passing legislation to do away with them throughout recent years. CNN even published an obituary for the old-fashioned candle-replacement. Yet researchers at MIT have conceived of an incandescent light bulb that would be competitive with the most efficient available alternatives.
Traditional light bulbs sparked people to seek greener options for good reasons: they were very consequentially energy inefficient. 95-98% of the energy they use does not even go toward producing light; it is merely felt as heat or given off as infrared radiation. Considering that about a quarter of all electrical energy generated is used toward producing light, good ideas for a greener world must involve alternatives to the energy-draining incandescent light bulb.
Present-day bulb substitutes are no match for the new incandescent light developed at MIT when it comes to electrical efficiency. Fluorescent lights, for example, produce the same amount of light with about a third or a quarter of the energy. And LEDs are 15% more energy-efficient than fluorescent lights. The net improvement over the traditional light bulb, however, is ultimately not huge: whereas incandescent light bulbs use up to 5% of their energy intake on producing visible light, LEDs use 14%. The version of the bulb designed at MIT is much more impressive, with 40% of the energy shining bright. This is achieved by recapturing much of the otherwise lost energy without impeding the light produced. The researchers aptly refer to this method as “light recycling.”
The potential savings for both the planet and consumers are promising. Sarah Knapton, journalist and science editor at The Telegraph, reports:
The Energy Saving Trust calculates that typical living room usage of a 60-watt incandescent lightbulb over a year would cost £7.64. Using an equivalent energy efficient fluorescent or ‘CFL’ lightbulb would cost £1.53 per year, while an LED would cost just £1.27.
But if the new bulbs live up to expectations they would cost under 50p a year to run and even improve health.
Nostalgia, strained wallets and the environment might no longer need to compete among one another to choose a light-source. Indeed, these new bulbs may even ameliorate the problems existing lights cause when trying to fall asleep. This idea has only bright sides.
It's an important place-holding step as we transition further toward renewable energy sources:
Norway, Europe's largest petroleum producer, makes an unprecedented commitment to green energy.
Norway’s major parties agreed to a proposal to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered cars starting in 2025. This hasn’t yet become law, but marks the first time a nation has taken such a dramatic step towards green energy.
While 20-24% of Norway’s cars are already fully electric, this still marks a significant transformation for a nation that is Europe’s largest petroleum producer, with 20% of its GDP and 45% of its exports consisting of fossil fuels.
Who is most excited about this turn of events? Elon Musk tweeted some enthusiastic support, as his electric car company Tesla would certainly benefit from such a seismic shift.
Just heard that Norway will ban new sales of fuel cars in 2025. What an amazingly awesome country. You guys rock!! pic.twitter.com/uAXuBkDYuR
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 3, 2016