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Photo by Bloomberg. Art by Haejin Park
Modest Proposals

Elon Musk Is Silicon Valley’s New Hero—for Better or Worse

Photo: Photo by Bloomberg. Art by Haejin Park

The hero’s journey of ancient mythology follows a well-understood and well-documented pattern: The hero receives a call to adventure, overcomes a series of trials, encounters an otherworldly figure who helps them achieve greatness, and finally makes a celebrated return, their adventure complete, to live in peace and freedom.

Silicon Valley has its own version of this story. Usually a young engineer or academic has the spark of an idea—their call to adventure. They are scoffed at, rejected by the establishment and cast out on their own as an entrepreneur to endure a series of trials. Ultimately they have a eureka moment and succeed in their quest. Having been proven right, they are embraced by the establishment that once rejected them and sail into the sunset as philanthropists.

The connection between the hero’s journey and technology runs deep—think about Prometheus stealing fire from the gods. And the somewhat miraculous thing is that many founders of iconic Silicon Valley companies really did follow a hero’s trajectory in the early part of their careers. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin fit the mold. So did Bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. So did Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (though I know many might fight me on that). So do the founders of Stripe, Doordash and Airbnb.

That’s what makes Elon Musk—conqueror of space, lord of all edgelords and now master of the Twitterverse—so deeply challenging.

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