Jill Lepore is a best-selling author, a history professor at Harvard, and the host of a podcast called Elon Musk: The Evening Rocket, which looks at the life of the richest person on the planet and the type of moguldom he represents, which she calls “Muskism.” She also writes for the New Yorker. What is the meaning of this word or phrase? A quote from her in the New York Times: “Extreme extraterrestrial capitalism.” This is when stock prices aren’t based on earnings but on “science fiction fantasies.”
He talked to Morning Brew about what happened. You don’t have to worry about hyperloops getting hurt while you make this interview.
In what ways does Muskism look back at or repeat the old?
Muskism gets its ideas about the future from science fiction, some of which has been around for more than a hundred years. A lot of that science fiction was also a set of warnings about how not to live, as well as a lot of criticisms of colonialism and capitalism that didn’t work. But people who follow Muskism read those books as if they were how-to manuals. When you read Moby Dick, you should think about how Ahab lived and how you should run your business.
In your opinion, what do you think the traditional business media doesn’t cover about Elon Musk.
I’m not sure I’ve read enough traditional business media about Musk to know for sure. There are a lot of Musketeers in the world right now. I think a lot of the press he gets is because a lot of loudspeakers are amplifying what he says through his own microphone. Coverage for business There are a lot of projects that I think are interesting and important, like Vermont PBS’s series The Future of Farming in an Age of Big Ag and Big Dairy, or the New York Times op-ed about how business decisions affect nursing and patient care.
It’s because they have a lot of money that they want to go to space.
Space exploration: I get it. We can go to space. Dunno. Fly first class, then Platinum, then charter, then your own plane, and then you have a fleet of them. What comes next? You have a fleet of private jets. There is a rocket. But, in the end, it’s not about going somewhere new: It’s about business.
It’s a genre that deals with things that didn’t happen in the past. There are some that I like.
It’s a shame. Because that’s a whole genre, Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. Do you think The Handmaid’s Tale is a good book? In Colson Whitehead’s book, “The Underground Railroad?” Dunno. A set of books? I don’t think so. There’s a chance that I don’t think about that genre the way other people think about it. But here’s a book that I love and that fits into all kinds of categories and also none, because it’s unique. Lincoln in the Bardo is a book by George Saunders.
Why do you think The Simpsons has been so good at predicting the future, while many well-known “futurists” have often been wrong?
Because the Simpsons are always right about everything, this makes sense. Most of all, Lisa. Marge, too.
From 1995 to now, what has been the biggest change you’ve seen in how you teach college students?
iPhones: Theirs. It’s also possible that some of them have never seen The Simpsons.