After the Wheel
“You can’t reinvent the wheel” – So goes the saying to describe a futile attempt to improve upon what has gone before. Nevertheless, the last ten years has seen a relentless abstraction of this – in the UK, a deceitful attempt to return to “past glories” alongside a series of fiscal measures that punish the poor for the crime of being poor.
From its genesis during the times of the horse and cart to today’s driverless cars, the wheel keeps on turning, creating massive fortunes for the fortunate few, but the energy needed to drive it is another matter entirely.
Nikola Tesla proposed the principal of free energy a hundred years ago. It could come from wireless networks for nothing, but that was not allowed to happen. Tesla died in his New York hotel in 1943 in relative poverty and apparently with a mere $100 to his name. This may be exaggerated, but clearly Tesla never achieved great wealth despite his numerous inventions, most of all the feat in having developed the means of electrical current distribution.
Elon Musk, meanwhile, is currently the richest man in the world. Notably, his key company appropriated the name Tesla – whose electric cars provide a platform to numerous means of wealth accumulation. Musk made $171bn during the first year of the Covid pandemic and increased Tesla’s market capitalisation 13-fold since the end of 2019*. Next up – Twitter. Musk has bid $44bn to acquire the company. The sum is roughly equivalent to the total budget President Biden’s administration has dedicated to combatting climate change.
Musk has plans for brain implants that connect to the internet, AI initiatives in addition, and if it all goes haywire, there’s always Life on Mars.
Might he be aware of one of Nikola Tesla’s unresolved inventions, “The Thought Machine”, that intended to be able to project an individual’s retinal images onto a screen? Does he take Twitter to be an improvement on this?
After the wheel, the spiked wheel of fortune. After the car, 20th Century symbol of forward freedom , the automated vehicle – 21st Century symbol of living in reverse, bonded behind a screen of algorithmic passivity.
If we can’t reinvent the wheel, we had better reinvent the superhighway, and drive in a different direction.
*Source: “Elon Musk, Twitter and the internet economy”, Will Dunn, The New Statesman,
29 April 2022