Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has been selected Person of the Year by Time magazine.
“Person of the Year is a marker of influence,” Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote. “Few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and presumably life off Earth as well.” “In 2021, Musk became not only the wealthiest person on the planet, but also probably the wealthiest representation of a huge transition in our civilization.”
Musk had a good year, gaining notoriety for being the world’s richest person, thanks in part to the jump in Tesla’s (TSLA) stock price. Musk’s SpaceX company launched the first-ever voyage to Earth’s orbit with a crew made up entirely of tourists rather than professional astronauts.
This Time tradition began in 1927 as “Man of the Year,” and has since evolved to include not only a man, but also the impact of a group, movement, or idea that had the greatest impact in the previous year. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were chosen as Persons of the Year in 2020. The annual selection is not always regarded as an honor, because it may have had a detrimental impact. Adolf Hitler, for example, was awarded Man of the Year in 1938.
Elon Musk (@elonmusk) is TIME's 2021 Person of the Year #TIMEPOY https://t.co/8Y5BhIldNs pic.twitter.com/B6h6rndjIh
— TIME (@TIME) December 13, 2021
Musk’s internet conduct has landed him into trouble on occasion and has taken his attention away from his accomplishments. He was charged with fraud by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 after tweeting that he was considering taking Tesla private. He agreed to an arrangement that required Tesla lawyers to authorize tweets that would damage shareholders, but two tweets, according to a recent Wall Street Journal investigation, were in violation of that agreement.
Musk’s “persona,” as Felsenthal described it in his piece announcing him as Person of the Year, is a “blunt weapon that frequently seems to revel in divisiveness and violent mocking,” which the public sees through his frequent use of Twitter.
The safety of Tesla vehicles has also been questioned. The company’s Autopilot software is being investigated by the federal government for incidents involving parked emergency vehicles, and a recent New York Times story raised concerns about the software’s safety. Musk addressed some of the issues in a sit-down interview with Time.
“I believe the data are incontrovertible at this time,” Musk stated. “There are significantly more incidents off Autopilot than on Autopilot.” “That isn’t to argue that Autopilot is without flaws. You’ve now progressed to full self-driving mode, in which you don’t need to pay attention. We clearly have a lot of work ahead of us.”
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