A long-awaited biography of Elon Musk describes the tycoon as a man haunted by his childhood demons, obsessed with bringing human life to Mars and demanding that his staff be “unconditional”.
“Elon Musk” is written by biographer Walter Isaacson, the former editor-in-chief of Time magazine, known for his successful portrayal of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and his exploration of the lives of Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci.
American media had access to more than 600 pages of the book before its official release worldwide, and several excerpts were circulated. Within hours of its launch on Amazon, pre-orders had already made Elon Musk the site’s best-selling book in the United States.
Much of the billionaire’s early life is already widely known, focusing on his abusive and manipulative father Errol, whom Musk despises.
The biography suggests that Musk enjoys what his former partner, Canadian singer Grimes, calls a “demon mode,” which Isaacson says makes him highly productive.
Many of the unknowns in the story come from the recent period, when Isaacson closely followed his character with direct access to his daily life.
One widely circulated passage recounts how Musk personally foiled a Ukrainian military plan to launch a mega-operation in Crimea by denying Internet access to Starlink, his satellite communications company, prompting an angry response from Kiev.
But Isaacson was forced to withdraw his account of the episode after Musk assured him that Starlink access was not yet operational in Crimea, a strategic location in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, at the time of his decision.
Musk’s chaotic and impulsive acquisition of Twitter – now rebranded
Lacks ‘critical lens’ After acquiring Twitter late last year, Musk and his closest associates reviewed emails and social media and immediately fired dozens of employees who were critical of the new owner. Eventually, two-thirds of the 7,500 workers were laid off.
In another episode, Musk defied warnings and, with the help of a small team, moved key servers from a data center in Sacramento, California, to cut costs, causing a series of major delays.
He also refused to join forces with Bill Gates on charity projects because the Microsoft founder bet against Tesla’s stock market success.
The book notes that Musk, who worries about the planet’s depopulation, now has 10 children, including an unknown one with Grimes.
He also fathered twins as a sperm donor with Siobhan Seeley, an executive at Neuralink, the company he owns.
Reviews of the biography are mixed: The Washington Post praises the journalistic work but laments that Isaacson “prioritized anecdotes and behind-the-scenes chronicles over sophisticated critical insight.”
Influential American technology analyst Cara Swisher said the biopic will tell the story of “a sad, smart son (who) slowly transforms into a mentally abusive father who hates him”.
“He’s often right, sometimes wrong, and always mean-spirited,” Swisher notes in the book about Musk’s portrayal.