There has been a good deal of comment on Elon Musk’s appearance at Rishi Sunak’s AI summit, some of it aimed at ridiculing the Prime Minister. “It felt like the entire AI summit was thrown so Rishi could get Elon’s autograph,” writes Tim Stanley in the Telegraph.
What’s received less comment, apart from a few clips on X, is what Musk did immediately before flying to London – and that was to appear on Joe Rogan’s podcast. His intervention was extraordinary and, I believe, welcome.
Asked by Rogan what had prompted Musk to buy Twitter, as it then was, Musk replied that it was in order to reverse its “corrosive effect on civilisation”. He talked about the “zombie apocalypse” of downtown San Francisco where X is based and the political philosophy that has led to it. Musk went on to describe the extinctionist movement that explicitly advocates the end of humanity as a “death cult” whose mind virus was being weaponised by social media. He asserted that the cult remains largely in charge of Facebook and Google.
Musk went on to point out that while there were explicit extinctionists at the fringes of the environmental movement, the sentiment behind the “death cult” had pervaded the movement as a whole:
I’m pro-environment but if you take environmentalism to an extreme, you start to view humanity as a plague on the surface of the earth, like a mould or something… The environmental movement – and I’m an environmentalist – has gone too far. They’ve gone way to far. If you start thinking that humans are bad then the natural conclusion is that humans should die out.
While a controversial figure for some, Musk’s credentials on environmentalism are pretty strong. He has, after all, risked his personal fortune to build a globally successful manufacturer of electric cars.
This makes his comments all the more extraordinary. Believing in the urgent need to ‘save the planet’ has become a ubiquitous virtue-test and to suggest otherwise risks being smeared as a ‘climate-denier’ or worse. While a small number of XR activists tweeted “Corona is the cure. Humans are the disease” back in 2020 (subsequently deleted), this misanthropy is not limited to environmental extremists and Musk is right to point out that it pervades social media companies outside X. I would argue that across the West it also pervades all Government institutions and legacy media.
The mainstream political thrust towards Net Zero is already heavily anti-human in terms of impact if not intent. In the U.K., some tens of thousands of people die of cold each winter at least in part due to the way Government Net Zero policies have driven up energy costs. Musk is a high-profile and influential figure and one can only hope not only that his insights are widely received but that he also continues to make X-like interventions to combat the mind-virus.
Moreover, the “death cult” that Musk describes is not compartmentalised within the environmental movement since it also pervades other dimensions of what are sometimes referred to as the ‘culture wars’. It is Musk’s death cult that arguably explains the war on women as a reproductive life force for humanity. It is, in my view, for this reason that we see coffee-chain adverts celebrating transitioning girls with mastectomy scars; it is why women can get arrested for praying for the lives of unborn children outside abortion clinics. It explains the antipathy towards economic growth and nuclear power. It also explains the dehumanisation of victims of the Hamas terror attacks who are regarded widely by the New Left as an inevitable and welcome outcome of decolonisation.
And where does AI fit into all this?
I have to admit that coverage of the threat of AI had induced fatigue but then I heard Musk’s words to Joe Rogan about what was on his mind as he travelled to the summit: “If AI gets programmed by the extinctionists, its utility function will be the extinction of humanity.”
Okay. Now, I am worried.