It’s the end of the world and X marks the spot

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Last week the evil Muskrat finally x-ed out the bluebird. Literally. Elon Musk’s ominous black X-logo has replaced the cheerful blue Twitter bird on the app screens of the world … and added its tiny increment to the weight of the Anthropocene.

I don’t want to imply the demise of one electronic bird is comparable to the extinction of living species, but I think it’ll do as a metaphor.

Nice to nasty

In the real world, in the relatively recent past, people had something that was quite nice most of the time. Over time they worked to improve their world. Most of them did this in small ways (farming, building homes, establishing families, building communities). Some did much more and developed better ways to farm and produce more food. Or new ways to build and construct more and better buildings.

People collectively and individually developed healthcare and education, new modes of transport and communication.

As many humans co-operated to make life better for themselves and for other people, a few worked tirelessly to exploit the new things and the old. They took advantage of people’s innate goodwill and trust and corrupted it. Their objective was to make life better for themselves and let the rest of humanity go hang.


Towards the end of the 20th century and into the first decades of the 21st, conditions for humans became such that they multiplied exponentially. They forgot to take care of the world they had inherited. Unwittingly they entered a time when what had become normal human behaviour became a threat to the world they lived in. By the simple act of existing, they drove other living creatures to extinction. They changed the conditions of the world and made what had once been quite nice into something increasingly nasty.

People started to max-out – and to x-out the climate, to x-out the natural world. (They had already got good at x-ing-out one another, so they kept on doing that.)

Meanwhile, those people whose only achievement – or whose principle achievement – was to concentrate wealth and power in their own hands, became wealthy beyond reason. Not beyond the dreams of avarice. (For they could always dream of something more – their own space programme for example.) But so wealthy and so powerful they felt increasingly isolated (they might say liberated) from the rest of humanity.

Some of them professed to believe that they were the true innovators, the true workers, the jewels and apex of creation. They forgot that their wealth was built from the sale of snake-oil and fool’s gold, luck, theft and corruption, spoils of war, inheritance. They fantasised about humanity collapsing if they were to withdraw.

Atlas supporting the heavens on his shoulders. Digital image based on engraving in Wikimedia commons
Atlas supporting the heavens on his shoulders


What if Atlas were to shrug, they asked? (Seeing themselves as the mythical giant who bore the weight of the sky on his shoulders.) The sky would fall! ^

Roughly 1% of all living adults – about 80 million people – own half of the world’s wealth. While half of all the world’s 8 billion people hold about 1% of its wealth.^ Other statistics say the true figures are that only a few dozen of the super wealthy own as much as the poorest 4 billion.^ The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few also concentrates in their hands much of the opportunity and the responsibility for doing something to save the world. Rather than shrug and flee to Mars.

Some have taken up the challenge. Others have splurged on vanity projects. Elon Musk spent US$44 billion to buy Twitter – in order, aparently, to put a stake through its heart.

Writing this today and thinking of the Muskrat, I keep getting flashbacks to the Vogons from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz

The Vogons were green skinned, bulky, slug-like creatures, with noses above their eyebrows. One of the most unpleasant races in the galaxy – not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous [with] … as much sex appeal as a road accident. Their home world, as if to make up for the Vogons, was fruitful and abundant. There were jewelled crabs (which the Vogons crushed with mallets), and delicate gazelle-like creatures (which the Vogons sat on to break their backs).

In a future amateur production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (somewhere in a geodesic dome in the cold deserts of Mars), my money is on Elon Musk for the role of Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz.

AI generated image of Elon Musk, owner of X corp, as Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz
Elon Musk as Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz in NightCafe’s interpretation – a little tweaked in Photoshop


Sometimes I sit to write a blog post and it comes easily, sometimes I struggle. One thing I’ve learned over my years of blogging: the ease or the struggle is no sure indicator of the quality of the result. This one came easily, but I’m not sure it hits the target. I think I strain to bring my end into congruence with my beginning.

So it goes.

The illustrations come from:
1) my response to Elon Musk’s call for logo suggestions for his rebranding of Twitter.
2) an effort to direct the NightCafe Creator AI to make an image. The prompt was “Elon Musk as an evil muskrat with the Twitter blue bird in its claws”.
3) A version of “Atlas supporting the heavens” adapted from an image on Wikimedia Commons (here).
4) NightCafe Creator again with Elon Musk as Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz – but I couldn’t get the AI to put the Vogon’s nose above its eyebrows or turn the corners of his mouth down, so I had to do that myself in Photoshop.

In the section titled Hubris: According to this source the figures are: “1.2% (62.5 million people) of the world’s population holding 47.8% of all global wealth—$221.7 trillion dollars. ” And “53.2% of the population (2.8 billion) holds $5 trillion, just 1.1%.”

The smaller number of super rich contra the billions in poverty comes from Oxfam’s conflation of the Forbes list of world billionaires and their assets with the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report. The Oxfam document comes every year in a different format. Here is the latest.

See this discussion in The Conversation (Jan, 2017), when the Oxfam report was along the lines of “These eight men control the same wealth as the poorest half of the global population.”

Here is Wikipedia’s reporting of the Forbes top 10 billionaires lists.

And here is the World Population Clock.

I’ve been Ayn Randed

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide, the Vogons were also responsible for writing dreadful poetry (the third worst in the universe). I don’t know if Elon Musk also writes poetry. I hope not.

Finally, the text above includes a reference to the almost unreadable Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight made a worth-watching video clip: How is Ayn Rand still a thing? (Watch the auto-generated captions to count how often Ayn Rand’s name is presented as “Iran”.)

I’ve been Michael Bloomberg’d, Stevie Ballmer’d
I’ve been Jeff Bezos’d, Larry Ellson’d
I’ve been Elon Musk’d and Bill Gates’d ’til I’m blind
I’ve been Ayn Randed, nearly branded
A Woke Libtard, ’cause I’m left-handed
That’s the hand I use, well, never mind

I knew a man his brain so small
He couldn’t think of nothin’ at all
He’s not the same as you and me
He doesn’t dig BitCoin wealth generation …

Folk rock

I’ve lost my harmonica, Albert.

Apologies to Paul Simon

Read more …

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