Wikipedia says: Halo effect is “the name given to the phenomenon whereby evaluators tend to be influenced by their previous judgments of performance or personality.”
I have loved, admired and read a lot of stuff about Elon Musk. Not just now, but since 2013.. back when Tesla stock was ~$8 (1/100th of current price) and I had no means of buying it (or at least I was not aware enough, plus I had very low risk appetite). Many people talking about Musk today might have read his biography by Ashlee Vance. Its entertaining and inspiring. And I have admired all of that.
All along I have been a fan. Not crazy, fun but definitely a fan, fanboying over all the stuff Musk does. Surviving on 'oranges + hotdogs' for months, just to experiment and endure if he could sail through financial risks of entrepreneurship and live on $1 per day. Exiting Paypal with huge cash and putting it back into risky ventures. Crashing his all new McLaren on the day he bought it (uninsured - oops). Going all the way to Russia to build rockets .. woah. Breaking the glass of your own new Cybertruck in a public demo, and be cool about it. Marrying and divorcing and again marrying and again divorcing the same person. Getting new hair :P
Well, you know, we can go on and on.
And so here we are. Entire world is fantasizing on his brand. He certainly took incredible risks all through and he is a genius. No doubt about that.
But now I feel scared. Yes. Scared.
"Irresponsible" is an understatement for what he does in his public behavior. "Dictatorial" is what I fear he could become.
In a way, 2020 was the year we saw a huge evidence of human behavior pattern: FEAR. And it was understandable. When we are doing well, we have some risk appetite. We can bet on things which might be uncertain. But when the chips are going down all across, our risk appetite is diminished. And then, we only want to bet on stuff that has more certainty or visibility. Or in some cases, more charisma (could be associated with more trust). Aswath Damodaran popularly calls Tesla a "STORY" stock. People are simply smitten by its story. Or Millenials just feel like a prestige fact to own Tesla stock. But I digress.. whatever maybe the reasons. People have put in a lot of faith in Elon Musk. And that gives him power. The HALO Effect. Everything he says or does.. is apparently Gold (or Dogecoin :P).
Halon Musk tweeted about taking Tesla stock private two years ago, and was fined by SEC. But he paid the fine and did not care. He tweets about Gamestop shares, without realizing the consequences of his tweet on ~49mn followers (plus the media frenzy and ripples he generates), resulting in losses for thousands of retail shareholders. He tweets about Bitcoin, makes his company buy Bitcoin and Bitcoin prices surges significantly. That's the gravitas he commands. Oh and yeah, I forgot to mention Dogecoin (what do you make of that).
This is where my fear gets tangible. He is super rich. Super influential. He can do stuff and get away with it. But you and I can not. One could think that he would exercise certain maturity in his actions at this stage. But, as a 50 year old richest person in the world, he acts more like a teenager. Doing 'crazy' stuff is what he likes.
This is too much power for any one person. I do not care if he gets us to Mars. But he can definitely screw a lot of people by sheer mass hysteria that he very often generates.
Consider a scenario - The year is 2030, Tesla has bought an oil giant (Chevron or Exxon), and an automotive company (VW or Ford) and Halon Musk's Neuralink provides internet to half the world. Halon Musk controls a gargantuan conglomerate with lot more businesses. He is worth $1 trillion and no govt. has any power to control him. If for some hypothetical reason, he believes that public transport is stupid (because germs or viruses), or taxation on XYZ things is bad (because his factories or his wealth is at loss), or eating meat is stupid (carbon emissions, duh!). He could create mass hysteria and get things banned or stopped or ravaged. This is pretty much in the zone of populism, border lining with politics. And you could always find a logic or reasons on paper to justify all those moves.
And you could not justify all those moves by countering it with other "noble" stuff he does. Oh he is so great, he got us electric cars and brain chips and free 1GBPS internet bla bla bla.. its OK if he butchers a few businesses or a few people or a few small countries.
Maybe I am overthinking. What do you think?
Image Credit: Marco Venti on Quora (https://qr.ae/pNBe8n)