“We see this all of the time in religions,” Benjamin Zeller, associate professor of religion at Lake Forest College, told Salon. “[Musk] has an ability to become associated with exciting ideas in which he becomes the spokesman for those ideas. People see these leaders as the personification of their ambitions, goals, hopes and desires.”
Zeller, who wrote about the cult of Apple shortly after Jobs’ death in 2011, says that the tech industry is particularly prone to creating these cults of personality because technology is perceived to offer solutions to many of the world’s problems. One could draw biblical comparisons: that renewable energy will rescue us from the great flood of global warming or that Mars could someday offer humanity an exodus from a dying planet.
“Also, technology can sometimes seem like magic,” Zeller said. “It’s something beyond our mortal understanding.”
And Silicon Valley is not short on these Silicon prophets who profess to be disrupting convention and making the world a better place for everyone.
There’s Rob Rhinehart, founder of the food-substitute beverage Soylent, who’s selling the idea of a more efficient way to deliver nutrients to the body. Uber founder Travis Kalanick wants to take over the global taxi and livery industry with robotic cars. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has built his reputation around radically reinventing the workplace and urban living. There are fallen angels, too, like Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, once the darling of hedge fund investors for her (since disastrously failed) attempt to diagnose a range of diseases from one drop of blood.
Charismatic leaders, whether they’re Silicon Valley billionaires, presidents, or the heads of actual cults, carefully craft their charisma, says Zeller. We know from court documents, for example, that Musk himself has gotten upset when the “difficult to control” media is perceived as downplaying his role at Tesla…
I’ll always remember him wearing that backwards baseball cap, showing off his creation with excited eyes. “I am the smartest programmer that ever lived,” he says several times. As the video gravitates to profanity-laced chest-thumping, he demonstrates the 3D shapes he’s just coded up to spin over his command line. He calls Unix “the last war” and was critical of the Massachusetts Institute if Technology.
Davis’ work may continue, since there’s a fork of TempleOS “for heretics.” It’s called Shrine.
“The phrase, ‘tortured artist’ is thrown around a lot, but he really was a tortured artist… it’s a sad end to a life that went awry for reasons beyond his or anyone’s control.”
“He needed a lot of help, but a great hacker has passed, and we should remember him for his work.”
“I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it’s been living such a challenging life for all these years.”
“I always thought of Terry as somewhat of an anti-hero of the hacker community. Most of us know what it feels like to go down a rabbit hole building something technically impressive, yet ultimately useless, because the voices in our heads told us to.”
Over 600 people upvoted the story, offering one more testimonial to the memories Davis left behind. In the end, nearly 200 comments were added to the thread.
Terry Davis asks God about war (“Servicemen competing”) and death (“awful”), about dinosaurs (“Brontosaurs’ feet hurt when stepped”) and His favorite video game (“Donkey Kong”). God’s favorite car is a “Beamer,” and His favorite singer is Mick Jagger, though if He could sing He’d want to sound like Christopher Hall from Stabbing Westward. His favorite national anthem is Latvia’s. His favorite band is, no surprise, The Beatles, but Rush and Triumph are pretty good, too. Classical music is poison. The best thing Bill Gates could do to save lives, God says, is work on earthquake prediction. The Eleventh Commandment is “Thou shall not litter.” Terry Davis tells God everything seems bad. God replies: “Plant trees.”
The words pour out on TempleOS.org, a torrent of verified random numbers, news links, YouTube videos, and scriptural exegesis. It’s the dense work of a single, restless mind writing ceaselessly without an audience.
After two months of emails and phone conversations, I know more than when I began; specifically, I’ve accumulated more raw data, more facts about his life and experience. But I suspect I’ve only sketched a shadow. The full reality remains unreachable, an irreducible mystery.
Jesse Hick’s article is perhaps the best thing ever written about Terry and his work, you guys should absolutely check it out. And when Jesse finishes his follow up article, we will of course link our listeners right to it.
Williams: Education. All of our institutions need to eternally look within and ask the question: “How violent are we?” Violence isn’t just stabbing, shooting and beating. But violence also works very subtly in human behavior. You can be violent in your actions towards yourself or someone else. What we’re attempting to do is educate.
This is a public health issue. If there’s something in the air or something in the water. If there’s something that affects all of our humanity, then we need to educate people in order that we might heal as sufficiently as we possibly can. We need to educate people. We need to work in collaboration. It’s very important that entities and people and institutions are working together. Civility. Violence has taken us way out into left field and right field. Civility means we can agree to disagree. No civilization can exist with this type of abnormal behavior becoming normal behavior. And lastly, redirecting resources as it relates to the issue of violence.
Last fall at Oberlin College, a talk held as part of Latino Heritage Month was scheduled on the same evening that intramural soccer games were held. As a result, soccer players communicated by email about their respective plans. “Hey, that talk looks pretty great,” a white student wrote to a Hispanic student, “but on the off chance you aren’t going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!”
Unbeknownst to the white student, the Hispanic student was offended by the email. And her response signals the rise of a new moral culture America.
When conflicts occur, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning observe in an insightful new scholarly paper, aggrieved parties can respond in any number of ways. In honor cultures like the Old West or the street gangs of West Side Story, they might engage in a duel or physical fight. In dignity cultures, like the ones that prevailed in Western countries during the 19th and 20th Centuries, “insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery,” they write. “When intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions.”
We’ve all engaged in these actions.
The aggrieved might “exercise covert avoidance, quietly cutting off relations with the offender without any confrontation” or “conceptualize the problem as a disruption to their relationship and seek only to restore harmony without passing judgment.” In the most serious cases, they might call police rather than initiating violence themselves. “For offenses like theft, assault, or breach of contract, people in a dignity culture will use law without shame,” the authors observe. “But in keeping with their ethic of restraint and toleration, it is not necessarily their first resort, and they might condemn many uses of the authorities as frivolous. People might even be expected to tolerate serious but accidental personal injuries.”
Making and sharing music has never been more accessible than it is right now. Even as listeners, we know this: we can get our music on Bandcamp and SoundCloud, no major labels required. But along with the access to technology and the unprecedented ability to share music with people anywhere in the world, the emotional baggage that can come with fame can plague even the smallest independent artist.
“[The internet] is this devastating wasteland where everybody is emoting and creating,” says Sally Gross, a music industry vet turned course leader and principal lecturer in the Music Management graduate program at University of Westminster, London. “Social media and the democratization of the distribution of music, which so many people see as an amazing new frontier, had me thinking, ‘Hang on a minute, what is going to happen to all these people?’”
Gross’s previous experience working firsthand with artists and her current role teaching young musicians about the business inspired the study “Can Music Make You Sick?” Co-authored with Dr. George Musgrave, a senior lecturer in Gross’s MA program, the study was commissioned by Help Musicians UK, a charity established in 1921. Currently under the leadership of Richard Robinson, Help Musicians UK’s goal is to support musicians from the early talent development stages through to retirement; the organization also provides assistance during times of crisis, including crises related to mental health.
Part One of “Can Music Make You Sick,” a pilot survey with input from 2,211 participants, was published in 2016 by University of Westminster’s non-profit music industry information hub, MusicTank. The survey participants are self-identifying musicians in the UK. With the survey, Gross and Musgrave set out to discover how these musicians feel about their working conditions and how they perceive working in the music industry to affect their well being. “[With] the unbelievable amplification of the abundance of music and the value of music seeming to disappear, what was going on in the lives of musicians?” Gross says. “If music and artistic expression is so good for us, what’s on the other side of that?”
In their research, they found that huge numbers of musicians suffer from anxiety and depression and that musicians are at risk to suffer depression three times more than the general public. Although artists “find solace in the production of music,” the study describes trying to build a career in music as “traumatic.” “Musicians feel there are gaps in existing provisions and that something needs to change,” the study reads.