Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are the latest in a long line of tech CEOs spouting increasingly lofty rhetoric and laying out wild plans for the future of humanity.
In April this year, BuzzFeed published an article titled “In The Age Of Trump, Tech CEOs Cast Themselves As The New Statesmen.” It argues that the Silicon Valley elite are becoming ever-more ambitious in goals and rhetoric, talking about “global” issues and framing themselves as world leaders.
We got our latest reminder of this on Wednesday as SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk casually described the best form of governance for his planned Martian colonies.
Musk plans to launch a human expedition to Mars in 2024 — in just eight year’s time — and is now openly discussing the planned social structure of his new Martian civilisation.
“Most likely the form of government on Mars would be a direct democracy, not representative,” the CEO said in response to an audience member’s question at the Recode conference . “So it would be people voting directly on issues. And I think that’s probably better, because the potential for corruption is substantially diminished in a direct versus a representative democracy.”
Musk’s comments come just a day after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos chimed in on the future of the species, calling (again, at the Recode conference) on humanity to move its heavy industry off-planet in the next century. “Earth will be zoned residential and light industrial,” Bezos, who founded space exploration company Blue Origin, said. “You shouldn’t be doing heavy energy on earth. We can build gigantic chip factories in space.”
This isn’t just lofty rhetoric about building a “better world.” This is literally planning to build new worlds, on new planets.
“Welcome to 2016,” Charlie Warzel wrote for BuzzFeed, “where tech’s biggest leaders are no longer selling themselves as innovators, creative geniuses, or domineering tycoons, but as world leaders — statesmen shaping the course of human history. And it’s most visible during the big keynotes that today sound more like TED Talks than the product announcements and celebrations of code they began as.”
And there are projects to back up this high-flying rhetoric — from Facebook’s game-changing Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, to the litany of projects coming out of Google’s secretive X “moonshot” lab. And, of course, billionaire-backed private space exploration companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.
As the “tech industry” swallows the world, its CEOs are moving beyond the arcane world of circuit boards and gadgetry and into literal world-building — and they’re only getting hungrier in the process.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.