Thomas Edison

Why Elon Musk Is Like Thomas Edison (when it comes to Twitter)

Posted March 24, 2023
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So, billionaire industrial genius Elon Musk buys Twitter and immediately, 75% of the staff resign.

What happened?

Musk was brilliant at building real stuff – SpaceX – space ships that worked – watching the boosters land on their own was the stuff of science fiction. Tesla. The electric car that changed the entire car industry worldwide. The guy is clearly a genius. The Thomas Edison of our era (hold that thought for a minute this is going to get interesting).

But when it came to running Twitter – an unmitigated disaster.


Because making real things like space ships and cars is inherently a very different business from making Twitter – which is essentially making illusions and fantasies. It’s a completely different business and it requires a completely different mindset and never the twain shall meet.

People who live and work in a world of dreams do not do well in the world of real things. And the reverse is also true. When the two meet, there is a culture clash on the level of WW3.

But it is predictable.

In 1892, Thomas Edison (I told you) received a patent for his Kinetoscope- the world’s first real motion picture camera that used celluloid film.

Because he held the patents for the camera, Edison naturally opened the world’s first movie studio, Black Maria, in New Jersey to make the movies that the projectors would show.

The cameras and projectors were a smash success – Edison, like Musk, was great at making real stuff. The studio, on the other hand, was a first class disaster. The staff all quit. Edison was impossible to work with.

“The Black Maria was, according to the staff who worked there, a small and uncomfortable place to work. Edison employees W. K. Dickson and Jonathan Campbell coined the name—it reminded them of police Black Marias, (police vans, also known as “paddywagons”) of the time because they were also cramped, stuffy and a similar black color”

As a rule of thumb, there is a vast disconnect between the world of making real things and the world of making illusions. It almost never works.

The failure of Black Maria and Edison as a movie maker did not detract from his genius at going on to create phonographs, electric lights, voting machines and a raft of other inventions. There is creative and creative, but the two generally don’t mix.

You can read all about this in my new book, The Rise of the Mediaverse – coming soon.


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