To look at our latter-day titans of industry, like Musk, is to see capitalism’s techno-utopian form at its purest: the CEO as a Tony Stark–esque rock star inventor who can save the world. But Musk’s Tesla corporation isn’t terribly different from what’s gone before, except that unlike traditional car manufacturers, his won’t permit its workers to organize into trade unions. The endless production of capital is what counts—no matter who gets hurt along the way. The mythology of these corporations endlessly pursuing profit as a measure of their desire to build a better world has become endemic to any tech-startup narrative. And Musk’s Tesla is the ur-example of the genre.
So why would our tech barons, and their legions of anonymous libertarian groupies, create these depraved scenarios? They fear that a true AI will be too much like them. Like Rush Limbaugh claiming to have had a nightmare about being a “slave building a sphinx in a desert that looked like Obama,” privileged people who fear an AI rebellion always imagine it in exploitative terms that mirror their own ideologies. They fear their ethics being turned back on them.
Katherine Cross, writing at Document about why tech entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are so obsessed with nightmares of AIs taking over the world: