OPINION: Twitter is not perfect nor is Elon Musk. He should not be denigrated for moving us to the future when there’s stagnation at companies like Twitter, writes Wesley Diphoko.
When Elon Musk joined Tesla he did so by funding a company that was almost nothing in terms of value.
He became its chairman and later a CEO and in the process developed the leading automotive company in the world. In the space sector, he revived an industry that was dormant and in the process propelled the private space industry.
Now, he is buying a stagnant social media company, Twitter. Will history repeat itself? What is the future of the bluebird company?
How will Twitter impact the future of society if Elon Musk is at the helm of this modern-day media company?
To understand what Elon Musk might do with Twitter you have to look at his approach to every company he is currently leading. All of them are informed by the multi-planetary mission, to take human beings to space.
Everything Musk is learning at SpaceX is applied and used in his other companies. In return products of his companies are designed to be used in space. If not the entire product, its features may be useful in space.
To understand the Twitter Future you have to ask, how will Twitter be used in space, and what lessons can be shared from space exploration? In addition, observers of Musk’s business operations will remember that his companies cross-pollinate. The same technology that is used for Tesla cars has been used to build Tesla roofs.
With that understanding, here’s what we are likely to see as Musk takes full control of this social media company.
Some have asked how will Twitter exist in the metaverse, and will it even be relevant? Answers to those questions depend on the type of metaverse (open or closed). Closed and proprietary metaverse something like the Meta (Facebook) metaverse and open being non-proprietary and for everyone to build.
In the Open Metaverse, Twitter will likely become an audio platform that will make it possible for us to hear each other. This functionality will likely use Twitter Spaces technology.
If the metaverse will somehow use text-based communication to enable us to walk and see texts on the sides of our VR headsets, Twitter will be a possible platform to make such messaging and communication systems possible on the metaverse. All of this depends on whether Twitter will adopt the open model and essentially be an open-source tool for everyone to build on top of Twitter.
This will allow more developers to contribute to the development of this important communication tool. In the process, it will also learn from others who are doing better jobs at certain functions.
Signal security is a great example in this regard. Twitter messaging requires security to protect people from being spied upon. Musk has already indicated that this would be an important feature for Twitter.
He recently tweeted that “Twitter DMs should have end to end encryption like Signal, so no one can spy on or hack your messages”.
This is just an example of what could come out of a Twitter that embraces others instead of being closed. This is what Musk will add sooner than later. He will take Twitter to a level we have never seen before.
There’s nothing that will stop him from building a Twitter platform that will enable us to exchange thoughts without even talking to one another through one of his companies, Neuralink. This is a neurotechnology company that develops implantable brain-machine interfaces. This entity, if integrated with Twitter, will make it possible for us to tweet by just thinking.
Only Elon Musk can make something like that possible through his involvement in both, Twitter and Neuralink. For now, some of this may not make sense until you understand there’s a robot underway.
This combination of Twitter and Neuralink will enable robots that partly carry our thoughts and intentions based on messages from our thoughts and our tweets. Musk is building a Tesla Bot (robot), also known as Optimus, which is a conceptual general-purpose robotic humanoid under development by Tesla.
Of course, all of this raises ethical and free speech concerns that need to be addressed.
Musk is already showing signs of addressing such concerns. He has already indicated that everyone will have to be verified on Twitter to use the tool. This will take care of the bots’ challenge and diminish some free speech challenges. At the same time, it will limit the ability of some who wish to remain anonymous for valid reasons.
In this area, Musk may struggle and this challenge should not be left at his door. Leaders of the world have been sleeping on the job by not regulating social media platforms. Long ago there should have been an international body to govern the behaviour of information platforms online.
It is not too late to course-correct and establish mechanisms to avoid an information catastrophe that will emerge from the upcoming chaos. While society develops mechanisms to manage risks associated with innovation we should be careful of shooting down innovators.
There should be systems in place that follow innovation and design systems on the go to avoid externalities that come with the innovation process.
Twitter and its owners should not be singled out as culprits of disinformation but the entire social media ecosystem.
Twitter is not perfect nor is Elon Musk. He should not be denigrated for moving us to the future when there’s stagnation at companies like Twitter. As he has shown us that it’s possible to create profitable electric vehicles and private space industry, he can take Twitter to the next level.
* For more on this, you can join Wesley Diphoko on Twitter Space where he will discuss the TwitterFuture on Monday, 02 May 2022 at 7pm.
** Wesley Diphoko is the Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company (SA) magazine.