Madonna King: For the record, it’s time for Elon Musk to use his influence for all

Elon Musk and Shivon Zilis with their twins in a photo posted to social media in September 2023.

Elon Musk and Shivon Zilis with their twins in a photo posted to social media in September 2023. Photo: X

Billionaire Elon Musk is the second richest person on the globe, after Bernard Arnault, but wealth might not be the only world record he wants to brag about.

While facing tough competition, the businessman and investor – who boasts key roles in SpaceX and Tesla Inc – might be trying to father more offspring than his peers, with the announcement of his 12th child.

Or perhaps Musk, who celebrates his 53rd birthday on Friday, might be chasing fame in the category of most unusual children’s names.

With entries like Techno Mechanics and Strider and another two whose names have letters my keyboard doesn’t – but who are referred to by the nicknames X and Y – he’s certainly in that race.

Busy boy

Or given his eccentricities, he might even be vying for fame in the category of having the most children in the shortest amount of time. He has, after all, had about half his offspring in five years.

You’d feel sorry for him if he was tasked with feeding, bathing and putting them to bed each night.

The chase to be the first, richest, biggest and shiniest doesn’t stop in the homes of his former and current partners (there are a few).

Used to winning

Musk also excels at pushing the envelope, most recently at being a tech bully who refused to withdraw graphic footage from X (his social media platform, not his child) of a church stabbing in Sydney.

Used to winning, he took home the trophy there too, but only after Australia’s e-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant and her family suffered a series of death threats and stopped fighting.

Inman Grant said her withdrawal was ‘strategic’, and she was in court with X Corp in five other cases. That might be a record Musk is chasing too.

But you can have all the money in the world, and more trophies in the who-knows-how-many-pool-rooms – and it still won’t break a single record in the category of social responsibility.

Social responsibility

Not that Musk, who this month is estimated to be worth $US214 billion, would ever countenance that.

Indeed, he’s even claimed his fathering was an example for the rest of us; he was doing his duty to help the world’s ‘population collapse’.

Musk believes low birth rates are a bigger risk to civilisation than global warming – despite experts pointing to disease, conflict and environmental crises being the root causes of Musk’s so-called ‘population collapse’’.

I wonder, if in addition to 12 children, Musk spends much time contemplating how his wealth could help in some way there?

It would seem a better commitment to his population cause than, for example, fighting Australian authorities who simply want to prevent children seeing a stabbing online, over and over and over and over.

Population claims

Musk is unlikely to take home too many world records on the social responsibility front.

But even his claim of “population collapse’ is widely disputed by experts who say while some countries are experiencing a decline in population, that doesn’t equal a world-wide decline.

“He’s better off making cars and engineering than at predicting the trajectory of the population,” Joseph Chamie, a former director of the United Nations Population Division who has written several books about population issues, has said.

He might also be better off focused on how his 12 children use social media; in fairness, it must be hard to monitor all their use all the time.

His eldest was born in 2002, meaning they are now a young adult. His most recent child was born a few months ago.

Focus on social media

And social media, in that time, has changed more than Musk’s fortunes.

Primary schoolers are routinely finding porn online, and it’s become new cache in bullying among children who have not yet turned 10.

It’s second nature, for tweens, to communicate across several social media platforms, and some of that is destroying hopes and futures and lives.

Extortion is rife. So is online abuse.

A desensitisation to violence, playing as a backdrop on smartphones, is certainly a bigger threat – and more imminent risk – than any of Musk’s population claims.

I wonder if he, like other parents with half that number of children, lie awake at night worrying about that?

Make a difference

Musk could make a real difference, and win a world record of plaudits by leading a debate in a world he understands: Social media, AI, and how our children are exposed to it, and engaged with it.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if his record attempts extended to how he saw his role, and our role, as parents there?

It might not bring in more money. But it would almost certainly deliver some of the class and kudos that money just can’t buy.

Topics: Elon Musk
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