Scholars of socio-technical transitions and transformations were stunned today as entrepreneur and self-appointed “Techno-king” Elon Musk took sides in a long-running academic debate. Speaking from an undisclosed location (rumoured to be somewhere on Earth, but unconfirmed at present), Musk tweeted
The tweet has caused equal parts consternation and delight in the sustainability transitions research network, as incumbents and niche actors calculate the impact of the shock announcement on their inventories of concepts, stranded PhD assets and paper drafts, and the viability of their long-term business models.
One academic, who declined to be named, was dismissive. “Musk can have his opinion, but he’s never authored anything in Research Policy. Now if you’ll excuse me, my ego needs to be EIST… I mean, iced.”
Musk replied to this with a shoulder-shrug emoji and the following Tweet
Informed of this, Proponents of TIS were effusive, even ebullient. One, speaking anonymously, said “Musk’s sign of approval is the best thing to happen to us since the Dutch government started using the rhetoric of transitions back in the day. Let’s hope it all turns out better this time round, eh?”
Another, also declining to give their name. “This could really lead to a fundamental change in the landsca… I mean, in our field.”
Musk’s tweets have previously caused him trouble with the Securities and Exchanges Commission, and famously accelerated the South Australian Electricity generation Transition. This one however, has had several dozen likes and retweets, representative of the scale and influence of the academic “transitions community”.
Not everyone was convinced though. Anne T. Car, an independent scholar pointed out that the problem – for cities, humans and the natural world – remains cars themselves, not whatever powers them. “How many humans and other species will die for the lithium that feeds the monstrous model TIS wave?” she said.
However, her views have been dismissed out of hand as merely normative by other scholars.
Responding to a request for further comment, Musk refused to delve into the intricacies of the academic debates.
“I’m not going to CAST the first stone. But look, if you really want a fundamental change, why not hold this “IST conference” of yours for the year 2035 on my Mars colony?”
The IST’s organising committee is due to discuss the offer and give an answer by this time next year – April 1st, 2022.