All it took was one half-hearted toke from a man wearing an “Occupy Mars” t-shirt to push social media over the edge.
Late on Thursday (September 6), Tesla and SpaceEx CEO Elon Musk joined Joe Rogan for a live podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience. The two chatted about a handful of mind-bending topics like the future of human-machine symbiosis and the fundamental importance of compassion.
But, true to smoky object syndrome, the internet and mass media fixated on just three minutes of the two-and-a-half hour conversation in which Musk barely hits a blunt. And, frankly, it was the least stimulating three minutes of the entire show.
Headlines flooded the web and, within mere minutes, the toke went viral:
“Elon Musk blows smoke” wrote the Financial Times.
The Guardian published: “Tesla stocks crash after Elon Musk smokes joint on live web show”.
Or, my personal favourite:
The Australian Financial Review ran with: “Elon Musk’s decision to smoke pot in public shows he’s dazed and confused”.
What actually happened?
Well, just over two hours into a captivating conversation that dove headfirst into the dark corners of simulation theory, human complacency, and global warming, Rogan pulls out a blunt to assuage some of the stress that was to accompany an impending existential crisis.
“Is that a joint…or a cigar?” asks a seemingly perplexed Musk.
“It’s marijuana inside of tobacco,” retorts Rogan as he sparks a blunt—cannabis and tobacco packed inside the hollowed carcass of a cigar. “You’ve never heard of that?”
“Yeah, I think I tried it…once,” says Musk, shortly before he pulls a distinctly tiny cloud and proceeds to spit it back out without so much as an imitation inhale. He then nonchalantly shrugs and shakes his head.
And the conversation continues.
Later, he even goes on to say he rarely ever touches cannabis, and that he (no shock) didn’t feel the effects of his pretend pull.
That didnt stop media outlets from clinging to the weed, wrongfully dubbing the rolled object ‘a joint’ or stating that it was “oversized”—of which it was neither. It was a pretty standard, cigar-sized blunt. No one seemed to blink an eye at the fact that the two had downed about three glasses of Old Camp on the rocks by the time the podcast wrapped.
Social media was quick to meme the moment and Twitter errupted. Some applauded his support of legalization (something he didn’t express an opinion on during the interview), while others pegged Tesla’s six percent drop in stocks on Musk’s brief foray into the weeds. Some are now going so far as to call for a review of his U.S. Air Force security clearance.
@joerogan @elonmusk 2of2 these men have made valuable contributions to our world. These men were/are users, advocates of #legalization Our kids are taught their theories, their quotes and much more. Keep doing you elon ✌#letelonsmoke #positivecontributionstosociety #greatminds— Katie Blake (@hemifatcat143) September 7, 2018
What should viewers have paid attention to?
Well, to name a few:
Musk explained the concept of the cybernetic collective, in which he delves into the potential for both the possibility that humans are currently living in a simulation or, with the advancements in artificial intelligence, the human race is heading in that direction.
Musk talks about the depression born of the falsehoods cast across social media, saying: “Some of the happiest seeming people, actually the saddest people in reality.”
At several points Musk fades out into a glazed-eye stare and spits out philosophical nuggets, like his jarring portrayal of human fragility when he says: “The universe as we know it will dissipate into a fine mist of cold nothingness, eventually. I think it’s really about how we can make it last longer.”
If you’re not in a fatalistic mood, however, viewers could pay attention to the moment he leaks a few little Easter eggs hidden inside the Tesla Model X, including programming that prompts the electric car to perform a vehicular ballet to the Trans-Siberian orchestra. When Rogan gleefully asks why Musk insisted on including a seemingly futile feature hidden within an incredibly efficient car, Musk so coolly retorts: “It seemed like fun.”
Or one could latch on to the part of the show when Musk deconstructs the potential for flying cars, and crushes our Blade Runner dreams because they’re “too noisy and require too much airflow.”
“If you want a flying car, just put some wheels on a helicopter,” he says.
Arguably, the most salient point during the entire podcast is Musk’s powerful and uncharacteristically emotional warning about the impending fate of global warming if left unchecked. He talks about the work he has done to push legislators, including former U.S. president Barack Obama, to take aggressive steps towards sustainability. And the astonishing lack of urgency that followed.
“We’re really playing a dangerous game here with the atmosphere and the oceans. We are taking vast amounts of carbon from deep underground and putting this in the atmosphere. This is crazy. We should not do this,” he says, clearly fighting against the quiver in his jaw and a catch in his throat.
If anything, watching the entire webisode allows viewers a peephole into Musk’s genius. Rogan pushes him onto the ropes a few times, insisting he explain what it’s like living as a “superhero” among common folk. Musk humbly avoids divulging too many details or giving Rogan the satisfaction of admitting to his alien-like comparisons, but he vaguely outlines his approach to time management, coping with an unrelenting influx of ideas, and the support system he relies upon to manifest designs into reality.
At one point, Musk even discloses the fact that, when he was six-years-old, he thought he was insane after realizing his brain worked faster than most. He says, as a child, he thought people would take him ‘away’ if they found out he was different. The podcast affords viewers a rare glimpse into Musk’s inner dialogue as he grapples with a heightened level of cognition.
“I don’t think you’d want to be me. Most people wouldn’t like it that much,” he says.
Without reducing the brilliant display of human intellect down to a few simple ideas, Musk touches on three important areas of focus for the future of humanity: Electric cars, solar power, and the stationary storage of energy. None of these ideas went viral after the podcast aired.
Had Rogan lit the blunt with Musk’s not-a-flamethrower flamethrower, there may have been cause for pause. But if all you did was watch the meme of his barely passable puff while ignoring the massive amount of forward-looking theories, personal insights, and well-researched warnings that he presented, you’re doing it wrong.
Watch the full show below.