Modern Elon Threats: Tossing Granola or Grenades

June 13, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

Bad me. I ignored the Apple announcements. I did spot one interesting somewhat out-of-phase reaction to Tim Apple’s attempt to not screw up again. “Elon Musk Calls Apple Devices with ChatGPT a Security Violation.” Since the Tim Apple crowd was learning about what was “to be,” not what is, this statement caught my attention:

If Apple integrates OpenAI at the OS level, then Apple devices will be banned at my companies. That is an unacceptable security violation.

I want to comment about the implicit “then” in this remarkable prose output from Elon Musk. On the surface, the “then” is that the most affluent mobile phone users will be prohibited from the service. I wonder how advertisers are reacting to this idea of cutting down the potential eyeballs for their product if advertised to an group of prospects no longer clutching Apple iPhones. I don’t advertise, but I can game out how the meetings between the company with advertising dollars and the agency helping the company make informed advertising decisions. (Let’s assume that advertising “works”, and advertising outfits are informed for the purpose of this blog post.)


A tortured genius struggles against the psychological forces that ripped the Apple car from the fingers of its rightful owner. Too bad. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How is your coding security coming along? What about the shut down of the upcharge for Copilot? Oh, no answer. That’s okay. Good enough.

Let’s assume Mr. Musk “sees” something a dinobaby like me cannot. What’s with the threat logic? The loss of a beloved investment? A threat to a to-be artificial intelligence company destined to blast into orbit on a tower of intellectual rocket fuel? Mr. Musk has detected a signal. He has interpreted. And he has responded with an ultimatum. That’s pretty fast action, even for a genius. I started college in 1962, and I dimly recall a class called Psych 101. Even though I attended a low-ball institution, the knowledge value of the course was evident in the large and shabby lecture room with a couple of hundred seats.

Threats, if I am remembering something that took place 62 years ago, tell more about the entity issuing the threat than the actual threat event itself.  The words worming from the infrequently accessed cupboards of my mind are linked to an entity wanting to assert, establish, or maintain some type of control. Slapping quasi-ancient psycho-babble on Mr. Musk is not fair to the grand profession of psychology. However, it does appear to reveal that whatever Apple thinks it will do in its “to be”, coming-soon service struck a nerve into Mr. Musk’s super-bright, well-developed brain.

I surmise there is some insecurity with the Musk entity. I can’t figure out the connection between what amounts to vaporware and a threat to behead or de-iPhone a potentially bucket load of prospects for advertisers to pester. I guess that’s why I did not invent the Cybertruck, a boring machine, and a rocket ship.

But a threat over vaporware in a field which has demonstrated that Googzilla, Microsoft, and others have dropped their baskets of curds and whey is interesting. The speed with which Mr. Musk reacts suggests to me that he perceives the Apple vaporware as an existential threat. I see it as another big company trying to grab some fruit from the AI tree until the bubble deflates. Software does have a tendency to disappoint, build up technical debt, and then evolve to the weird service which no one can fix, change, or kill because meaningful competition no longer exists. When will the IRS computer systems be “fixed”? When will airline reservations systems serve the customer? When will smart software stop hallucinating?

I actually looked up some information about threats from the recently disgraced fake research publisher John Wiley & Sons. “Exploring the Landscape of Psychological Threat” reminded me why I thought psychology was not for me. With weird jargon and some diagrams, the threat may be linked to Tesla’s rumored attempt to fall in love with Apple. The product of this interesting genetic bonding would be the Apple car, oodles of cash for Mr. Musk, and the worshipful affection of the Apple acolytes. But the online date did not work out. Apple swiped Tesla into the loser bin. Now Mr. Musk can get some publicity, put (don’t you love Web sites that remind people of pornography on the Dark Web?) in the news, and cause people like me to wonder. “Why dump on Apple?” (The outfit has plenty of worries with the China thing, doesn’t it? What about some anti-trust action? What about the hostility of M3 powered devices?)

Here’s my take:

  1. Apple Intelligence is a better “name” than Mr. Musk’s AI company xAI. Apple gets to use “AI” but without the porn hook.
  2. A controversial social media emission will stir up the digital elite. Publicity is good. Just ask Michael Cimino of Heaven’s Gate fame?
  3. Mr. Musk’s threat provides an outlet for the failure to make Tesla the Apple car.

What if I am wrong? [a] I don’t care. I don’t use an iPhone, Twitter, or online advertising. [b] A GenX, Y, or Z pooh-bah will present the “truth” and set the record straight. [c] Mr. Musk’s threat will be like the result of a Boring Company operation. A hole, a void.

Net net: Granola. The fast response to what seems to be “coming soon” vaporware suggests a potential weak spot in Mr. Musk’s make up. Is Apple afraid? Probably not. Is Mr. Musk? Yep.

Stephen E Arnold, June 13, 2024


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