In addition to being the wealthiest man in the world, Elon Musk, CEO of
and SpaceX, is Time‘s 2021 “Person of the Year.”
The magazine announced its yearly pick Monday, saying Musk’s contributions to the electric-vehicle market and space travel were driving society’s “most daring and disruptive transformations.”
“Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too,” wrote Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal. “In 2021, Musk emerged not just as the world’s richest person but also as perhaps the richest example of a massive shift in our society.”
This year’s “marker of influence” won’t be an easy pill to swallow for many, with Musk becoming a polarizing figure over the last year. The CEO is in an ongoing feud with the Biden administration, criticizing a nearly $2 trillion spending plan that contains provisions to encourage union-made electric vehicle adoption. Tesla’s plant in Fremont, Calif., isn’t unionized, cutting Tesla out of the bill.
Musk has also sued Alameda County, Calif., over Covid-19 restrictions and bashed Democrats’ plans to raise taxes on the ultra-wealthy.
“Let’s change the rigged tax code so The Person of the Year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
“It’s *TIME* for Elon Musk to pay his fair share in taxes,” tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D- Wash.).
Despite the criticism, 2021 was the year of “Elon Unbound,” Felsenthal wrote in his profile of Musk.
In April, SpaceX won an exclusive contract from NASA to put U.S. astronauts on the moon for the first time since 1972. In September, the space company became the first to send four private passengers into orbit in an all-civilian crew, leapfrogging legacy company
“The goal overall has been to make life multi-planetary and enable humanity to become a spacefaring civilization,” Musk said in the feature. “And the next really big thing is to build a self-sustaining city on Mars and bring the animals and creatures of Earth there. Sort of like a futuristic Noah’s ark.”
In October, Tesla (ticker: TSLA) became the fifth company to hit a $1 trillion valuation — the same month car rental giant
) said it planned to add 100,000 Teslas to its fleet. Musk’s company now controls two-thirds of the multi-billion-dollar EV market, which it carved out itself.
Not to mention that Musk’s Twitter feed has the potential of sending the stock market and cryptocurrencies in either an uphill frenzy or a downward spiral. He has also grown more outspoken about government and regulatory policy, voicing his thoughts on everything from crypto regulation to government spending initiatives.
Musk made no mention of winning the accolade from Time on his Twitter feed Monday.
“Musk’s rise coincides with broader trends of which he and his fellow technology magnates are part cause and part effect,” Felsenthal wrote. These trends include the decline of institutions in favor of individuals, government processes that have awarded private businesses more power and responsibility, and chasms of wealth and opportunity.
Musk joins fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg on the shortlist of tech entrepreneurs who have been named Time‘s person of the year. Bezos was the choice in 1999, when e-commerce was just beginning, and Zuckerberg was chosen in 2010.
Despite the accolade, Tesla stock dropped 4.8% to $967.83 on Monday.
While there are now new competitors coming onto the EV scene, Musk said he wasn’t worried about being out-competed.
“If somebody makes better cars than we do, and they then sell more cars than we do, I think that’s totally fine,” he said in the Time profile. “Our intent with Tesla was always that we would serve as an example to the car industry and hope that they also make electric cars, so that we can accelerate the transition to sustainable technology.”
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