Walter Isaacson's biography of Elon Musk hasn't gotten stellar reviews, but The Verge's really gets to the heart of what's wrong with it: Musk (and cronies) were Isaacson's key sources and he trusted them completely, but they don't care what's true or not. As a result, Isaacson was doomed to end up doing exactly what he did: publicly retracting something Musk told him once Musk decided it made him look bad. Elizabeth Lopatto writes that Musk "loves to tell hilarious lies" and Isaacson simply didn't care to look for any context about them beyond what Musk provided.
The biographer has swallowed Musk's hype here wholesale. But I remember the days of the "alien dreadnought," the promises for swappable batteries that never materialized, and the countless other things Musk said that turned out to be, at best, exaggeration. In 10 years, the big revelation that Musk switched off the Ukrainian internet access during a battle may not be the most embarrassing thing Isaacson has committed to the page. Isaacson wraps up the book by ponderously wondering if Musk's achievements are possible without his bad behavior:
"Would a restrained Musk accomplish as much as a Musk unbound? Is being unfiltered and untethered integral to who he is? Could you get the rockets to orbit or the transition to electric vehicles without accepting all aspects of him, hinged and unhinged? Sometimes great innovators are risk-seeking man-children who resist potty training."
This seems to me to be the wrong set of questions. Here are some other ones: If Musk were more receptive to criticism, would his companies be in better shape?
It's as if Isaacson is a creature of the floating world, a place where powerful, beguiling, perfectly-formed stories are all that matters. Some commented that he debased himself in publicly recanting the Ukraine Starlink stuff in the book. Some commented that his repeated changing of the story exposed himself as complicit in an ongoing process of laundering whatever Musk tells him to say. What you have to understand, though, is that the point of being in the floating world is that it doesn't matter what anyone outside it thinks.