Deciphering Elon Musk's Latest Tweet, Which Cites T.S. Eliot

(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk has been much less prolific on Twitter lately amid the controversy around his plan to take Tesla Inc. private, but he dropped a doozy of a tweet early Tuesday, lifting a passage from T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”

For what it’s worth, it has been a fortnight -- 14 days -- since Musk’s Aug. 7 tweet declaring that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 a share. He’s been defending that claim ever since, amid increasing scrutiny from investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It may just be that Musk is re-reading the classics of early 20th century modernist poetry, or it could be that he identifies with Eliot’s mental state -- he linked to a Wikipedia passage that explains Eliot was diagnosed with a kind of nervous disorder and asked for leave from his job at a bank so he could rest.

But here’s a bit of context that also might help explain why he’s citing this passage. Musk is obsessed with Iain M. Banks, the late Scottish author whose utopian science-fiction novels explored concepts of a post-capitalist galactic society run by artificial intelligence. The first novel in Banks’s Culture series, Consider Phlebas, draws its title from this same passage of poetry quoted in Musk’s tweet.

Some of the concepts explored in the Culture novels, such as space travel and a “neural lace” interface between computers and a human brain, are now things Musk is trying to build in real life. Two of SpaceX’s landing drones -- Of Course I Love You and Just Read the Instructions -- also draw their names from Banks’s fiction.

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