Last night, news broke that Elon Musk has yet another pair of twin children sharing his name — a revelation that raises his brood number up to a total of nine (known) progeny.
Elon Musk, the wealthiest man in the world and one of its most influential, is a fervent believer in the theory of Population Collapse — the idea that, unlike claims of overpopulation, decades of supposed decreasing birth rates means we are actually heading towards an irreversible, unsustainable crisis in which we simply have too few “producers” in comparison to societal dependents. Unless we want an imminent “demographic implosion,” we need to “do our best” and breed like rabbits.
By most metrics, he’s lived up to his call to action — but like so much of the man, underneath the veneer of technocratic saviorism, Musk’s beliefs are deeply dangerous, reactionary, and soundtracked by colonialist dog whistles. So why aren’t we talking more about it?
Power dynamics and parenting — For years, Elon Musk has repeatedly, aggressively voiced his concerns about “accelerationist declines,” arguing that people across the globe having fewer children is a more dire existential threat to our species than nuclear conflict, disease, famine, or climate change. He cites studies predicting the world’s total population to level off by the end of the century, and his current pinned tweet is a statistic supposedly supporting his beliefs. His obsession with the number of babies being pumped out daily is as invasive as it seems unethical.
Now, the most recent revelation: not a(nother) pair of secret kids he had with Grimes but twins conceived with a different woman, Shivon Zilis. Zilis is one of Neuralink’s top executives, an expert in machine learning, and very much a subordinate to Musk. You don’t need a PhD in gender studies to see the problematic power dynamics at play here, especially when viewed alongside the allegations Musk has against him and his companies by former employees.
Problematic plans of action — Setting aside these new tabloid-esque revelations, the Musk view on birth rates could have grave consequences. There is a vast web of factors as to why many people are choosing to have fewer or no children, from personal careers to changing societal expectations, to their own fears for our collective future. Musk’s child boon necessitates a massive shift in cultural moors, and one that is extremely unlikely to happen within any version of his timeframe. So... then what?
Do we incentivize births? We’re already heading toward forced pregnancy in some capacity, though not currently at the explicit scale Musk needs. How could any politician or oligarch possibly do any of this amidst a climate in collapse, economic constriction, crumbling schools routinely riddled by bullets, and an all-but-nonexistent social safety net? How could you blame someone in this society for their hesitation to start a family? Musk seems game for the challenge of going half on more heirs, but the less we detail that scenario, the better...
Still, we’ve yet to hear any concrete ideas from Musk other than “more births.”
The crux of the issue — We could spend all day discussing Musk’s deeply unnerving obsession with fertility. However, at the bottom of it all is this: Musk’s attempts to stave off a “population collapse” scenario simply boils down to labor.
When Musk talks about societal collapse, he is talking about a very specific kind of society, one that is inherently unsustainable from an environmental and socio-political level. His clear, unequivocal solution amounts to throwing as many people into his own version of “progress” as possible until we reach Mars. Collateral damage is unavoidable, labor exploitation is necessary, and overall numbers overtake individual names.
From there, we’ll start consuming everything and beyond, like a swarm of hypercapitalist locusts. We can’t ignore any longer that oligarchs like Musk fervently believe this is civilization’s best and brightest possible arc — their eyes fixed firmly on the stars, with their feet firmly planted on an ever-rising mountain of bodies to get them there.