Elon the day after.

by Dries De Roeck on February 7, 2018

Yesterday SpaceX launched their coveted falcon heavy rocket. I watched the show in my local hackerspace, totally nerding out with other nerds. It was fun, it was unbelievable – everyone was going crazy for science. The sight of the two side boosters landing simultaneously remains very surreal, and the idea of shooting a car to mars ‘just because’ is totally insane.

Today, the day after the launch, I’ve been reading and thinking about this a lot. Yesterday’s launch makes me euphoric AND troubled at the same time. For various reasons. I’m writing this post to explore this a little further and to question my own thinking in all of this.

Since I’ve seen a few people deleting some of their initial (euphoric) reactions on the launch – I guess there are more people out there who have started to question the whole thing.

//edit: In this post I intend to question things (mostly to myself), I do by no means aim to take a stance or make claims. I realise that I’m putting some things bluntly and cutting many corners. I do not intend to offend or point at anyone or anything.

//edit2: I initially called SpaceX a large organisation, but thanks to some comments received online and offline I realised that the point I want to make is that it is a privately owned company. So I changed that my stream of ‘questions to self’ below.

Reasons to be euphoric

Elon Musk makes us dream again.

The quote above forms the core of my reasoning there. If we let go of all critical thoughts or aversions agains flamethrowers and the like, all I could say when seeing that launch yesterday was “Holy F*ck”. It felt like I was watching a blue sky sci-fi show, we’re going to mars! Don’t panic and undust your hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy!

I’m not the first one to say our society has somewhat lost an ideal to strive for, together. Our society is so focussed on individualistion, closing front doors and curtains, switching on netflix and getting lost in the world of kudo’s and likes. Not that long ago I wrote a bit on accountability, which is something my mind keeps getting back to as well.

So I think the least we should value in the SpaceX launch is that it got people to dream. As I read somewhere else today:

What we witnessed yesterday was the internet generation’s equivalent of the moon landing, and that Roadster might well remain the totemic symbol of the achievement.

Reasons to be critical

To contrast the euphoria, the inevitable comments surfaced really quickly. Mostly along the lines of whether we shouldn’t care about our own planet first, focus on solving issues we have regarding climate change, famine, healthcare, human rights. At first I neglected those comments, but the more I came accross these types of reactions – it did get me thinking.

A very triggering something was that I found myself reading about ‘the future is now‘ – an exploration by The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to explore what the future of humanitarian aid can or should look like. Reading through the most excellent work, I realised that the whole ‘space race 2.0’ might get people to dream – but does it get them to dream in perspective to ‘humanity’ and the societal context we live in? I came to understand this is history allover again, we can send cars to mars – but we fail to chat to our nextdoor neighbour. We’re incapable of creating humane political structures, or acting responsibly related to environmental issues. I came to understand that, perhaps, SpaceX is operating in an old fashioned view on science and innovation where privately owned institues are required to thrive change. Perhaps ‘real’ change is to be found in a more grassroots oriented take on society, where we first focus on getting the basics of our socio-economic context right before we think about fleeing to another planet.


So while the idea of ‘making people dream again’ is something I value a lot, I have been wondering for the past hours how “the mainstream” can be involved in dreaming about issues that don’t get pushed to us.

In a world where everyone’s status is “maybe” or “interested” but fails to take actual commitment to do something without a direct monetary reward (cutting many corners here #sorrynotsorry) – I think I’ll keep on exploring the idea of getting people to dream in a better framed societal context. Whatever that might mean.

“At least we’re not complaining, there’s already plenty of salt in the sea.” — A.T.


Hi Dries,

I share your twofold feeling. On the one hand, it feels like insane progress. On the other, it’s not an excuse to discard a whole host of other problems, many of which have been caused exactly by this objectivism of the ‘Silicon CEO’s’.

One (minor) remarks:
the first space race did result in tremendous progress for our everyday lives here on Earth as well.

My most important concern: although I am a liberal in my market views, I feel we are leaving way too many of our strategic domains in the hands of (increasingly monopolist) private companies. (Recent example: Sidewalk Labs)

Perfect illustratie hiervan, in het kader van plannen Boring Company / Hyperloop:
“However, Culver City council members have expressed concerns over a private company taking responsibility for public transport infrastructure. Council member Meghan Sahli-Wells said: “This is really seductive. It looks super sexy and super easy, but it’s half baked from a public perspective.”

by Frederik De Bosschere on February 7, 2018 at 3:58 pm. #

Hi Frederik,
Thanks for taking the time to write a comment! I altered my post a little bit, because after reading your thoughts, the concern regarding privately owned companies is probably what I was trying to get at without realising it.
After re-reading a few times, I think what bothers me a lot is that there’s so much short term ‘stuff’ going on – way too often we forget to frame things in a larger context. I could probably insert a cryptocurrency reference here, and how we’re treating that right now vs. the power it could actually hold.

by Dries De Roeck on February 7, 2018 at 7:10 pm. #

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