Whatever you think about electric cars and their future (I think it’s bright, but not for fuel economy reasons) you have to admit something about charismatic Tesla founder Elon Musk: He is out there making things.
Not just software things, either. Hardware things. Things you can touch and drive and fly to space in. That kind of ingenuity and relentless pursuit of turning ideas into physical things is sorely lacking in a lot of folks running software companies. Not that the products that they make aren’t necessarily important or interesting, or that they don’t have the potential to make enormous impacts on people’s lives — just look at the way Twitter has altered communication on this planet.
But I grew up as the son of a craftsman. Someone who made things with his hands every day for a living and then again at night for pleasure and eventually turned that pleasure into what he did for a living. He grew up the son of a craftsman who made things too, things that flew and drove and worked. Crafting things with your hands, or mind, and making them come into physical being has a certain Promethean magic to it that is difficult to match when things aren’t tangible.
As hardware gets more complicated and tied in with software and computers, it’s becoming more difficult for people to realize their visions without the infrastructure of corporate money and patent portfolios. That’s one of the main reasons that we won’t see a boutique smartphone any time soon.
But there are still opportunities. Some folks are out there making bits of our physical world better. There are ways to get the raw materials that you need to make your vision happen. Software is important and can be wonderful. But we need to remember the magic of changing the world in physical terms as well.
Elon Musk is making things. It makes me want to make things again too.