Time magazine has named “troll” and “iconoclast” Elon Musk its 2021 Person of the Year. Musk—the founder of SpaceX and Tesla—also holds the title of world’s richest man, worth more than $250 billion. Musk’s Time feature extols his “lifetime [of] defying the haters,” capped off most recently by a year in which he hosted Saturday Night Live, won an exclusive NASA contract to put U.S. astronauts on the moon for the first time since 1972, oversaw the acquisition of 100,000 Teslas for rental giant Hertz’ fleet, and went viral for a spree of comical Twitter moments.
While calling him a “clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman, [and] cad,” Time said it sets Musk apart from the “tech bros and space playboys”—crediting him with saving billions of dollars for taxpayers with his rockets, using satellites to expand access to the internet across the globe, and reenergizing Americans’ interest in space exploration.
“He is a humanist—not in the sense of being a nice person, because he isn’t,” says Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, who has known Musk since 2001. “He wants eternal glory for doing great deeds, and he is an asset to the human race because he defines a great deed as something that is great for humanity. He is greedy for glory. Money to him is a means, not an end. Who today evaluates Thomas Edison on the basis of which of his inventions turned a profit?”