The magazine said that he had been chosen for his work in space as well as on electric cars, as well as his plans to take humanity to Mars and his interest in cryptocurrency. It also noted in its announcement that Mr Musk “also likes to live-tweet his poops”, thought to be a first for a Time “Person of the Year”.
“For creating solutions to an existential crisis, for embodying the possibilities and the perils of the age of tech titans, for driving society’s most daring and disruptive transformations, Elon Musk is TIME’s 2021 Person of the Year,” the magazine wrote in its announcement.
Time has been running the award since 1927, with recent winners including Greta Thunberg, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It has often stressed that the award does not necessarily serve as an endorsement of its recipient, but a recognition of their influence – though the announcement of Mr Musk was accompanied by a glowing profile on Time’s website.
The profile said that Mr Musk “bends governments and industry to the force of his ambition”. It noted that a few years ago he was often mocked, but had come to see his private rocket company SpaceX awarded Nasa contracts and his Twitter account help decide the fortunes of the stock market.
It did however point to criticisms of Mr Musk, both in his personal life and business. It mentioned “allegations of sexual harassment and poor working conditions”, as well as noting that “associates have described Musk as petty, cruel and petulant”.
Time gave its Person of the Year to Jeff Bezos in 1999 and to Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, noting that it had done so well before the full consequences of Amazon and Facebook had made themselves clear. The same is true of Mr Musk now, it said.
“We don’t yet know how fully Tesla, SpaceX and the ventures Musk has yet to think up will change our lives,” it wrote. “At 50, he has plenty of time to write the future, his own and ours. Like it or not, we are now in Musk’s world.”
It said that 2021 had been a year that “brought home the extent to which, at a time of rising protest over ever deepening inequality, our lives and many of the basic structures around them are now shaped by the pursuits, products and priorities of the world’s wealthiest people”.
The magazine also gave an award for “heroes of the year” to the “miracle workers” who helped create coronavirus vaccines, for “entertainer of the year” to Olivia Rodrigo, and for “athlete of the year” to Simone Biles.
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