People frequently ask me whether there are any "good" sociopaths or "famous" sociopaths, meaning any sociopaths that people might know and respect without necessarily knowing and respecting that they are a sociopath. Of course it's all guessing games because even if that person was aware that they were a sociopath, there is no reason why they would out themselves (just to be socially ostracized and professionally second-guessed). If you read between the lines, though, there are plenty of sociopaths out there doing things, like Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, Space Exploration Technologies (which contracted with NASA to basically replace the Space Shuttle in servicing the Space Station), and current CEO of Tesla Motors. In a dated New Yorker article, which is unfortunately unavailable without a subscription, the following sociopathic characteristics or quotes are revealed (all are quotes from the article, the text in quotation marks are from Musk unless otherwise indicated):
- "We're like a giant parallel supercomputer, and each of our brains runs a piece of the software" contrasted with "Most people don't know much."
- "The people who know me generally have a good impression. Generally, if I didn't fire them, then they have a good impression."
- He fell silent for two minutes, processing. Then he announced, "I'm going to call Dan Neil and say, 'What the fuck?' Starting with a negative conclusion and backiflling the facts is a classic dickhead move--and a classic human fallacy." Humans!
- [H]e believes it's the duty of the intelligent and educated to replicate, "so we don't devolve into a not very literate, theocratic, and unenlightened future." As part of his program for Homo sapiens, the beta version, he reminds unfruitful employees,"You should have, on average, 2.1 kids per woman."
- [Tesla Chief Technology Office J.B. Straubel] says, "As the company has matured, it has become more of a worthy adversary for Elon. He constantly wants everything we're doing to be really difficult, but he works really hard to make sure it's not impossible. He almost won't let us fail." Justine Musk observes, "I like to compare him to the Terminator. He sets his program and just . . . will . . . not . . . stop."
- At times, between meetings, Musk finds himself daydreaming about building a supersonic electric airplane, or a double-decker highway.
The quotes suggest certain sociopathic traits, the overall tone of the article suggests even more, including an inability to commit to projects for more than 3-5 years, an aggressive risk-seeking that keeps Tesla simultaneously on the brink of bankruptcy and the cutting edge of the auto industry, and a narcissistically grandiose sense of "duty to save the world." Of course, he may not be a sociopath at all, but it is a good example of how sociopathic traits might be very good for someone's professional exploits and--as long as you value cheap and clean electric automobiles, transferring money easily via the internet, or efficiently supplying the space station--very good for everyone else.