Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are in a bit of a space race. The two billionaires are like-minded about getting humanity into the solar system, but here on Earth they’re competing fiercely to give their respective space companies—SpaceX and Blue Origin—an upper hand.
Not everyone is thrilled about two of the world’s richest men wielding so much power to shape our future, but “Beff Jezos,” for one, believes it’s justified.
“I’m for billionaires. I know this is a controversial statement sometimes, but I think that, in a sense, it’s kind of proof-of stake voting,” he said on Friday episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast.
Of course, “Beff Jezos” is not a real name. It’s the handle used on X by Guillaume Verdon, a former Google quantum computing engineer and one of the leaders of the effective accelerationism movement, or e/acc (pronounced “ee-ack”).
Verdon and others in the movement argue that propelling technological progress at nearly any cost is the only ethically justifiable course of action. Silicon Valley elites—including venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and Garry Tan, CEO of startup accelerator Y Combinator—add the label e/acc to their X profiles and consider themselves “techno-optimists.” They often criticize “decels,” or people they deem to be hindering progress—a favorite target being those wanting to slow down AI development for the safety of humanity.
The e/acc movement has some critics, not surprisingly, among them New York Times columnist Ezra Klein, who wrote in October: “Reactionary futurism is accelerationist in affect but decelerationist in practice. Treating so much of society with such withering contempt will not speed up a better future. It will turn people against the politics and policies of growth…”
Until recently, few knew that Verdon, founder of the stealth AI hardware startup Extropic, was the man behind the Beff Jezos account, but that changed when Forbes published an article identifying (or “doxing”) him earlier this month. Since then, he’s been speaking on podcasts and elsewhere openly as himself.
A longer timescale
Whereas companies tend to optimize quarter over quarter or “maybe a few years out,” Verdon told Fridman, billionaires like Musk and Bezos who want to leave a legacy “can think on a multi-decadal or multi-century timescale.”
He continued, “Some individuals are such good capital allocators that they unlock the ability to allocate capital to goals that take us much further, or are much further looking.”
Musk, he noted, is putting capital toward “getting us to Mars” with SpaceX, while Bezos “wants to build O’Neill cylinders and get industry off-planet. O’Neill cylinders, proposed in the 1970s by Princeton physicist Gerard K. O’Neill, would provide artificial gravity, making them suitable for humans colonizing outer space.
“I would love to see, you know, a trillion humans living in the solar system,” Bezos said on Fridman podcast earlier this month. “If we had a trillion humans, we would have at any given time a thousand Mozarts and a thousand Einsteins…Our solar system would be full of life and intelligence and energy.”
Musk, meanwhile, said in 2021 after SpaceX sent astronauts into orbit on a reused rocket, “We don’t want to be one of those single-planet species, we want to be a multi-planet species.”
Verdon contrasted the two billionaires with politicians who “get elected because they speak the best on TV, not because they have a proven track record of allocating taxpayer capital most efficiently.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone who chose the handle “Beff Jezos,” Verdon thinks highly of Bezos, saying that the Amazon founder “leveraged the techno-capital machine” to “give us what we want,” namely quick, convenient delivery of products to our doorsteps.
He also credits Bezos for thinking long-term while building Amazon by “not trying to take profits too early” and instead “putting it back, letting system compound and keep improving.”