The coveted position goes to the person who has been rated the most influential during that year, and TIME’s Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal believes that there is no one more fitting of that title than Musk.
“Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too,” Felsenthal wrote. “In 2021, Musk emerged not just as the world’s richest person but also as perhaps the richest example of a massive shift in our society.”
With a net worth of over $300 billion, Elon Musk has been described as the richest person in the history of the world.
Electronic Vehicles: ‘A Market That Must Almost Single-Handedly Created’
.@WalterIsaacson on @elonmusk: “He has a fierce urge to make life on this planet sustainable, turn humans into a spacefaring species, and assure that artificial intelligence will be beneficial rather than malign to us mortals” #TIMEPOY https://t.co/iz25YpFtBs
— TIME (@TIME) December 13, 2021
Many are saying that 2021 is the year that electric vehicles have become mainstream, and Felsenthal believes that “It’s a market that Musk almost single-handedly created, seeing long before others the demand for clean-energy transportation that the world’s climate crisis would eventually propel.”
Although Tesla has now become a trillion-dollar company, Musk is also the CEO of SpaceX, which is described as the “global commercial leader in building and flying rockets and crews.” According to Felsenthal, Musk has a rough timeline to get astronauts to the moon in three years, and to land on Mars within five years.
TIME defended their decision to choose Musk by saying that, instead of looking back at the past year, they also set their sights on the future. Jeff Bezos was selected as Person of the Year in 1999 when e-commerce was just beginning to take off, and Amazon has now become a juggernaut in music, movies, books, and almost every aspect of our lives. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg was selected as Person of the Year, a full decade before the social media giant became Meta.
Felsenthal concluded his decision by writing, “We don’t yet know how fully Tesla, SpaceX, and the ventures Musk has yet to think up will change our lives. 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.”
How Do Fans Feel About Elon Musk Becoming The New Person Of The Year?
“The goal overall has been to make life multi-planetary and enable humanity to become a spacefaring civilization,” @elonmusk tells TIME.
— TIME (@TIME) December 13, 2021
Many fans were critical of Musk’s selection.
“For what exactly?” one user asked. “Someone tell me what this guy did besides step on other people so he can climb higher.”
“Wow, what a contribution to the world. Sending rich people into space for 10 minutes,” another wrote.
“I can think of many people who deserve it more,” said another.
“Ugh,” another lamented. “It should’ve been the Capitol Police officers who saved our democracy on January 6.”
“They should have named Stacey Abrams for all the work she did to fight voter suppression in Georgia, US,” another wrote. “Or Maria Ressa who exposes abuse of power, use of violence, & authoritarianism in the Philippines, or Dmitry Muratov who has defended freedom of speech in Russia for decades.”
However, some people defended the choice. One user wrote, “People forget that ‘Person of the Year’ just measures influence. It doesn’t have to be a POSITIVE influence.”
“I’m not his number 1 fan by a long shot, but it’s not a surprise,” another shared. “This year sees EVs pass the tipping point in no small part down to Tesla’s efforts and also SpaceX put people into space commercially and a bunch of other stuff.”