Here’s why Elon Musk is TIME’s 2021 Person of the Year

by Michelle Lewis

TIME magazine has named Elon Musk its 2021 Person of the Year. Here’s why it selected the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.

First off, let’s reiterate TIME magazine’s criterion for Person of the Year, as there is always confusion: The person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.

(Disclosure: I used to be an associate editor at TIME in London, and we had to explain the criterion every year. Reminder that both Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler were Persons of the Year.)

Here are some highlights that shed light on why Musk, who recently disclosed on Saturday Night Live that he has Asperger’s, and who the magazine describes as a “clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman, cad,” was chosen:

His startup rocket company, SpaceX, has leapfrogged Boeing and others to own America’s spacefaring future. His car company, Tesla, controls two-thirds of the multibillion-dollar electric-vehicle market it pioneered and is valued at a cool $1 trillion.

That has made Musk, with a net worth of more than $250 billion, the richest private citizen in history, at least on paper.

He’s a player in robots and solar, cryptocurrency and climate, brain-computer implants to stave off the menace of artificial intelligence and underground tunnels to move people and freight at super speeds.