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Building better worlds ... for real?
March 19, 2012 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Real-world inspirations for the Peter Weyland character from Prometheus?

The marketing campaign of the upcoming film Prometheus includes a fictional TED talk from the Peter Weyland character, who is portrayed as a visionary technologist (and likely ruthless industry baron). In this fictional TED talk, Weyland is said to introduce the future vision of his company, "Building better worlds."

Who are the likely real-world inspirations for this kind of character? Magnetic, charismatic, techy, brilliantly intelligent, etc., who make or made splashy, soaring public announcements that border on philosophy?

Steve Jobs seems the obvious example. Other examples could be Richard Branson or even Barack Obama.
posted by Cool Papa Bell to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
 
Mark Shuttleworth & Mark Cuban immediately come to mind.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:33 PM on March 19, 2012


You hit the first two that sprung to my mind (Jobs & Branson). Reaching further back, Edison or Tesla... Many Victorian and Edwardian industry barons made splashy, philosophical speeches about how technology would finally allow us to master nature and usher in a rational utopia. This sort of talk largely stopped after WWI, however.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:38 PM on March 19, 2012


Elon Musk.

Half the story meetings I've been in in the last couple years, Musk has been brought up as a touchstone for a brilliant crazy entrepreneur.
posted by incessant at 12:39 PM on March 19, 2012


Newt Gingrich... seriously... kind of...
posted by BobbyVan at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2012


Cecil Rhodes fits in a lot of ways. He was openly (and monstrously) ambitious, and he put a lot of stock in the technologies of the day (e.g. the railroad and the telegraph). Here's a quote: "To think of these stars that you see overhead at night, these vast worlds which we can never reach. I would annexe the planets if I could; I often think of that. It makes me sad to see them so clear and yet so far." He was also British, like Weyland appears to be.
posted by jedicus at 12:45 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dean Kamen
posted by BobbyVan at 12:49 PM on March 19, 2012


Ray Kurzweil sort of fits the bill, too. He may not be the most electrifying guy out there, but he's certainly go the whole vision thing going (and there's no denying his technical accomplishments thus far).
posted by jquinby at 1:31 PM on March 19, 2012


"Many Victorian and Edwardian industry barons made splashy, philosophical speeches about how technology would finally allow us to master nature and usher in a rational utopia."

Like who? Can you be more specific, please?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:20 PM on March 19, 2012


Who are the likely real-world inspirations for this kind of character? Magnetic, charismatic, techy, brilliantly intelligent, etc., who make or made splashy, soaring public announcements that border on philosophy?

For the modern generation, find an event with the word 'Singularity' in the title. Identify the speakers who are also successful at business.

And there's your list.
posted by zippy at 3:54 PM on March 19, 2012


I think Steve Jobs isn't that great an example. The Weyland character (at least in the TED video version) is quite repulsive. Arrogant, douchey, too clever for his own good. He has no rational philosophy; rather he is full of dogma and unquestioned assumptions.

Therefore, to that end, for a real-life correspondence, have a look at certain rich CEOs in the financial sector. Or any famous cult leaders or unsavory politicians.

Moreover my own point of reference while watching the video was not even in comparison to any particular real life person; rather, I noted the similarity towards the two lead male antagonist characters in the short-lived TV series Caprica. I think that indicates that this persona has long existed in other science fiction literature.
posted by polymodus at 4:40 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Henry Ford.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:45 PM on March 19, 2012


Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbildt, Gates, Jobs, Ford, Edison.
posted by empath at 9:32 PM on March 19, 2012


Actually, Henry Ford is probably not that great an answer. For some reason, your question made me think of the influence Ford had on Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and my mind made a connection, albeit one that is based on fiction. So, strike that answer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2012


Seconding those that BP mentioned. You may want to look at Marconi and J.P. Morgan as well, but I'm not sure of their actual beliefs in regards to technology. The captains of industry during the gilded age have much more in common of the CEOs of today (in regards to being perceived as magnetic and charismatic) than, say, the CEOs of the mid 20th century.

One thing that leaps out to me (although it is only related to your question) is the hubris displayed by Captain E.J. Smith of the Titanic who once commented, "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that."
posted by entropicamericana at 10:26 AM on March 20, 2012


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