The role of language

I was struck this week by the sharp contrast in language styles adopted by two of the world’s great tech leaders – Tim Cook and Elon Musk.

Tim Cook’s keynote at the WWDC  was full of the kind of language we have long associated with Apple – full of “incredible”, “great”, “changing the world” – all the while talking about new operating systems for the iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple TV and the Mac itself. While undoubtedly impressive, I’m not sure the epithets really fit the bill…

Elon Musk, on the other hand, seems to have invented a new language to deal with the highly experimental and ground-breaking work he is involved in. Take the goal of SpaceX to develop re-usable rockets. There is clearly a lot to learn as this has never been done before. Therefore every failure is a step on the path to learning how to achieve reliable reusability. With the Ironman allusions and fan worship it is nye-on impossible for social media, or indeed main stream media, to deal calmly with the failures as well as the successes. Hence this:

“Explosion” or “crash” smacks of failure. “RUD” speaks to a more reasoned, experimental and scientific approach.

This more measured approach to a complex world, as well as the humour, is surely worth adopting far more widely.