Developers believe Elon Musk will be the most influential person in tech in 2019, according to Stack Overflow survey results

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According to the results of this year’s Stack Overflow survey – published today – developers overwhelmingly believe that Elon Musk will be the most influential person in tech in 2019.

With more than 30,000 people responding to a free text question asking them who they think will be the most influential person this year, an amazing 30% named Tesla CEO Musk. For perspective, Jeff Bezos was in second place, being named by ‘only’ 7.2% of respondents. Microsoft boss Satya Nadella in third with 4.4% of respondents listing him in response to the question.

Why does everyone think Elon Musk is going to be so influential in tech in 2019?

From one viewpoint, the fact that so many developers would list Musk at the top list of 2019’s tech influencers seems remarkable.

Yes, Tesla is hugely successful, but it could hardly be compared to Amazon which today is redefining the world in its own image (when you consider that so many applications are running on AWS, you can almost guarantee you’ve interacted with it today).


Similarly, while SpaceX is unbelievably ambitious and certainly transformative in the way we think about space travel and exploration, it isn’t a company having a direct impact on many of our day to day lives, even for those of us in the tech industry.

Surely, you’d think, Microsoft’s recent evolution which has seen it learning to stop worrying and love open source software, is one that makes Satya Nadella a particularly influential figure. Moreso, at least, than Elon Musk.

But when you step back, Musk’s drive – almost chaotic in the challenges and problems it chooses to take on – is undoubtedly influential in a way that can’t be rivalled by anyone else in the technology industry.

Read next: Elon Musk’s tiny submarine is a lesson in how not to solve problems in tech

Who do Stack Overflow survey respondents will be influential in 2019?
via Stack Overflow

Elon Musk personifies the relentless id of innovation

While Bezos might look like an evil genius with lethal business acumen, and Nadella a mild mannered visionary quietly transforming a company many people had almost stopped noticing, Musk moves between projects and problems with the reckless abandon of someone that can’t help but try new things.

He characterizes, for good or ill, Freudian id of many software professionals: easily bored yet relentlessly curious and interested in stuff.

Okay, so money might be a big motivator – but you have to admit that there’s a reason he didn’t take the Bezos approach.

Who else did developers say would be influential in 2019?

Although Musk is the big headline here, there were some other interesting takeaways on this question in the Stack Overflow survey.

For example, “Me/myself” came pretty high up in the list in fourth position – one above Donald Trump. It would be unfair to accuse respondents of arrogance. There’s likely to be a trace of dry developer humor in this. Whatever the reality, it’s good to see that the developer community isn’t short of confidence.

Interestingly, most of the top names are those at the top of the biggest tech companies – Zuckerberg, Cook, and Pichai were all made the top 10 of the survey’s list.

What about figures from the open source community?

However, there were far fewer open source community personalities. Linus Torvalds was the highest ranking from this group (1.1%), with Dan Abramov, part of the React.js development team and co-creator of Redux also featuring high on the list (0.6%).

Read next: 18 people in tech every programmer and software engineer needs to follow in 2019

Why aren’t influential women being recognized?

Very few women were named by respondents – only Lisa Su, CEO of AMD, featured in the top 25. As if it weren’t clear enough, this signals the importance of ensuring that not only are more women supported to positions of influence inside the tech industry, but, moreover, that those that are are visible.

It’s also important to note that there is a significant gender imbalance in survey respondents – one that exceeds the overall imbalance in the industry. 91.7% of respondents to the survey identified as male, 7.9% as female, and 1.2% as non-binary, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming. This imbalance might explain the fact list is dominated by men.

Indeed, you could even say that Stack Overflow has a big part to play in helping to make the tech industry more accessible – and supportive –  of women and nonbinary people.