George Hotz is best known for jailbreaking the iPhone’s carrier-lock and hacking the PlayStation 3. Now Elon Musk has set him on his most momentous technical challenge: Fixing Twitter in three months. Okay, not all of it. He was hired to fix Twitter’s currently-broken search function.
Musk previously tried to hire the hacker for Tesla, but they had a falling out over the terms of employment. Hotz later founded Comma AI, a company that developed a competing software against Tesla’s autopilot AI. Musk then beefed with him in 2015 over whether a single person or a small company (like Comma AI) “that lacks extensive engineering validation capability” would be able to create autonomous driving software that can be used in real cars. Back then, he clearly didn’t think that an upstart like Hotz could unseat a major industry giant like Tesla, but it seems that Musk has undergone a significant change of heart since. He’s now hired Hotz to fix something that should probably take an entire engineering team. Character growth: We love to see it.
It all started when Hotz praised Musk for letting go anyone who didn’t want to work at a “hardcore” Twitter. One Twitter user pointed out that he was advocating for indentured servitude, and Hotz responded by offering to indenture himself for nothing but cost of living expenses in San Francisco. Musk expressed interest in what is probably the cheapest engineering help he could ever get, and the rest is history. Kotaku reached out to Hotz to ask why he didn’t ask for a full time position, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Hotz has big plans for his 12 weeks at Twitter. He wants to get rid of the login popup that shows if you’ve been scrolling for too long. He wants to improve the relevancy of search results. Regardless of whether or not he succeeds, Hotz has already proven one thing for certain: He is the biggest sucker in the tech world.
There’s already signs that Hotz might not be able to replace an entire team after all. Hotz is currently a main character on tech Twitter for trying to solicit engineers for free help. As some have pointed out, it’s not a good look for one of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley to ask for volunteer labor, especially after Musk fired multiple full-time engineers who might have been able to help him with this project. Kotaku reached out to ask Twitter whether or not Hotz was replacing recently laid off engineers, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
At the very least, Hotz follows in the Silicon Valley tradition of trying to fix things that the average user doesn’t care about. “If I just get rid of the pop up I still consider my internship a win,” Hotz tweeted. “I have a Chrome extension on my laptop to block it.”