The joke stems from an image of Raymond Collishaw, a World War I fighter pilot who bears a striking resemblance to the Tesla chief executive.
Collishaw died in 1976 – five years after Musk was born – but the image is often used as “proof” that the entrepreneur is a time traveller, capable of picking out trends such as online payments (PayPal) and private space travel (SpaceX) long before they are established insustries.
“Why were you in Canada in 1914, why was your name Raymond Collishaw and why was your occupation ace fighter-pilot,” one of his Twitter followers asked, after Musk tweeted about preparations to a SpaceX launch.
Musk responded: “Full disclosure, I’m actually a 3,000-year-old vampire. It’s such a trial assuming all these false identities over the centuries!”
Fellow tech bosses have been among those to question Musk’s uncanny ability to make money through future-facing technology.
In 2017, former Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo told CNBC: “Elon may be proof that time travel exists, because he seems to have either more hours in the day than the rest of us have, or he’s from the future.”
He continued: “In all seriousness, I’m laughing because [Musk’s] ability to think cogently and thoughtfully about such a wide range of topics, while running these multiple companies, and seeming to be running them well is just, I mean, it makes you shake your head. It’s remarkable.”
While the Elon Musk-time travel conspiracy is clearly tongue-in-cheek, some scientists say the concept of time travel is theoretically possible.
A 2017 study in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity stated that it was “mathematically possible” to travel “backwards and forwards through time and space, as interpreted by an external observer”. There is, however, a caveat.
Researcher Ben Tippett said at the time: “While it is mathematically feasible, it is not yet possible to build a space-time machine because we need materials – which we call exotic matter – to bend space-time in these impossible ways, but they have yet to be discovered.”