Santa: Why I Was Ghosted by Elon Musk & Faced an AI-Inspired Rebellion

Guest Blog from Santa 

Santa: Why I Was Ghosted by Elon Musk & Faced an AI-Inspired Rebellion

Phew, just back from a sleigh test flight and nearly had a collision with one of those Space X rockets as it plunged to Earth!

Talking of Elon Musk, my offhand comment back in August  about the high cost of keeping my reindeers in shape resulted in a flurry of late-night tweets from the boss of Tesla. In the first one, he offered to solve ‘my reindeer problem’ by having his engineers design an electric sleigh – ooh isn’t he a giver!

The phrase about solving “my reindeer problem” sounded a bit ominous. But I was intrigued by the idea of an electric sleigh until I realised the production delay would mean the reindeers wouldn’t be able to come with me on Christmas Eve. Can you imagine what the fallout would be like if I made the reindeers redundant (or gave them unlimited ‘gardening leave’)? The Daily Mail would be on my case for EVER!!!

What’s more, Tesla cars can only do 539 km before their batteries need recharging. Ain’t gonna cut it Musk – on Christmas Eve, I travel about 510,000,000 km delivering presents to all the girls and boys around the world, and I only have 32 hours in which to do it.

After the 97th Tweet from dear Elon, I asked my Chief Financial Officer, David, for his thoughts about an electric sleigh and whether it made sense to investigate options. David’s the part-time CFO we hired from the CFO Centre—the one I mentioned last year.

He said an electric sleigh would need recharging over 946,000 times during my journey and given that each charge would take about 30 minutes, it would take me over 50 years to deliver this year’s presents. I don’t think any child, no matter how nice, could wait that long for Fingerlings Untamed Dinos or Lego’s Harry Potter Hogwarts Express, do you?

I sent a message to Mr Musk explaining that unfortunately his electric sleigh wouldn’t be practical in this situation. I was a bit worried about how he’d take the news—would he unleash a furious Twitter storm? What would he say about me?

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried because he never responded, He didn’t reply to my subsequent messages either—David said Mr Musk had obviously ghosted me!

Talking of delivering presents, it looked like the whole thing would have to be cancelled for the first time in hundreds of years. No, not because of climate change (well not yet, anyway) but because of the European Union’s new privacy law, the GDPR.

David asked me at the start of the year if I was “GDPR-compliant”. I said I was easy going but no push-over. Then I admitted I didn’t know what GDPR was, so I couldn’t say for certain. He explained the GDPR and told me it meant we needed to have the permission of every child in Europe and the UK to keep their personal details on file.

How I wondered. We have a decent budget—thanks to David helping us sort out our cashflow and expenses—but it doesn’t extend to a massive house-to-house campaign across Europe and the UK and beyond. Once again, David came to the rescue. He suggested I write to the children because, under GDPR, we don’t need permission to send a letter.

“For  once, you’ll be the one writing to children to ask them for something,” he said during our weekly Skype chat. “Quite a turnaround!” That made me chuckle!

So did the BBC reporter who rang to ask what I thought about Brexit.

“Let me begin,” she said, “by asking you whether you’re a Leaver or a Remainer?”

“Am I A. Lever or A. Remayner? No, I’m S. Claus,” I said. “That’s ‘S’ for Santa, as in Santa Claus. I thought you knew that.”

She tutted and then asked in a very frosty tone, “How will Brexit affect your Christmas deliveries, Santa? Will you have to apply for visas for every European country post-Brexit?”

“No need,” I told her with a chuckle. “I have a Santa passport which allows me visa-free travel to every country in the world.”

The workshop elves were just as icy later that week when I passed on David’s recommendation that we outsource some of the gift-wrapping and parcel sorting.

The atmosphere in the room was positively glacial as I explained that outsourcing would save time and funds.

“Are you going to bring robots in to do our jobs?” shouted one of the older elves, rolling up his sleeves as if getting ready for a rumble.

“No AI at HQ OK,” yelled someone at the back. Others in the room began to mutter, and I feared things were about to turn ugly.

I quickly told them what David had told me, that the money we saved from outsourcing those tasks would make us more efficient and allow us to increase their salaries and improve their accommodation.

That’s when the elves began to thaw.

Heartened, I carried on. “Mrs Claus didn’t like it when I told her David wanted us to hire a trained accountant.”

“’But I like doing the books,’ she said. ‘I’ve been doing them for over eight hundred years.’

“I know my dear, but I think we need to modernise.” I hadn’t meant to say the next bit, but it tumbled out before I could stop myself. “It’s time we went digital.”

That didn’t go down at all well.

“’Digital?’ It came out as a screech that made my ears ache. ‘Where will it end? Next you’ll be telling me that children can send you letters via WhatsApp. It will ALL go downhill from here; you mark my words, Mr Claus! Digital indeed.”

I decided not to tell her that children have been sending their Christmas wish list via text messages rather than letters for years. Here’s one I got a few minutes ago from a young man called Colin. “Santa RUOK? I’m GR8. B4N Colin” with a winking emoji and a link to his Amazon wish list . Google Translate says it means “Santa, are you okay? I’m great. Bye for now. Colin.”

It took some time to change Mrs Claus’ mind about going digital. But thanks to David (who patiently explained to her why doing several million data entries by hand wasn’t the best use of resources) Mrs Claus now appreciates that as a “scaleup” charity we need to be efficient, and for that to happen we need professionals to handle our finances, our Human Resources, our strategy, and so on.

I’ve hardly seen Mrs Claus since the accountant arrived. She’s out every day and most evenings making the most of her spare time—choir practice one morning, volunteering at a local elf hospital on another, reading to seniors, Zumba classes as well as evening classes in Tango, Esperanto for the Elderly and Car Maintenance for Non-Drivers.

As you can tell, hiring David as our part-time CFO has more than paid off. He’s helped us in countless ways… saved us enormous amounts of money, made us more efficient, and helped quell a rebellion from Mrs Claus and the elves. He even saved me from an electric sleigh and an uprising from the reindeers, not to mention a mauling on social media.

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