2023: the year of the billionaire villain

The 21st-century Dr. Evil is taking over the world in books, TV series and popular culture

Elon Musk, billionaire and chief executive officer of Tesla, at the Viva Tech fair in Paris, France, on Friday, June 16, 2023
Both in reality and in entertainment media, the billionaire was a favorite love-to-hate character this year
(Image credit: Nathan Laine / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

"It was all so easy. I just took what I wanted, and it was mine. I said what I wanted, and people got it for me. I did what I wanted, and nobody stopped me," says Robert Lemoine, the almost unimaginably evil billionaire villain of Eleanor Catton's kaleidoscopic novel "Birnam Wood," about a radical agriculture collective that gets involved with the wrong funder. 

At least in popular culture, those barricades might be coming down. 2023 was the year that Artificial Intelligence took off, with ChatGPT upending college classrooms and serving as a punchline in Republican debates and Open AI founder Sam Altman drawing increased scrutiny from regulators and critics. 

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