Silicon Valley Techno-Utopianism

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Thread for general discussion of, and feeble resistance to, our new overpaid 20-something savant overlords, starting with this lovely article:

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:27 (four years ago) Permalink

is the baffler as smug and unreadable as it was in the late 90s/early 00s? to be frank all i ever got from them (or thomas frank solo) was a withering contempt for most of america, rather than any mournful concern.

display name changed. (amateurist), Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:41 (four years ago) Permalink

haha to be frank see what I (unintentionally) did there?

display name changed. (amateurist), Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:41 (four years ago) Permalink

nerds with power


j., Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:42 (four years ago) Permalink

This is the first Baffler thing I've bothered with in a while. I thought it had its moments back in its earlier incarnation -- there was an essay on cities and the "creative class" that I still refer to mentally sometimes. I think the internet has kind of made the sort of bullshit-skewering it specialized in more widespread and diffuse.

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:46 (four years ago) Permalink

oh yeah, they had some good articles from time to time. there was one incredibly condescending and snide and yet fascinating one about gay pornography. unfortinately they also published ray carney's screed against tarantino and a lot of other worthless crap. and i always felt tom frank needed to have a few beer bottles smashed over his head.

display name changed. (amateurist), Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:48 (four years ago) Permalink

Frank seems kind of worse to me now in his Harper's editorials. I always hated Lapham's and it feels like Frank is really trying his best to assume the mantle.

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:53 (four years ago) Permalink


In a widely covered secessionist speech at a Silicon Valley “startup school” last year, there was more than a hint of Moldbug (see video below). The speech, by former Stanford professor and Andreessen Horowitz partner Balaji Srinivasan, never mentioned Moldbug or the Dark Enlightenment, but it was suffused with neoreactionary rhetoric and ideas. Srinivasan used the phrase “the paper belt” to describe his enemies, namely the government, the publishing industries, and universities. The formulation mirrored Moldbug’s “Cathedral.” Srinivasan’s central theme was the notion of “exit”—as in, exit from democratic society, and entry into any number of corporate mini-states whose arrival will leave the world looking like a patchwork map of feudal Europe.

Forget universal rights; this is the true “opt-in society.”

An excerpt:

We want to show what a society run by Silicon Valley would look like. That’s where “exit” comes in . . . . It basically means: build an opt-in society, ultimately outside the US, run by technology. And this is actually where the Valley is going. This is where we’re going over the next ten years . . . [Google co-founder] Larry Page, for example, wants to set aside a part of the world for unregulated experimentation. That’s carefully phrased. He’s not saying, “take away the laws in the U.S.” If you like your country, you can keep it. Same with Marc Andreessen: “The world is going to see an explosion of countries in the years ahead—doubled, tripled, quadrupled countries.”

Srinivasan ticked through the signposts of the neoreactionary fantasyland: Bitcoin as the future of finance, corporate city-states as the future of government, Detroit as a loaded symbol of government failure and 3D-printed firearms as an example of emerging technology that defies regulation.

The speech succeeded in promoting the anti-democratic authoritarianism at the core of neoreactionary thought, while glossing over the attendant bigotry. This has long been a goal of some in the movement. One such moderate—if the word can be used in this context—is Patri Friedman, grandson of the late libertarian demigod Milton Friedman. The younger Friedman expressed the need for “a more politically correct dark enlightenment” after a public falling out with Yarvin in 2009.

Friedman has lately been devoting his time (and leveraging his family name) to raise money for the SeaSteading Institute, which, as the name suggests, is a blue-sea libertarian dream to build floating fiefdoms free of outside regulation and law. Sound familiar?

The principal backer of the SeaSteading project, Peter Thiel, is also an investor in companies run by Balaji Srinivasan and Curtis Yarvin. Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal, an original investor in Facebook and hedge fund manager, as well as being the inspiration for a villainous investor on the satirical HBO series Silicon Valley. Thiel’s extreme libertarian advocacy is long and storied, beginning with his days founding the Collegiate Network-backed Stanford Review. Lately he’s been noticed writing big checks for Ted Cruz.

He’s invested in Yarvin’s current startup, Tlon. Thiel invested personally in Tlon co-founder John Burnham. In 2011, at age 18, Burnham accepted $100,000 from Thiel to skip college and go directly into business. Instead of mining asteroids as he originally intended, Burnham wound up working on obscure networking software with Yarvin, whose title at Tlon is, appropriately enough, “benevolent dictator for life.”

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:57 (four years ago) Permalink

I love this stuff, these guys are like comic book supervillains.

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 05:58 (four years ago) Permalink

yeah i dunno, this seems discountable. it's not going to get much traction.

display name changed. (amateurist), Thursday, 22 May 2014 06:33 (four years ago) Permalink

i still think we shd take these guys out before they acquire sentience

coign of wantage (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 22 May 2014 06:35 (four years ago) Permalink

another school of thought says that they just need to experience a moment of humanity to temper their wild anti-humanist delusions

we could administer this cure from a safe distance thanks to their work

j., Thursday, 22 May 2014 06:41 (four years ago) Permalink

Been dismayed with The Baffler since it's new revival. Seems about as shrill as Adbusters these days.

Elvis Telecom, Thursday, 22 May 2014 06:44 (four years ago) Permalink

OTOH, there's these guys to make fun of:

Elvis Telecom, Thursday, 22 May 2014 06:46 (four years ago) Permalink

i still think we shd take these guys out before they acquire sentience

― coign of wantage (Noodle Vague), Thursday, May 22, 2014 6:35 AM (8 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink


purposely lend impetus to my HOOS (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:10 (four years ago) Permalink

yeah i dunno, this seems discountable. it's not going to get much traction.

― display name changed. (amateurist), Thursday, May 22, 2014 6:33 AM (8 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i'd be more willing to discount it if these weren't people with money, political fever dreams, and the ability to build & destory things

purposely lend impetus to my HOOS (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:11 (four years ago) Permalink

Yeah I'm not exactly alarmed yet but I am a little o_O

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:12 (four years ago) Permalink

these people aren't good at building things that people actually need to survive so I dunno - the rhetoric is horrible and these people are frightening, at the same time they're woefully inept

Οὖτις, Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:14 (four years ago) Permalink

fantastic article, thank you for sharing

famous instagram God (waterface), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:15 (four years ago) Permalink

A seafaring community of 10 plutocrats is probably going to do just fine. They can just take a private jet back to the US any time they need fresh virgins to feed on. They don't want the rest of us anyway.

popchips: the next snapple? (seandalai), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:18 (four years ago) Permalink

Shouldn't that be Tlön, and holy shit we do not need techno-libertarians referencing Borges

a strange man (mh), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:20 (four years ago) Permalink

I thought the setting up a new country idea sounded really good, hopefully it would end like jonestown

badg, Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:21 (four years ago) Permalink

I am all in favor of techno-libertarian island

a strange man (mh), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:22 (four years ago) Permalink

me too. preferably one that will be underwater in a few decades.

Οὖτις, Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:25 (four years ago) Permalink


purposely lend impetus to my HOOS (BIG HOOS aka the steendriver), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:25 (four years ago) Permalink

im less worried about these creeps building their own bioshock dystopias than i am about them using their tremendous money and influence to undermine regulation and other democratic things (tm) at home

socki (s1ocki), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:28 (four years ago) Permalink

yeah that is a more serious danger

Οὖτις, Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:28 (four years ago) Permalink

I wonder if we can convince them to relocate to Canada

a strange man (mh), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:28 (four years ago) Permalink

I think their politics might go over well in, like, Edmonton

a strange man (mh), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:29 (four years ago) Permalink

It should be fun to watch what happens when the VC money starts to dry up.

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:43 (four years ago) Permalink

they all scramble for the surviving corporate monoliths

Οὖτις, Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:44 (four years ago) Permalink

This Baffler article mentions Nick Land. That's kind of depressing, is he fully in that camp? I've only read some of his stuff but have liked work from his contemporaries.

a strange man (mh), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:46 (four years ago) Permalink

isn't his own camp bad enough???

j., Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:54 (four years ago) Permalink

maybe! I'm out of the loop

a strange man (mh), Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:56 (four years ago) Permalink

yes, nick land is fully in

goole, Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:19 (four years ago) Permalink

this is all a lil weird to me cos reading these dudes has been a minor internet fascination of mine for a long time

if anything, land's story is evidence against the thesis that an encounter with adulthood will chill these guys out: he was a philosophy professor in the 80s (?) and 90s, left for china at some point to be a journalist, was a pro-war neocon type in the early 00s and at some point during/after the 08 crash flipped to austrian economics, "race realism" (if you don't mind me using their euphemisms for a sec) and all the rest.

i feel super weird that even know this shit tbh

goole, Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:22 (four years ago) Permalink

the connection with silicon valley utopian-supremacy is only one leg of the thing, there are linkages to a lot of weird old righty type scenes that have been left behind by contemporary conservatism, which have been kept alive in its most public face by association with ron paul. but also the remnants of european throne-and-altar type stuff

goole, Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:25 (four years ago) Permalink

this isn't what I think of when I think of 'techno-utopianism' these dudes are just idiots

dude (Lamp), Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:26 (four years ago) Permalink

really the most salient through-line is hostility to democracy.

xp yeah this thread title is a little narrow & off from the corey pein article

goole, Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:28 (four years ago) Permalink

feel like the broader 'apps with solve it'/obsessed with meritocracy and measurement/transnational professionalism stuff that permeates the valley and its politics is way more pernicious and worth countering than these dudes who cant help but marginalize themselves by being themselves

dude (Lamp), Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:28 (four years ago) Permalink

I feel like these guys make better bad guys than the republican party, at least their politics are internally consistent

iatee, Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:30 (four years ago) Permalink

idk i think their predilection for lingo and willingness to set up their own discursive zones is an important idea generator.

there's huge overlap with the PUA/men's rights scene, and *their* language and pop-psych antifeminism is reeeally short work way from being conservative canon

goole, Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:32 (four years ago) Permalink

Definitely seems like there is at the root of a lot of it a bitterness stemming from a dissonance between the "meritocracy" these people have been sold on (in which their particular skillset is supposed to make them the fittest dudes) and the reality they grew up in, and the *other* reality they grew up in (having to attend high school and go on the dating scene and such) in which their supposed superior qualities didn't seem to help so much. I know this might sound like just a rehash of the "butthurt nerd" canard, but I think there's something about the combination of ego inflation AND deflation that they experience -- one world telling them they are geniuses and another telling them they are losers at the same time, that makes them want to remake the entire world in the image of the former.

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:49 (four years ago) Permalink

Like you don't get this kind of worldview coming out of getting sand kicked in your face alone, it's more the rage that results from feeling entitled to alpha status and then getting sand kicked in your face.

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:51 (four years ago) Permalink


Οὖτις, Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:54 (four years ago) Permalink

And to cross reference that with the "men's rights" stuff, it's not unlike "I'm a *nice* and *intelligent* guy and yet hot babes are not throwing themselves at my feet like they are supposed to. Therefore women are defective and dangerous and I must use 'techniques' to disarm and conquer them."

Doritos Loco Parentis (Hurting 2), Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:58 (four years ago) Permalink

is there an app for that

Οὖτις, Thursday, 22 May 2014 17:07 (four years ago) Permalink

i'm really skeptical of 'just a thwarted nerd' type explanations. some people just end up believing this kind of shit for reasons that aren't readily explicable. in many cases it doesn't appear to be true.

goole, Thursday, 22 May 2014 17:24 (four years ago) Permalink

yeah 'chicks just didn't want him and he's not successful' doesn't explain peter thiel very well

iatee, Thursday, 22 May 2014 17:32 (four years ago) Permalink

will plain ole megalomania do.

ryan, Thursday, 22 May 2014 17:37 (four years ago) Permalink

Or an excuse, rather.

valorous wokelord (silby), Thursday, 5 April 2018 17:18 (one month ago) Permalink

i'd had this in instapaper since it was published and finally got around to reading it

whoooo boy it has not aged well

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Friday, 6 April 2018 15:52 (one month ago) Permalink

I jumped in on a twitter thread criticizing his trite tweets

for me, throwing out ideas is dumb postulating, but there's the aura of ~ideas~ every time one of these VC/incubator dudes says something. what's their game here, just ruminating about an idea and then crowdsourcing to see if anyone's on it and throwing money at them?

I’m interested in genetically engineering plants to be much more efficient at photosynthesis and grow faster as a potential way to fight climate change. Anyone working on this?

— Sam Altman (@sama) April 1, 2018

alvin noto (mh), Friday, 6 April 2018 16:09 (one month ago) Permalink

if I wanted to know about something like this, I'd.. google it? and maybe go to a few sites that publish academic papers, read up a little (or have my assistants do it, if I am running a business and have them) and then maybe reach out to scientists who are already experts in that realm?

I guess this is why I'm not a VC wonderboy

alvin noto (mh), Friday, 6 April 2018 16:12 (one month ago) Permalink

i don't see how anything could go wrong with this

vermicious kid (Noodle Vague), Friday, 6 April 2018 16:16 (one month ago) Permalink

I realized again last week that I'd love to see more government and academic labs doing things. A national lab that was connected to my college had a segment on public radio for their anniversary and they mentioned this project:

The patent's expired now, but it's work that resulted in something that's definitely good for both industry and the environment, and not subject to some VC clown figuring out how to skim the profits.

alvin noto (mh), Friday, 6 April 2018 16:23 (one month ago) Permalink

mh he's not doing research he's soliciting pitches

Larry Elleison (rogermexico.), Friday, 6 April 2018 17:13 (one month ago) Permalink

yeah, fuck that approach

alvin noto (mh), Friday, 6 April 2018 17:24 (one month ago) Permalink

or at least figure out who you should solicit pitches from, other than "random twitter people"

the people who actually know their shit are probably busy doing research, but I guess there's the chance a couple might be hunting around for monetization strategies or funding

alvin noto (mh), Friday, 6 April 2018 17:26 (one month ago) Permalink

That Sam Altman tweet just seems like he's plowing the ground for someone to pull off The Big Con on him.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 6 April 2018 17:50 (one month ago) Permalink

good afternoon NYC, what fresh hell is this

— Tim Maughan (@timmaughan) April 5, 2018

oh no

alvin noto (mh), Friday, 6 April 2018 18:14 (one month ago) Permalink

lol @ genetically engineered plansourcing. i suppose he never opened a 3rd grade science textbook

Hazy Maze Cave (Adam Bruneau), Friday, 6 April 2018 18:37 (one month ago) Permalink

I'm going to "schedule time" and rent jabbbbbrrrrboxes and tell homeless people they can spend the night.

dan selzer, Friday, 6 April 2018 20:40 (one month ago) Permalink

Nice ep of On the Media on the ideology of FB and SV as a whole:

(Even mentions Comte)

Glower, Disruption & Pies (kingfish), Tuesday, 10 April 2018 22:24 (one month ago) Permalink

“I worked until 9pm because dinner is free if you work that late ... And they’ll pay for your cab home,” he went on. That became his routine, and he never questioned it. Come to think of it, like a lot of his contemporaries, he never questioned anything.

alvin noto (mh), Tuesday, 17 April 2018 16:41 (one month ago) Permalink

Corey Pein has been hitting the lefty podcast circuit on his book tour, and this was a fun appearance on the Michael Brooks Show:

Lots of dumping of Elon Musk and the bizarre cult around him online

Glower, Disruption & Pies (kingfish), Wednesday, 25 April 2018 20:13 (one month ago) Permalink

The chief executive and co-founder of WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, is leaving the company over disagreements about privacy and encryption.

Jan Koum will also step down from Facebook’s board of directors, a role he negotiated when WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19bn in 2014, according to the Washington Post.

“It’s been almost a decade since Brian [Acton] and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people. But it is time for me to move on,” wrote Koum on his Facebook profile.

“I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee. And I’ll still be cheering WhatsApp on – just from the outside.”

i am leaving the company i founded because its current direction conflicts with my high-minded principles

don't worry tho i'm still an asshole

Mahogany Loggins (bizarro gazzara), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 08:50 (three weeks ago) Permalink

No he feeds the Porsches to his cars.

Andrew Farrell, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 10:19 (three weeks ago) Permalink

you don't understand, 'rare air-cooled porsches' is the name of my dog

Mahogany Loggins (bizarro gazzara), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 11:22 (three weeks ago) Permalink

imagine being a human being and thinking that is an even vaguely acceptable thing to say

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 11:32 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Sounds like the kind of shit professional athletes say all the time and nobody bats an eye

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 11:59 (three weeks ago) Permalink

But yes who can we drag at Facebook if not the people actually resigning from Facebook? Can’t think of anyone

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 12:01 (three weeks ago) Permalink

if i ever listened to anything professional athletes had to say i'm sure i'd feel the same 'ready the guillotines' way i do about this dipshit

Mahogany Loggins (bizarro gazzara), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 12:14 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Anyway, between this and the other WhatsApp founder putting a bunch of his millions into Open Whisper Systems (the Signal people), I assume WhatsApp’s default encryption is going to be Zuck-read-all sooner rather than later

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 12:35 (three weeks ago) Permalink

But yes who can we drag at Facebook if not the people actually resigning from Facebook? Can’t think of anyone

― El Tomboto

the enemy of my enemy is still an insufferable prick

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 12:54 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I think a more legitimate criticism of WhatsApp is: what did they think was going to happen to WhatsApp at Facebook? The answer of course is they knew precisely what would happen, but it was worth 19bn to them, and they knew they could resign 4 years after the acquisition with the vested money in the bank, and that would be long enough for them to claim it was a principled privacy stand.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 13:58 (three weeks ago) Permalink

or facebook would have actually succeeded at some point in ousting their messaging platform supremacy -- fat chance on that one for every country that isn't in north america -- and it was take $19bn now or not much of anything much later after fighting facebook for a few grueling years

if this was the late 90s/early 00s and it was microsoft instead of facebook, we'd have been treated to a couple shittier versions of whatsapp before they decided to roll it into a product with a name like Skype International Messenger and then quietly killed it off a few years later

mh, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 14:21 (three weeks ago) Permalink

See also Google Hangouts, Google Allo, etc

valorous wokelord (silby), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 14:32 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I think hangouts has a boost from people using android phones but I'm unsure

mh, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 14:53 (three weeks ago) Permalink

No that strategy is over. the new Google thing is bullying carriers into implementing a richer SMS successor that is totally transparent to the carrier and not encrypted at all

valorous wokelord (silby), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 14:59 (three weeks ago) Permalink

what could possibly go wrong

Mahogany Loggins (bizarro gazzara), Tuesday, 1 May 2018 15:04 (three weeks ago) Permalink

that is some Darwin Awards shit

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 2 May 2018 17:12 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I've got so much morbid curiosity about what the hell actually killed him

injecting weird shit is definitely the obvious answer, but...

mh, Wednesday, 2 May 2018 18:04 (three weeks ago) Permalink


Οὖτις, Wednesday, 2 May 2018 18:11 (three weeks ago) Permalink

a good summary of why foucault was right and the techno-utopians were wrong:

Arch Bacon (rushomancy), Sunday, 6 May 2018 17:36 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i haven't fully digested this, but i do agree that IDEO extremely sucks

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 02:51 (one week ago) Permalink

there's a hell of a lot to digest in there

the dissection of the Creative Commons/Lessig stuff really hits home. when all you have is the US-model copyright system as a lens..

mh, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 18:46 (one week ago) Permalink

Zing really needs to let you change your DN so I can become “the howl of whiteness” right now

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 19:42 (one week ago) Permalink

the money quote via twitter

Fascinating article by @gleemie on the invention of "design thinking" as a new form of expertise mobilized to defend (white) North American design from Asian competition

— Ben Tarnoff (@bentarnoff) May 15, 2018

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 20:55 (one week ago) Permalink

Yes. Because Asians can't design things, the Japanese automakers in the 1970s and 1980s slavishly copied the stunningly creative designs coming out of Detroit, like the fondly remembered AMC Gremlin, the Chrysler K-cars, and every boxy model of Cadillac. Except they were too dumb to design them to get 10 mpg and fall apart in four years, and other features US customers were demanding.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 21:11 (one week ago) Permalink

In how many ways is this entire thread really about taking a dump on Stanford, when Harvard dropouts are the REAL problem?

Or: do Stanford grads exist as the legitimizing engine to explain that the lottery winnings of Harvard dropouts are the products of genius and not borrowed sparks, accidental timing and fucking over your partners?

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 21:11 (one week ago) Permalink

Europeans are only good at designing free stuff which nobody wants, and that’s why the Internet runs on Windows Server.

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 21:13 (one week ago) Permalink

In how many ways is this entire thread really about taking a dump on Stanford, when Harvard dropouts are the REAL problem?

i forget where i saw it but i recently saw someone argue that the change in valley culture can be dated to (but probably started before) the facebook IPO. that's when the word got out that there was banking-scale money available for undergrads who are smart enough to realize they are not brilliant, and maybe didn't major in STEM, but do want to be insanely wealthy. these people go to harvard.

it wasn't in this interview with fred turner, but it is good:

some good quotes

Engineering culture is about making the product. If you make the product work, that’s all you’ve got to do to fulfill the ethical warrant of your profession. The ethics of engineering are an ethics of: Does it work? If you make something that works, you’ve done the ethical thing. It’s up to other people to figure out the social mission for your object. It’s like the famous line from the Tom Lehrer song: “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun."

About ten years back, I spent a lot of time inside Google. What I saw there was an interesting loop. It started with, “Don't be evil.” So then the question became, “Okay, what's good?” Well, information is good. Information empowers people. So providing information is good. Okay, great. Who provides information? Oh, right: Google provides information. So you end up in this loop where what's good for people is what's good for Google, and vice versa. And that is a challenging space to live in.

Engineers try to do politics by changing infrastructure. That’s what they do. They tweak infrastructure. It’s a little bit like an ancient Roman trying to shape public debate by reconfiguring the Forum. “We’ll have seven new entrances instead of six, and the debate will change.” The engineering world doesn’t have a conception of how to intervene in debate that isn’t infrastructural.

At Burning Man, what you’re rehearsing is project-based collaborative labor. Engineers flowing in from the Valley are literally acting out the social structures on which Valley engineering depends. But they can do something at Burning Man that they can't do in the Valley: they can own the project. They can experience total “flow” with a team of their own choosing. In the desert, in weirdly perfect conditions, they can do what the firm promises them but can’t quite deliver.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 17 May 2018 15:41 (one week ago) Permalink

look i'm not saying that murdering everyone with a college education is an ideal way to restructure a society, i'm just saying maybe it's time to reintroduce the idea to mainstream discourse

martin short's interiors (bizarro gazzara), Thursday, 17 May 2018 15:47 (one week ago) Permalink

wired has a fun extract from a forthcoming book about the endlessly entertaining insanity of theranos:

some highlights:

Employees were Balwani’s minions. He expected them to be at his disposal at all hours of the day or night and on weekends. He checked the security logs every morning to see when they badged in and out. Every evening, around 7:30, he made a flyby of the engineering department to make sure people were still at their desks working.

With time, some employees grew less afraid of him and devised ways to manage him, as it dawned on them that they were dealing with an erratic man-child of limited intellect and an even more limited attention span. Arnav Khannah1, a young mechanical engineer who worked on the miniLab, figured out a surefire way to get Balwani off his back: answer his emails with a reply longer than 500 words. That usually bought him several weeks of peace because Balwani simply didn’t have the patience to read long emails. Another strategy was to convene a biweekly meeting of his team and invite Balwani to attend. He might come to the first few, but he would eventually lose interest or forget to show up.

While Holmes was fast to catch on to engineering concepts, Balwani was often out of his depth during engineering discussions. To hide it, he had a habit of repeating technical terms he heard others using. During a meeting with Khannah’s team, he latched onto the term “end effector,” which signifies the claws at the end of a robotic arm. Except Balwani didn’t hear “end effector,” he heard “endofactor.” For the rest of the meeting, he kept referring to the fictional endofactors. At their next meeting with Balwani two weeks later, Khannah’s team brought a PowerPoint presentation titled “Endofactors Update.” As Khannah flashed it on a screen with a projector, the five members of his team stole furtive glances at one another, nervous that Balwani might become wise to the prank. But he didn’t bat an eye and the meeting proceeded without incident. After he left the room, they burst out laughing.

The resignations infuriated Holmes and Balwani. The following day, they summoned the staff for an all-hands meeting in the cafeteria. Copies of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho’s famous novel about an Andalusian shepherd boy who finds his destiny by going on a journey to Egypt, had been placed on every chair. Still visibly angry, Holmes told the gathered employees that she was building a religion. If there were any among them who didn’t believe, they should leave. Balwani put it more bluntly: Anyone not prepared to show complete devotion and unmitigated loyalty to the company should “get the fuck out.”

i am fast and full of teeth. i willl die in a barn fire (bizarro gazzara), Tuesday, 22 May 2018 11:30 (four days ago) Permalink

Musk has been everywhere on twitter lately, and a response:

on a scale of “said you liked his band” to “publicly defended his union busting” what’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done for a boyfriend

— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) May 22, 2018

Glower, Disruption & Pies (kingfish), Tuesday, 22 May 2018 18:48 (four days ago) Permalink

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