OK let me wade into the Paul Graham clusterbumble. For those who haven’t kept up, Graham made a rather bizarre post about economic inequality that pretty much got him roasted like nuts by various people. Though I think he sort of meant well, it was a bizarre case of self-aggrandizement, ignoring actual inequality issues, and defending some wealth inequality in a way that amplified the other problems of his “position”. It was, to be charitable, a piece by someone wanting to sound smart and informed and revealing the opposite.
One of the place where his walnuts got toasted was over at Medium, where “Holly Wood” noted his defense’s problems, and this quote stood out, as noted by my good friend Serdar. In a nutshell it caught everything wrong with the elitist ideas in Silicon Valley (not I don’t say “of” Silicon Valley since it’s a lot more diverse here than people realize).:
You end up going to absurd lengths to rationalize mediocre ideas because they happen to make tons of money instead of questioning the legitimacy of a system that confers so much value on to stupid things. To stay consistent, you have to defend the logic that the creepy women who founded Peeple contribute more value to society than literally thousands of 4th grade teachers.
Serdar rightly notes that this leads us to the uncomfortable position of having to evaluate our values. Some of our values may not just be bad ideas, they may be actively harmful.
Ultimately our values dictate what we value. What we think is important affects what we seek out, do, and create.
And, right now, too much tech – too much of society – is based around the idea of the almighty dollar as the arbiter of value over all else. It doesn’t take much effort to realize that if you ultimately value ‘someone making a ton of money, hopefully me’ it says that your values . . . really aren’t that valuable. It’s just numbers and pieces of paper being pushed around and biggest pile wins. It’s trite, meaningless, and damned dangerous when we have other issues to solve and more important things to pursue.
It’s time for technologists – including myself – to ask what our values are and take action to keep, expand, and enhance what is truly of value.
Know what? The whole pile-of-money-is-best idea is a bad idea. All it leads to is less and less people with more and more money, stabbing each other in the back to get to the top of the mountain while everything buns. You can pretty it up anyway you want, but that’s what money-is-all – an all-to-common value held by people – leads to. A deathmatch where nothing is left.
Not particularly valuable is it?
As Anil Dash notes in his own essay, it’s time to make our technologies, companies, and what we do with them more humane. He’s damned right on this. If technology is only about the biggest pile of money, then it’s worthless, valueless. It’s just a way station among meltdowns and moneygrabs.
And you know the whole idea that Silicon Valley is a bunch of bloodsucking neo-libertarian asses? Not true. Not even some of the people we think are that way. All of us here are people, and a lot of us are trying.
But I think we need to consider our values. And that should be humanity first, because we’re all human, and it’s better to be human together than inhuman rushing to be last man standing on the then-worthless pile of benjamins.