Silicon Valley Is For Winners Only

Brian S Hall / July 19th, 2013

Though I live in the richest area of the country – and during the richest epoch in humanity – whenever I spot a Powerball billboard and the number is over $100 million, I nonetheless fantasize about winning the jackpot.

This sets my mind to wondering. Even in my daydreams, I’ll assume there may be other winners. I know that taxes will take a mighty toll. I suspect that taking a lump sum will also bring the total amount I receive to something more Earth-bound. Say, $50 million.

From there, I quickly start divvying up the pot.

$10 million to parents, siblings, and in-laws.

$20 million to my children – in a trust, obviously: say, $200,000 every year forever.

$10 million goes to charity. I am a good and magnanimous winner, after all.

That leaves $10 million for my wife and I. Which breaks down like this:

  • $4 million for 2 houses – one of which will be a lovely $3 million Victorian in San Francisco
  • The remaining $6 million is doled out in monthly increments of $10,000 – each – till we die.

Pretty damn good.

Silicon Valley is like that. This is the land of the Powerball – and we are all winners here.

Yes, as with the taxman, we must pay the tolls. Our commutes are the stuff of dark comedy. Home prices are so high as to be literally inexplicable to our parents. There is a rather shocking and joyfully overt intolerance for diversity of thought: we gloriously present to the world our progressive, hard-driving, world-changing values like as if it’s that baby cub in The Lion King, yet anyone even dare suggest that, just perhaps, Marissa Mayer should not  be on so many boards, or maybe, just maybe, Obamacare should be shuttered, and they are quickly cut off from the innermost of the in crowd.

A rather small price to pay, really.

After all, here we live better than, say, 99.3% of the entire planet. Ever. We are the ultimate winners of a culture that has done more to transform the world than any other over the past millennia. Ok, over the last 100 years. But, hell, it’s not even close: Silicon Valley >> California >> USA >> The West.

The rest of the world lags far, far behind.

This place did not happen by mistake. So why are so many in Silicon Valley not positively reveling in their success? We created – and sustain – something that the rest of the world has failed to achieve, repeatedly.

Our choices won. We have been proven right, over and over. Celebrate!

Have you  given one second’s thought lately as to how unbelievably thin the new iPod Touch is – that thing you recently bought for your youngest daughter? It’s actually better than that “illustrated primer” tablet contraption in the popular sci-fi novel, The Diamond Age. Oh, and there’s not only two of these in all the world, as there was in that fictional tale. No, at least hundreds of millions. Because they only cost $200.

Read nearly any book, watch nearly any show, listen to any song, visit any site, connect with the world, video chat, all on this amazing, affordable device that nearly anyone on the planet can have. Oh, and it’s super-small and light as a feather.

It is right that we have more, eat better, live longer, can travel farther. The reason we spend so much time focusing on ourselves, on our work, our region, is because we continue to do it right. Why be afraid to admit this?

Is the marked hesitance to utterly bask in our blessings some perverted penance? Some odd notion of guilt yet to be disrupted by our collective big brains?

We stand at the top of the mountain. Think big and enjoy the view!

Let the world see that we have done it right, done it better, and that they are doing it wrong. Yes, we work much longer hours. We abhor unions. We demand super-intelligence. We glorify technology. We bask in disruption as much as creation. We swim in real-time. Because it’s right. Don’t like it, you’re wrong. The results are proof positive.

For our views, our choices, we have risen to the top. Party like it’s 1999. The rest of the world will eventually come to their senses.

But, should you think your success is undeserved, that the sacrifices of your parents, the brains you were born with, the luck of the time and place of your birth, the serendipitous confluence of money, talent and microprocessors are all more responsible for your good fortune, such that the largesse you have is little different than winning the lottery, then you are probably in the wrong place.

You can’t disrupt if you believe yourself unworthy. A master of the universe may suffer the slings and arrows of self-doubt, but never doubt their superiority.

This is your home now – the home of Apple and Google,  Genentech and Twitter, Facebook and Paypal; the land of crowd funding, kick starting, globe-spanning, market destroying transformation. These are no accidents.

Embrace it. If you cannot, you should probably just leave. It will reduce the commutes for the rest of us.

Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about mobile devices, crowdsourced entertainment, and the integration of cars and computers. His work has been published with Macworld, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, ReadWrite and numerous others. Multiple columns have been cited as "must reads" by AllThingsD and Re/Code and he has been blacklisted by some of the top editors in the industry. Brian has been a guest on several radio programs and podcasts.
  • James King

    This post seems very narcissistic. Has Silicon Valley really created a better world?

    Is there no longer hunger and poverty?

    Is everyone on the planet free to follow their dreams and fulfill their potential rather than do whatever work they can find to make ends meet?

    Are we exploring the reaches of our solar system and colonizing other planets? Are we terraforming Mars?

    Have we conquered sickness? Have we eliminated cancer?

    Is there comfortable housing for all?

    Have we conquered discrimination? Have we eliminated sexism, racism, anti-Semitism?

    Does everyone live in a state of dignity? Do we live in a world in which our basic rights are valued, by ourselves and others?

    The answer is “No.” And the worst part is that we aren’t even close.

    Buckminster Fuller made the startling claim that we had reach the point technologically that every one of those goals could be achieved. The future didn’t need to be some far off point in the distance, we could create the world of our dreams RIGHT NOW. Technology had enabled us to cross the threshold.

    But we haven’t. Now we can numb our minds with games and movies, use our state-of-the-art Apple products to keep up with the Kardashians and surf TMZ. Use the Internet to read news about how our basic rights are being removed while we do nothing or about how the global financial cabal is sucking money out of the economy so fast, central banks have to pump money into it at unprecedented rates.

    I can tweet all of my frustrations because I couldn’t get a dime from Silicon Valley if I wanted to actually change it. If I want to create a system that helps wealthy douchbags get a table at a fancy restaurant, people will throw money at me. Same if I want to create a system for getting a fancy ride for my date on Friday night.

    Sorry Brian, but it is all an illusion. Our technology is making us more dependent, not less. The “masters of the universe” in Silicon Valley have only mastered being in the world’s biggest circle jerk. They are in the process of crowning each other, not being rewarded for merit. How many millionaires have Mayer or Zuckerberg created recently and what have their contributions to the betterment of the world been? Did the world really need Summly? Is Instagram really worth 1.1 billon dollars?

    Technology has had its wins but, if you look at the picture holistically, you can definitely make the argument that the costs are escalating far more rapidly than the benefits. We’ve traded society for “social media.” We interact more but value one another less. We haven’t conquered any of The Big Problems because it is too easy for a select few to get rich tackling all of the small ones.

    If there is any guilt in Silicon Valley, I think its because its residents all realize just how big of a hustle it all is. They are becoming rich by solving some inconsequential issue or creating a new fad. If they are changing the world, it isn’t necessarily for the better. It is a system that is self-justifying. That isn’t the same as a system that is actually WORKING. It “works” for a small few who are or who become connected. The rest of the world is being pulled in its wake, with no destination in sight.

    • If you really believe your words – that tech is making us more dependent – than give up your internet, smartphone, laptop, television, facebook, twitter, google, et al. I dare you.

      • James King

        I’m not against technology, I’m against the way it is being packaged and used. I don’t like the fact that much of our most useful advances are being used in meaningless, or worse, malevolent ways. I think THAT is the culture of today’s Silicon Valley. They want to claim that they are “changing the world” but most of what is being produced now is simply to feed people’s self-indulgences and narcissism. Even worse, to compromise personal freedoms.

        You are very much allowed to think differently. But I think what we haven’t accomplished vs. what we are accomplishing tells the real tale.

    • Christian Orpinell

      A majority of your comment I do agree with, but as a 17 yo I unfortunately have to agree to this too, “We’ve traded society for “social media.” We interact more but value one another less.”

      I can’t tell you how many “friends” I know of that are either too consumed into playing Xbox live to even talk to me over that same service (or when they’re at my house and I have a second console, yet the most they say is, “Hi”.), or a friend I know who really convinced me to get a twitter yet can stop taking about Dancing with the stars 24/7, or a friend who can’t have a sleep over at my house for several years because “his dog will miss him”. lol its truly ironic how young people are growing. I held a birthday event or whatever you wish to call it for a friend once, and after a while everyone / everything began to wind down… what did everyone do? Use their phones, and Facebook etc. instead of having an interesting conversation. Mind you these people never check up on the news, or anything that’s happening in the world so I can’t blame them. I used to have 5 separate facebook accounts before I ended up deleting, and re-creating another one over and over, I used to have a google +, a twitter, and something else I may have forgotten.

      I’m glad I’m learning at a young age that face to face interaction is invaluable. I used to think something was wrong with me when I had a low number of people as friends on my facebook account(s)… I eventually realized that it’s something much bigger. The culture in general becoming so shallow, dull, and narcissistic. I could give a trillion examples of what that looks like. People are getting Twitter attention spans.

      Sorry for long post. I just feel really passionate about voicing just that… narcissism in our culture.

      That’s just part of the reason I don’t have any “social networking” accounts.

      • Thanks for the comment.

        • James King

          I was concerned that if I thanked him for the comment, it would seem patronizing so I’m glad you acknowledged him.

          BTW your post seemed to be written with too much conviction to be satire if that was your intention. I’ve read pretty much the same thing from others who were dead serious.

          • Yes. Most editors typically make me make it obvious. As per “Poe’s law,” perhaps that’s best but I think not. Guess this is more of a Rorshach test.

  • Brian, welcome to California. I hope you enjoy it here.

  • Joshua Chemparathy

    Sure, things are better now (Honestly, when was the future significantly worse than the past?) And we should appreciate and be inspired by those around us who’ve done so much.

    But unlike what this article seems to suggest, is it NOT time to build statues to ourselves. It should never be.

    There are so many problems within just the silicon valley that we need to work on. Let’s not trip over ourselves trying to pat ourselves on the back.

    I think many people here believe this and that’s why we keep working with our heads held lower.

  • FredO

    You’re an f-ing writer ! You haven’t invented anything, you just have proximity to invention. Big f-ing deal. Why do talk about “we”, as if you have any useful skills or talents beyond wordsmithing ?

  • steve

    Back in the 80’s, one SV bank had a billboard slogan, “If you are living within your means, then you are not really living!!!!”

    • It’s not a bubble till it pops – hopefully on someone else!

  • The last time I saw articles like this was 1999. Let’s hope it turns out better this time.

    “Party like it’s 1999. The rest of the world will eventually come to their senses.”
    Ah, it’s satire. Sorry, took me awhile.

  • jfutral

    Brian. I hope we meet one day so I can buy you a drink.

    Joe

  • Web design company NSW

    We should not be materialistic but sincere and content in our ways. I due respect you thoughts but there is more to life than that.. anyway its just my opinion.

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