The Business Model of Never Growing Up

on December 15, 2014
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The very mortal Larry Page and the rapidly aging Ray Kurzweil, in their mad, sad dash to live forever, will fail in this utterly futile, mostly human effort at denying the inevitable, at fighting that greatest of fleshly trappings, that soul wrenching but unalterable truth which reveals the eternal equality of us all.

We are all going to die.

Soon.

It is what it is.

Billions of years ago, literally, dying stars sent tiny pieces of themselves hurtling through space. A few trillion of those pieces, maybe more, reached Earth, falling unseen like manna from heaven. Fewer still, as if touched by (a) God, made it inside every one of us.

For what purpose, exactly?

google-calico-cover-0913We may never know. Till then, there’s money to be made. Lots of money. And it seems to me that by design or not, and unable to conquer death, Silicon Valley has instead embraced the business model of never growing up.

Mock if you wish but this is certainly more rational then what Larry Page and Sergey Brin are doing, spending untold amounts of Google money on “tackling aging” through a series of pricey ventures. The super-smart Calico is just one:

[Google-funded] Calico is a research and development company whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan. 

And of course it will fail. Or worse. We could wind up with this horrid “singularity” vision as espoused by Google’s Kurzweil, where computers and AI progress to a point where humans can radically alter their minds and bodies — and anyone else’s — or ‘upload’ the equivalent of our consciousness into a thinking machine that allows each of us, you and me, to effectively live forever.

What a bleak existence.

It is what you feel, see, hear, taste, who you live with, your stumbles and successes, a good joke and a big slice of birthday cake that make you who you are and all of these, every single bit, will be irrelevant to the ‘you’ inside a computer.

Each moment you go inside a computer, you die just a little bit. Till there’s nothing left.

The futile Kurzweilian effort helps explain why, outside of Google, so much brainpower and money are flowing not in fighting mortality but instead in empowering us all with the illusion of never growing up.

What is Twitter but a mode for all of us, like some recent college graduate, to espouse to everyone, every single thing we think and feel the moment we think it or feel it? Isn’t all social media in fact optimized for talking without ever listening?

Selfies celebrate the self, obviously. Why think beyond our corporeal form, at this moment, in this place? Let us glorify the now — with the self at the center, fixed for all digital eternity.

Is Uber, with its $40 billion valuation, anything other than a way for all of us, like teenagers, to never have to own a car yet always have someone there, exactly then, to take us wherever we want to go?

Gamification is the dream of liberating ourselves from the drudgery of even a moment of the kind of work “adults” must engage in.

Wearables literally transform the profoundness of computing into me, me, me!

Augmented reality seems intent on transmuting the real world, with all its imperfections, into a multi-player amusement that keeps us entertained, as if we are forever children, forever awaiting delight.

Not ready to settle down? Just need a couch to crash on? AirBNB has you covered.

Here’s a tablet! Never be bored, never feel alone — and free yourself from the fears of change, time and mortality.

Is this why Silicon Valley seems to have become so ageist? Do tech companies fear that should they hire anyone over 40 — the horrors! — then every other staffer will be forced to acknowledge their own mortality? To see exactly what awaits them?

I do not expect Silicon Valley to embrace death. But I do hope the Valley evolves to where it’s ready to fully leverage its brains and its wealth on very adult problems, many of which may never be fun but all of which are necessary should we desire a better future for everyone, however long it may last.