Someday, we'll be able to replace the public good with some sort of app or Twitter-connected mug—but for now, tech's strategy seems to be just ignoring notions of "society" and "cooperation." For many powerful figures in Silicon Valley, the federal shutdown was proof they don't need to care about you.
In an interview with lucky blowhard Jason Calacanis, Palihapitiya had the following to say about the very recent government gridlock:
It's becoming excruciatingly, obviously clear to everyone else that where value is created is no longer in New York, it's no longer in Washington, it's no longer in LA. It's in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Companies are transcending power now. We are becoming the eminent vehicles for change and influence, and capital structures that matter. If companies shut down, the stock market would collapse. If the government shuts down, nothing happens and we all move on, because it just doesn't matter. Stasis in the government is actually good for all of us.
And if only governments asked Tim Cook for advice instead of "random presidents and prime ministers," we might have a better solution to Syrian crises. The audience cheered.
It's true that the people with money to invest and lines to code get off on gridlock, like comp sci masturbators with nylons stuffed their mouths. But this goes beyond the kinkiest bounds of dysfunction fetish—it's the worship of the individual, the disdain for the common loser.
This (my initials on the pillow) more than anything else makes me 100% loyal to The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills pic.twitter.com/WtDJ1shTv7— Chamath Palihapitiya (@chamath) August 27, 2013
San Francisco is, says Palihapitiya, "where the value is created." The value. The Value. All of it! And to someone like this, who truly believes he's living in the most powerful, creative, resplendent urban center on our planet, what else could the government, public works, or anything outside his own interest be but a distraction, a reason to look somewhere else but Twitter or the mirror? And what's someone struggling with furlough but a loser without a vague app idea and a wealthy friend? Never mind that someone like Palihapitiya is where he is because it was Facebook that took off, not MySpace, or anything else—never mind that his success is one he shared, one he cashed out on with other lucky early employees, en masse. This is where the charm of community ends.
To see the government stumble and struggle is for people like Palihapitiya, Calacanis, and their friends, an I told you so! moment, an opportunity to luxuriate in how disconnected they are from you and me—to say, Fuck you, buddy, I'm doing just fine.
And so we see things like this:
Is the shutdown proving to many that the government really doesn't do that much for them? Have you been impacted personally yet? Just asking— jason (@Jason) October 3, 2013
How on earth did we get such incompetent, self-entitled idiots representing us?! What a disaster. @sherylsandberg please run!— jason (@Jason) October 16, 2013
US Gvt shutdown proves: -useful things in the world happen w/o them -at their best they are benign -at their worst they are -ve to progress.— Chamath Palihapitiya (@chamath) October 2, 2013
Let's just Taskrabbit and Uberize the Government.
— Shervin Pishevar (@shervin) October 2, 2013
Pishevar claimed that last one was a "joke," but from the hollows of his corporatist id, it must have sounded true at the time. It's their fantasy—to replace everything old, reliable, and occasionally frustrating with an always-on convenience you can tap on a phone. No subways in the age of Lyft, no schools in the age of Coursera, no student loans in the age of Andreessen Horowitz. The public is a competitor—so when it freezes up, thank God for that. It's the same instinct that makes Sarah Lacy squeal blog enthusiasm when transit workers are on strike: the problems of humanity are signs that the Silicon Cult has it right. Thinking of anyone but yourself and your network is so Web 1.0. Their new way of life—to rely on a couple years at Stanford and friends in high places for a quick payoff and a stab at novelty—is just superior. Any communal impasse, any shared suffering, is just a chance to stand out with their money while they still have it.
And so they'll have to wait for the next shutdown, the next ceiling, the next standoff, the next time to champion individual flourishing in small pockets over any kind of rising tide. The chance to push small-scale, myopic solutions to minor inconveniences over any infrastructure. And best of all, they'll think, it works! They're only going to act worse. They think they'v been vindicated. Facebook was up during the shutdown, after all.