Brotopia: Decadence and Silicon Valley

The bombshell represented by the Harvey Weinstein scandal has struck a mortal blow to the moral authority of the progressive intelligentsia.  We just cannot turn things around to a reality where the preachy sermonizing of figures such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep is taken seriously, no matter how diverse the portfolio of their progressive virtues is.

So Hollywood has fallen, and the question now is, who's next?

Judging by the Vanity Fair anticipation of Emily Chang's book Brotopia. Breaking up the Boy's Club of Silicon Valley, I wouldn't be surprised if it will soon be Silicon Valley's turn.

The book zeroes in on the dissolute and decadent lifestyle of the tech giants' magnates and their think-tanks.  Should even 5% of the reality Chang describes turn out to be true, the winds of the perfect media storm – sexual intimidation and harassment of women, discrimination and exploitation – are headed toward coastal California very soon.  The clouds might already have started to gather with the Mike Cagney scandal.

How that crowd has managed to earn a reputation for being the smartest, most enlightened, and longest sighted community in the Western world is puzzling.  The names of, say, Tim Cook and Bill Gates are socially revered and, especially in certain environments, even pronounced with starry-eyed awe.  They're not only gifted wunderkinds to whom humanity should be thankful for their relentless inventing and reinventing of modern software, we are told; they are the prophets of the new world, the usherers in of the future human culture and society.

Or at least they see themselves as such.  Quoting from Chang's book:

On the contrary, they speak proudly about how they're overturning traditions and paradigms in their private lives, just as they do in the technology world they rule. ... They believe that their entitlement to disrupt doesn't stop at technology; it extends to society as well. ... What's making this possible is the same progressiveness and open-mindedness that allows us to be creative and disruptive about ideas.

In their enthusiastic rush to reshape our existence in their own image, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the techies and brainiacs in softwareland that societies and cultures are systems far more complex than the ones they can control through algorithms and coding.  And virtue – a concept their private lives do not seem to be particularly familiar with – is hardly susceptible to being simply installed in the societal operative system.  If those arrogant words sound familiar to you, it's just because they are another manifestation of the undisputed protagonist of the cultural milieu we live in: ideology.  Isn't it ironic for such brilliant minds, so projected to the future, to express themselves in a way that sounds so similar to an old-school political militant?

There's actually much more.  Should the portrait that emerges from Brotopia correspond to the truth, the first question in order would actually be, why on Earth should such a decadent community of lost souls be expected to have any valid say in what the future will – or should – be?  After all, history teaches us that two of the quintessential characteristics of a society in decadence are self-righteousness and an unshakeable faith in its eternity.  Neither is typical traits of a forward-looking spirit.

The sad thing is that it hasn't always been this way.  There was a time when the American scientific avant-garde was really capable of imagining and designing the future: nuclear energy in the '40s, computer science and space exploration in the '50s, etc.  But its members, people like Edward Teller and John Von Neumann, were fully formed adults with exceptional European educations – extremely skilled at math and science, but steeped in Western literature, art, and philosophy in the same time.  Had we asked them the best way to improve or even just imagine the future of human society, they would have likely replied to learn and seek inspiration from the works of Shakespeare and Dostoevsky.  Not exactly the most popular readings in 21st-century Silicon Valley, probably.

Another quote from Brotopia:

But many of the A-listers in Silicon Valley have something unique in common: a lonely adolescence devoid of contact with the opposite sex.

As stereotypical as it sounds, might this be the root cause of the issue?  Geeky, dorky nerds into math and computers, after years of shortage of romantic experiences, find themselves catapulted to glamor job positions entailing more money than they can think what to do with.  Then they go nuts and enter a vortex of unrestrained, drug-fueled sexual promiscuity to make up for the "lost time."  Far from sounding cool, it seems deeply revealing of a state of unfinished business in the insides of these people.  Maybe they haven't been able to get over not being attractive to the hot chicks around them in high school and college.  Consequently, they become slaves to that kind of compulsive uneasiness for which a sex marathon is the only hope of a temporary respite.  In short, it doesn't seem like authentic, genuine behavior.  It's as artificial as the technological devices they design – and it could actually have a negative influence on them, too.

Quoting again from from Brotopia:

Crawford and Messina have started a company together ... where they are developing a non-judgmental (artificially intelligent) friend who will support your path to more self-awareness[.] ... The future of relationships is not just with humans but A.I. characters.

Sure, because nobody is more self-aware and knows better about authentic human relationships than those who go to orgies in the Bay Area as "open couples" week in, week out.

Modern progressivism is a Saturn devouring his own sons.  The truth is that the behavioral pathologies Chang's book talks about – and our "self-aware" tech giants regard as progress – have dire consequences.  For example, the undermining and destabilization of the family, the incubator of any real social advancement.  And the long-term effects, as it's already happening, are that fewer and fewer kids will have the skills and the mental preparation for a career in math and computer science, difficult and rigorous disciplines.  At that point, the only option Facebook, Google, and the like will be left with is to hire those "nonjudgmental A.I. characters" and introduce them to the delicacies of sexual liberation.

In a recent interview with Mika Brzezinski, Emily Chang declared that a solution to this abyss of depravity is simple: to achieve the 50 percent cutoff of female workforce in Silicon Valley.  Once women have the same weight in terms of influence, number of executives in every committee, financial resources, and decisional capacity, the issue will take care of itself.  Besides the obvious objection that such a strategy would undermine what is maybe the only asset of the tech world – that is, its meritocracy – there's no doubt that the people they hire are the best at what they do – the ridiculousness of the idea of the 50% female leadership as a moral purification stands out for another reason.  It's just not clear why Chang seems to think that the ladies in charge would ipso facto behave differently from how the boys do.  On the ground of what – wouldn't they take part in group sex or shoot up heroin at tech parties on a weekly basis?  Are women inherently less depraved than men, as they are less violent?  I don't think so.  Or maybe it's just possible to write a whole book about a social phenomenon without really understanding it.

The bombshell represented by the Harvey Weinstein scandal has struck a mortal blow to the moral authority of the progressive intelligentsia.  We just cannot turn things around to a reality where the preachy sermonizing of figures such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep is taken seriously, no matter how diverse the portfolio of their progressive virtues is.

So Hollywood has fallen, and the question now is, who's next?

Judging by the Vanity Fair anticipation of Emily Chang's book Brotopia. Breaking up the Boy's Club of Silicon Valley, I wouldn't be surprised if it will soon be Silicon Valley's turn.

The book zeroes in on the dissolute and decadent lifestyle of the tech giants' magnates and their think-tanks.  Should even 5% of the reality Chang describes turn out to be true, the winds of the perfect media storm – sexual intimidation and harassment of women, discrimination and exploitation – are headed toward coastal California very soon.  The clouds might already have started to gather with the Mike Cagney scandal.

How that crowd has managed to earn a reputation for being the smartest, most enlightened, and longest sighted community in the Western world is puzzling.  The names of, say, Tim Cook and Bill Gates are socially revered and, especially in certain environments, even pronounced with starry-eyed awe.  They're not only gifted wunderkinds to whom humanity should be thankful for their relentless inventing and reinventing of modern software, we are told; they are the prophets of the new world, the usherers in of the future human culture and society.

Or at least they see themselves as such.  Quoting from Chang's book:

On the contrary, they speak proudly about how they're overturning traditions and paradigms in their private lives, just as they do in the technology world they rule. ... They believe that their entitlement to disrupt doesn't stop at technology; it extends to society as well. ... What's making this possible is the same progressiveness and open-mindedness that allows us to be creative and disruptive about ideas.

In their enthusiastic rush to reshape our existence in their own image, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the techies and brainiacs in softwareland that societies and cultures are systems far more complex than the ones they can control through algorithms and coding.  And virtue – a concept their private lives do not seem to be particularly familiar with – is hardly susceptible to being simply installed in the societal operative system.  If those arrogant words sound familiar to you, it's just because they are another manifestation of the undisputed protagonist of the cultural milieu we live in: ideology.  Isn't it ironic for such brilliant minds, so projected to the future, to express themselves in a way that sounds so similar to an old-school political militant?

There's actually much more.  Should the portrait that emerges from Brotopia correspond to the truth, the first question in order would actually be, why on Earth should such a decadent community of lost souls be expected to have any valid say in what the future will – or should – be?  After all, history teaches us that two of the quintessential characteristics of a society in decadence are self-righteousness and an unshakeable faith in its eternity.  Neither is typical traits of a forward-looking spirit.

The sad thing is that it hasn't always been this way.  There was a time when the American scientific avant-garde was really capable of imagining and designing the future: nuclear energy in the '40s, computer science and space exploration in the '50s, etc.  But its members, people like Edward Teller and John Von Neumann, were fully formed adults with exceptional European educations – extremely skilled at math and science, but steeped in Western literature, art, and philosophy in the same time.  Had we asked them the best way to improve or even just imagine the future of human society, they would have likely replied to learn and seek inspiration from the works of Shakespeare and Dostoevsky.  Not exactly the most popular readings in 21st-century Silicon Valley, probably.

Another quote from Brotopia:

But many of the A-listers in Silicon Valley have something unique in common: a lonely adolescence devoid of contact with the opposite sex.

As stereotypical as it sounds, might this be the root cause of the issue?  Geeky, dorky nerds into math and computers, after years of shortage of romantic experiences, find themselves catapulted to glamor job positions entailing more money than they can think what to do with.  Then they go nuts and enter a vortex of unrestrained, drug-fueled sexual promiscuity to make up for the "lost time."  Far from sounding cool, it seems deeply revealing of a state of unfinished business in the insides of these people.  Maybe they haven't been able to get over not being attractive to the hot chicks around them in high school and college.  Consequently, they become slaves to that kind of compulsive uneasiness for which a sex marathon is the only hope of a temporary respite.  In short, it doesn't seem like authentic, genuine behavior.  It's as artificial as the technological devices they design – and it could actually have a negative influence on them, too.

Quoting again from from Brotopia:

Crawford and Messina have started a company together ... where they are developing a non-judgmental (artificially intelligent) friend who will support your path to more self-awareness[.] ... The future of relationships is not just with humans but A.I. characters.

Sure, because nobody is more self-aware and knows better about authentic human relationships than those who go to orgies in the Bay Area as "open couples" week in, week out.

Modern progressivism is a Saturn devouring his own sons.  The truth is that the behavioral pathologies Chang's book talks about – and our "self-aware" tech giants regard as progress – have dire consequences.  For example, the undermining and destabilization of the family, the incubator of any real social advancement.  And the long-term effects, as it's already happening, are that fewer and fewer kids will have the skills and the mental preparation for a career in math and computer science, difficult and rigorous disciplines.  At that point, the only option Facebook, Google, and the like will be left with is to hire those "nonjudgmental A.I. characters" and introduce them to the delicacies of sexual liberation.

In a recent interview with Mika Brzezinski, Emily Chang declared that a solution to this abyss of depravity is simple: to achieve the 50 percent cutoff of female workforce in Silicon Valley.  Once women have the same weight in terms of influence, number of executives in every committee, financial resources, and decisional capacity, the issue will take care of itself.  Besides the obvious objection that such a strategy would undermine what is maybe the only asset of the tech world – that is, its meritocracy – there's no doubt that the people they hire are the best at what they do – the ridiculousness of the idea of the 50% female leadership as a moral purification stands out for another reason.  It's just not clear why Chang seems to think that the ladies in charge would ipso facto behave differently from how the boys do.  On the ground of what – wouldn't they take part in group sex or shoot up heroin at tech parties on a weekly basis?  Are women inherently less depraved than men, as they are less violent?  I don't think so.  Or maybe it's just possible to write a whole book about a social phenomenon without really understanding it.