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The downside of the online gold rush – riches for some, “slavery” for most
August 6, 2009 4:27 PM   Subscribe

How the myth of Silicon Valley is really like a “gold rush.” Riches for some, “slavery” for many, says Toronto technology commentator Jesse Hirsh, who also takes aim at the ethic of waste built into Web ideology as expressed in Chris Anderson’s Free. (Video of presentation.)

From the liveblog: “[Kevin] Kelly [of Wired]’s critiques sold a false mythology of a frontier where anyone can create a business plan. This mythology is that of a biological techno-utopia, a hive. Problem: There are many worker bees, but only one queen bee.... The idea of the Long Tail is a meme within the California ideology. It’s meant to engender complacency about being in the lower ranks [of] the Long Tail. It’s more of the same: A lucky few get all the cheese.”
posted by joeclark (30 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Um, "slavery"? That seems rather hyperbolic.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:32 PM on August 6, 2009


The first link is just a long list of bullet points, as though it were copied directly from a powerpoint presentation or perhaps as a testimony to the corrupting influence that powerpoint has on our thought processes. Either way, somewhat painful to read.
posted by deanc at 4:38 PM on August 6, 2009


what
posted by fixedgear at 4:56 PM on August 6, 2009


Who's the queen bee? WHO IS THE QUEEN BEE?

Is it Nancy Pelosi?
posted by mr_roboto at 4:57 PM on August 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


  • Ancient history and the near future (as seen from circa 1990)

  • posted by mr_roboto at 4:58 PM on August 6, 2009


    Yes, the power point style bullets are difficult to read and don't really allow for a nuanced argument. Or really any argument at all. It reads more like a series of usually unsupported claims.

    "We need to understand the term "Gold Rush" as it applies to people [who] work on the internet." I really don't think we do. This is a poor reading of history. Also, why does this guy mention BALCO? Look! Here's another bad thing in or around San Francisco! It's all part of California's winner-take-all ideology!
    posted by taliaferro at 4:59 PM on August 6, 2009


  • At the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, the concept of the mineshaft was inverted and the skyscraper was born.

  • posted by mr_roboto at 4:59 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


    This is the funniest thing I've seen all week.
    posted by mr_roboto at 5:00 PM on August 6, 2009


    As the linked page explains and as the More Inside link above also explains, it’s a liveblog.
    posted by joeclark at 5:01 PM on August 6, 2009


    Reads like massive California jealousy. I blame the Toronto weather.
    posted by amuseDetachment at 5:03 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Um, "slavery"? That seems rather hyperbolic.

    Exactly.

    Riches for some, “slavery” for many...

    Capitalism. Alive and well in colonial America and later since 1607, 1620 and 1629.
    posted by ericb at 5:04 PM on August 6, 2009


    For those who were wondering: the gold standard is mentioned.
    posted by mr_roboto at 5:07 PM on August 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


    The first link is just a long list of bullet points, as though it were copied directly from a powerpoint presentation or perhaps as a testimony to the corrupting influence that powerpoint has on our thought processes.

    But it helped me decide wether to watch the video which is the star link here.

    I'm only about 1/2 way through but my build is done & it's back to work. I'll finish & be back here. This is good stuff!
    posted by morganw at 5:10 PM on August 6, 2009


    I'm confused how the California business model of "think of a good idea, then quit and start your own business" will make you a slave, but working for somebody else is apparently freedom.

    And the notes-style presentation is awful. I'm thankful I don't have a pop quiz on this lecture tomorrow.
    posted by meowzilla at 5:12 PM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


    This is less about "California" and more about "the Bay Area".

    Blaming 20th century wars on the Bay Area is a bit overboard. We've been isolationist and outright early anti-war. The "Best & the Brightest" that got us into Vietnam were Ivy League.

    Silicon Valley was an accident of history; Stanford putting out EEs and open space for them to do stuff and eventually form an industrial base.

    The Manhattan Project was staffed by the finest minds of the world, California mainly contributed Lawrence and Oppenheimer.

    Once I came upon the definition of wealth being "that which satisfies human needs and wants" the world and its economy became a lot clearer to me.

    Automation and communication are immense sectors of wealth today, and they were virgin territory coming out of WW2. We all gladly (?) pay $100/mo for our telecomms, $50/mo for high-speed internet, and $100+ for our OSs.

    We can thank California for the electronic world as we know & love it today.
    posted by @troy at 5:16 PM on August 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


    I'm listening to the talk.

    He opens by inviting people who might disagree with him or get offended to leave. That's a red flag. He seems like a smart guy who is overcome by the power of narrative and doesn't think very critically about his arguments, or what he says.

    For example, and I paraphrase: someone decided to invert mineshafts, and make sky scrapers, and instead of mining the earth, they could mine people....The practices of mining were essentially applied to humans.

    NO. WRONG. IXNAY. Long hours, workplace hierarchies, and appalling working conditions predate the advent of the sky scraper. More broadly, the concept of a *worker* predates skyscrapers. If anything, working in an office is LESS like mining the human body, since working in an office is much less physically damaging than profession like, say, MINING. This is what happens when pick a narrative and stop thinking. You tell a story that makes no sense.
    posted by taliaferro at 5:26 PM on August 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


    Dude done flipped his shit.
    posted by fleacircus at 5:31 PM on August 6, 2009


    Where could such incoherent ranting against reality with buzzwords around the media possibly originate? From his about page

    Educated at the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto, his passion is educating people on the potential benefits and perils of technology.

    McLuhan lives!

    Through his textualisation and contextualisation of the onset of post-modern communications theory revealing both fundamental authenticity and authentic un-authenticity in the spectrum of modern communications Hirsh has truly revealed to ourselves our un-conscious meta-narratives that we explore through our use of fundamental changed revolutionary methods of the power of the internet.

    See, anyone can do it. Doesn't mean we should.
    posted by sien at 5:31 PM on August 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


    OMG taking exciting risks when you're young == slavery amirite
    posted by grobstein at 6:22 PM on August 6, 2009


    In other words: "I thought the internet would make me rich, but instead I'm a cubicle slave!"

    Silicon Valley was an accident of history; Stanford putting out EEs and open space for them to do stuff and eventually form an industrial base.

    That and military contracts.

    NO. WRONG. IXNAY. Long hours, workplace hierarchies, and appalling working conditions predate the advent of the sky scraper. More broadly, the concept of a *worker* predates skyscrapers. If anything, working in an office is LESS like mining the human body, since working in an office is much less physically damaging than profession like, say, MINING. This is what happens when pick a narrative and stop thinking. You tell a story that makes no sense.

    Yeah, lots of people have a tendency to think that because one thing is metaphorically like another thing in one way, then they are isomorphic -- meaning everything about the first thing can be mapped to the other thing, so that inferences about the first can be applied to the second. Call it "Tom Friedman's disease"
    posted by delmoi at 6:41 PM on August 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


    sien: Good on ya. But McLuhan's actual writing (as opposed to the bag-of-hammers UofT program named after him) is actually lucid, if aphoristic.
    posted by sixswitch at 7:07 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


    I think he's shooting kind of low to say that the Web in particular has a culture of waste... wouldn't it get right back to TCP/IP networks and their predecessors being wasteful? Magnitudes more connections between nodes than is really necessary, protocols without guaranteed packet delivery that just casually flush your wayward packets down the shitter and assume you'll simply send them again... all that filthy promiscuous redundancy, so vile yet somehow titillating...

    Waste is an Original Sin of computer networking from which we cannot escape and there is no salvation. And who invented it? That's right, we can blame THE GUVERNMINT! And the damn Hungarians and their goulash and their non-Indo-European language!

    *shakes fist at ARPANET*
    *shakes fist at Paul Erdős for inventing graph theory*
    posted by XMLicious at 7:48 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


    sixswitch: Yeah, the dig at McLuhan was not intended. He was original and had something interesting to say, as you say those who have followed him often have not.
    posted by sien at 8:48 PM on August 6, 2009


    The only reason I am posting in this thread is to note that the name 'Erdős' has one of the coolest pronunciations ever and one of the coolest letters ever.

    ő.

    őőőőőőőőőőőőőőő.
    posted by kldickson at 8:49 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


    <xml version="1.0">
    <comment>
      <quoted_comment>
        <quoted_comment_author>XMLicious</quoted_comment_author>
        <quoted_comment_ID>2685198</quoted_comment_ID>
        <quoted_comment_time>13:48</quoted_comment_time>
        <quoted_comment_local_TZ>GMT+10</quoted_comment_local_TZ>
        <quoted_comment_text>"Waste is an Original Sin of computer networking"</quoted_comment_text>
      </quoted_comment>
      <comment_author>Pinback</comment_author>
      <comment_ID></comment_ID>
      <comment_time>13:27</comment_time>
      <comment_local_TZ>GMT+10</comment_local_TZ>
      <comment_text>Eponysterical!</comment_text>
    </comment>
    </xml>

    posted by Pinback at 10:27 PM on August 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


    Tom Wolfe gets it right in a chapter in "Hooking Up". It's all farm boys from the midwest that created the Silicon Valley work is play and get rich at the end mindset. Perhaps he was to busy getting the accents right to research the skyscrapers as upright mine shaft angle?
    posted by sleslie at 10:34 PM on August 6, 2009


    ŧܩúÌßû¬ÉñÀñÆÚúÝéû€¨ÄðÐÎàü½ïÙæû«PinbackÈñEponysterical!Ÿ¾Only if you can't figure out how to get mod_gzip working in Apache. :^)ï×äø
    posted by XMLicious at 10:58 PM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


    I am posting in this thread because I have an Erdős number of 4. Suck it! Suck it, you McLuhanicious Luddite silicon valley haterz. I will now whip a random selection of cubicle denizens out of pure whimsy.



    [wow. that's some good coffee.]
    posted by lothar at 9:16 AM on August 7, 2009


    posted by chairface at 4:39 PM on August 7, 2009


    In addition to other wackiness mentioned above, the skyscraper thing is out of place when talking about the valley --- we don't work in skyscrapers. There's a couple in SF, but I'm not sure there are any tech companies in them (probably a few, I guess). Most of the buildings are only a couple stories high posted by wildcrdj at 7:21 PM on August 7, 2009


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