Tomorrow, many of the people who merged their voices with yours will find themselves without a job. While their names have yet to be revealed, the disillusioned expressions I conjure up are keeping me awake tonight. This group will undoubtedly include numerous young adults, who have not yet found your good fortune. As they have naively purchased homes and started families, this decision will impact them greatly.

“Business is business” will be the defense from those you have charged with delivering the sad news. But we have not experienced a string of tough breaks or bad luck. Rather, this is a collage of decadence, greed, and missing leadership. While some squandered the opportunity to “dent the universe,”others never cared about doing so in the first place. There were heroes among us, however, and it is for them that my soul weeps.

My heart also goes out to those whose jobs are spared. While that might seem a bit ridiculous, they will surely expend energy trying to understand the secret of why they were kept and others let go. In the end, the only thing they will know for sure is that their leaders lied to them in order to hurt their friends.

Ibrahima Sarr, a Senegalese coder, led the translation of Firefox into Fulah, which is spoken by 20m people from Senegal to Nigeria. “Crash” became hookii (a cow falling over but not dying); “timeout” became a honaama (your fish has got away). “Aspect ratio” became jeendondiral, a rebuke from elders when a fishing net is wrongly woven. In Malawi’s Chichewa language, which has 10m speakers, “cached pages” became mfutso wa tsamba, or bits of leftover food. The windowless houses of the 440,000 speakers of Zapotec, a family of indigenous languages in Mexico, meant that computer “windows” became “eyes”.
Shortly before she died in 2011, Jean Jennings Bartik reflected proudly on the fact that all the programmers who created the first general-purpose computer were women: ‘Despite our coming of age in an era when women’s career opportunities were generally quite confined, we helped initiate the era of the computer.’ It happened because a lot of women back then had studied math, and their skills were in demand. There was also an irony involved: The boys with their toys thought that assembling the hardware was the most important task, and thus a man’s job. ‘American science and engineering was even more sexist than it is today,’ Jennings said. ‘If the ENIAC’s administrators had known how crucial programming would be to the functioning of the electronic computer and how complex it would prove to be, they might have been more hesitant to give such an important role to women.’

BLVR: The climactic moment of the film is when you ask what single object a kid would keep if they had to give up everything else.

MM: I didn’t anticipate it being such a hard question. I asked them if they could keep only one thing, what was the thing they would keep, and they all got kind of sweaty and breathed a lot and panted and hemmed and hawed and [sucks in breath nervously]. Most of them said they’d keep some piece of technology, whether it was their phone or their iPad. Out of everything they had, a lot of them said they would keep whatever type of game console they used. There was a wonderful girl, Morgan—she’s the one with the very white-blond hair and the pink gingham shirt—she said her iPad. Even though that goes against my philosophy, she said, because I think that’s what’s going to ruin the world, but, yeah, I’d probably keep my iPad. And to me that felt true for all of us: we’re all keeping our iPads, even though we know it’s screwing us. But a kid hasn’t developed the structures and subterfuges with which to hide their contradictions. But she was feeling it, and she expressed it, and it leaked out and she articulated it.

In the olden days, producers knew what visual effects were. Now they’ve gotten into this methodology where they’ll hire a middleman – a visual effects supervisor, and this person works for the producing studio. They’re middle managers. And when you go into a review with one of them, there’s this weird sort of competition that happens. It’s a game called ‘Find What’s Wrong With This Shot’. And there’s always going to be something wrong, because everything’s subjective. And you can micromanage it down to a pixel, and that happens all the time. We’re doing it digitally, so there’s no pressure to save on film costs or whatever, so it’s not unusual to go through 500 revisions of the same shot, moving pixels around and scrutinizing this or that. That’s not how you manage artists. You encourage artists, and then you’ll get – you know – art. If your idea of managing artists is just pointing out what’s wrong and making them fix it over and over again, you end up with artists who just stand around asking “OK lady, where do you want this sofa? You want it over there? No? Fine. You want it over there? I don’t give a fuck. I’ll put it wherever you want it.” It’s creative mismanagement, it’s part of the whole corporate modality. The fish stinks from the head on down. Back on Star Wars, Robocop, we never thought about what was wrong with a shot. We just thought about how to make it better.
Atkin, who was hired as Airbnb’s head of community last year, is the author of a book called The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers, which describes how companies can generate cultlike devotion using techniques gleaned from actual cults—or, as he calls them, “radical belonging organizations.” Atkin’s hand is evident in ­Airbnb’s newly conceived tagline—“Belong anywhere”—and he’s been adept at whipping up the party faithful at host meet-ups he organizes.
They didn’t have to name the bigger game. Everyone who had been on the team for a while knew what it was called. It didn’t involve stock options. Rasala and Alsing and many of the team had long since decided that they would never see more than token rewards of a material sort. The bigger game was “pinball”. West had coined the term; all the old hands used it. “You win one game, you get to play another. You win with this machine, you get to build the next.” Pinball was what counted. It was the tacit promise that lay behind signing up, at least for some.
Tracy Kidder: “The Soul of a New Machine" (1981) (via Andrew Wooster)
Within the past five years — as I watched waves of young DJs and producers rise to prominence and the ‘EDM’ phenomenon take hold in the US — I came to realize that these contemporary artists have arrived at the optimum business model for the modern music industry. Essentially, one man with one laptop creates the music, distributes the music and performs the music, replacing whole busloads of tour support and entire floors of a traditional record label. These one-man musical armies draw fans by the tens of thousands and command massive paydays (check Forbes ). They’re thriving in a disjointed, fractured business landscape. But beyond the money, DJs have filled an essential creative role — processing all the music data faster than anyone else, affirming their rightful place as the tastemakers and music selectors for the modern music audience.

We’re All DJs Now

The current wave of EDM mania among younger twentysomethings is, I believe, the first musical trend that has ever made me feel truly old. Nevertheless, I think he’s onto something here: EDM makes sense as the musical paradigm for the age of the “lean” startup, of social media information overload, of collapsing institutions, of “everyone’s an entrepreneur” and its corollary “no one has a career.”