“Indeed, some of the stories coming out of Yahoo bear a striking similarity to those about her tenure at Google. She can still be cold to executives who report to her. One former executive recalls warning team members before they went into a meeting with Mayer that they weren’t going to get what they expected. “Despite the warning, people, very experienced people with decades of experience, walked out and said, ‘That was the worst meeting of my entire career,’ ” this person says. “She will bring a tub of blueberries to a meeting and just stare at you, popping blueberries into her mouth. People feel so dismissed.”—
But the event also demonstrated the seductiveness of digital elitism, which incorporates social consciousness and intellectual discussion. “If we’re going to achieve greatness in the twenty-first century,” Eric Schmidt said, “…we have to start with some Silicon Valley thinking.” He stated that “Ultimately, this world will be owned by an entrepreneur.”
Digital elitism is optimistic, in that technology is positioned as a solution to an array of difficult problems. At the same time, it inculcates an air of superiority and a universality of experience that truly only applies to a very small number of the world’s most privileged individuals.
Digital elitism does not reconfigure power; it entrenches it. It provides justification for enormous gaps between rich and poor, for huge differences between average people and highly sought-after engineers. It idealizes a “better class of rich people” (as Kara Swisher put it) who evangelize philanthropy and social entrepreneurship — but it also promotes the idea that entrepreneurship is a catch-all solution, and that a startup culture is the best way to solve any problem.
DISCLAIMER: As a means of easily explaining these roles, I’m going to express them hierarchically from an org chart perspective. There are entrepreneurial folks out there who are going to shake their fingers vigorously in my general direction, saying, “Keep our orgs flat! Titles are toxic! Why are you forcing bureaucratic power trips on me!”
These folks haven’t seen shit. It’s a good thing – the lack of preconceived notions keeps them mentally and entrepreneurially limber – but they haven’t seen shit. They don’t understand how groups of people organize, nor have they ever attempted to build something with more than a handful of individuals. They have an intense belief in the power of the individual. This is their bias because this is who they are: a handful of bright people with a dream.
“In some respects, Hubbard discovered himself on that unlucky voyage, which he termed a “glorious adventure.” His infatuation with motion pictures first became evident on this trip, although no movies were actually made. Despite the defections, Hubbard demonstrated an impressive capacity to summon others to join him on what was clearly a shaky enterprise. Throughout his life he would enlist people—especially young people—in romantic, ill-conceived projects, often at sea, where he was out of reach of process servers. He was beginning to invent himself as a charismatic leader. The grandeur of his project was not yet evident, even to him, but in the Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition he clearly defined himself as an explorer, sailor, filmmaker, and leader of men, even though he failed spectacularly in each of those categories. He had an incorrigible ability to float above the evidence and to extract from his experiences lessons that others would say were irrational and even bizarre. Habitually, and perhaps unconsciously, Hubbard would fill this gap—between reality and his interpretation of it—with mythology. This was the source of what some call his genius, and others call his insanity.”—
“After Twitter and Instagram in 2009 and 2011 respectively, Snapchat posed the latest, real threat to Facebook’s omnipresence. To Mark and Facebook, seeing people stop to post a photo to Snapchat instead of Facebook must have been disturbing, and therefore Snapchat needed to be bought. But the very fact that Facebook needed to buy Snapchat is perhaps why Snapchat needed to say no. In posing a real threat to Facebook, Snapchat proved that it may have that one elusive thing that no money can buy: the ability to change how people behave, to become central to their relationships with one another, to re-architect human contact, to be masters of the human domain. The ability to shape the world’s culture is something that Facebook has and doesn’t want to lose, and as evidenced by the buyout offer and rejection, Snapchat has and doesn’t want to lose either. And this, to a founder of a hot startup, is how 3 billion dollars becomes meaningless.”—Why Founders Don’t Sell — on startups — Medium
As the employees sat, hushed, Dick [Costolo] paced in front of them with the microphone in his hand and told a story about their recent move.
He said that when he had directed the movers to transport the artwork from the old office, he had instructed them to leave one piece of art behind. It had hung in the Folsom Street office since late December 2009. The piece of art was in a black frame with a white border. In a bit of irony, it had been hung upside down. And in bold white letters on a dark background, it made a statement in thirty-six characters: “Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow.”
The new office, Dick explained, meant that it was time for Twitter to grow up as a company. To the end of rolling site outages and a long list of other problems that had plagued Twitter’s infancy.
"We’re leaving the motto of making better mistakes tomorrow in the old building," Dick said. "That’s not the type of company we are anymore."
The following day, we were sitting at lunch on the roof of the hotel with the skyline of São Paulo stretching as far as we could see when Mark declared imperially, as he gazed at the view, “We’re going to write a book about Facebook together someday.” That sounds fun, I thought, but then my mind reeled with questions. What would that book even be like? The book I would write about Facebook would be so different from the one Mark would write. It was weird that he assumed I thought the same way he did. My face must have betrayed my doubts and questions, because Mark looked at me with his typical coy smirk, and said, more directly than usual, “I don’t know if I trust you.”
…And that was it. Like the security detail’s van emerging from the tunnel, I felt like I wasn’t locked in anymore. I could finally breathe. If Mark had figured out over lunch that I didn’t believe and that I had a mind of my own, it didn’t matter. Game over. And, who knows, perhaps he knew it all along.
“Voting on highly subjective content, such as the right way to [localize] a complicated concept like poking or the wall, can produce more conflict than agreement. There was often no definitively correct answer but, instead, many different interpretations of a given word. For example, the Spanish translators wanted to know if wall meant the side of a building or something more like a bulletin board (the answer was the latter, though then there were an array of different words for a bulletin board for translators to vote on and choose from). Usually, the voting results produced passable translations, but when there was a translation impasse, I noticed that some engineers placed an almost religious faith in the voting process, and seemed to feel threatened by the idea that the algorithmically decided results might not be perfect. “The voting will fix it,” they said, like a mantra, as the translations rolled in and vied for victory on the page.”—Katherine Losse: The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network
"We’re currently in the middle of an occult revival, says Jesse Bransford, a New York University art professor who co-organized an occult humanities conference earlier this month. He sees a connection between increasing interest in the occult and postrecession anxiety. Magic ‘has always been a technique of the disenfranchised,’ he says. ‘It’s something you do when the tools you have available don’t seem like they’re enough.’"
"Forty years ago, the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker claimed that fear of our own mortality was the fundamental motivator behind all human behavior. But could popularizing death through social settings help it become less scary for the rest of us? Some scholars think so, since prolonged exposure to death in comfortable environments, where dying is viewed as an essential part of living, has shown decreases in death anxiety."
“They were trying to teach graphics as epitomised by the recognised practitioners of the time – a Milton Glaser or a Pentagram. But they’d lost grasp of the moment. The agenda was how to find witty visual puns to summarise a situation: a logo for a restaurant could be a bite out of a plate. Well, to a young person growing up on Roxy Music, that was utterly banal. I won’t spend five minutes thinking down that line. It’s stupid. It tells me nothing about the restaurant… What I learned from style culture was if you dress a particular way, you communicate with like-minded people. I just employed exactly the same technique with graphics. So forget the bite out of the plate. The choice of type alone will tell you what kind of restaurant this is. Get the typeface, size, position, spacing and mood right, and it will tell you. Is it Le Gavroche or is it McDonald’s? It’s the language of semiotics, not of puns.”—Peter Saville. (via e-r-h)
“I knew that if I simply did everything I was told, I would not be of any interest to Mark, who preferred employees who were slightly dangerous…This dissonance between upper and middle management is what happens when you work for a company like Facebook, which is simultaneously about control and the dismantling of control. Facebook wanted to disrupt the market without having its own order disrupted, to perpetually change and break things without allowing its users the same privilege. Internally, it was the same: Engineers were tacitly encouraged to break rules while the rest of the company had to follow them, unless they had some tricks of their own. The people in the company who could get around this paradox were the ones who could social it (the short term for social engineering, or hacking one’s way around something using social means) by breaking the right rules and, above all, remaining popular, and in doing so riding all the inherent corporate contradictions as far as they would take them. Facebook’s work environment, like much of Silicon Valley, and even like the Internet itself, was always about power: about maximizing your own power while conceding as little of it to others as you could.”—Katherine Losse: The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network
“In the startup world, you work hard and you move fast to make other people rich. Other people. You’re a small elite of very smart young people who are working hard for an even smaller elite of mostly baby boomer financiers. So they can buy national governments, shut the governments down, destroy the middle class and the nation state… That will be the judgement of history for your startup culture… It was a tacit allegiance between the hacker space favelas of the startups and offshored capital and tax avoidance money laundries. We’re all auto colonialised by the austerity”—Bruce Sterling quoted by James Darling in They may have the money, but we have the tools of technology.
“In 2011, Air Force psychologists completed a mental-health survey of 600 combat drone operators. Forty-two percent of drone crews reported moderate to high stress, and 20 percent reported emotional exhaustion or burnout. The study’s authors attributed their dire results, in part, to “existential conflict.” A later study found that drone operators suffered from the same levels of depression, anxiety, PTSD, alcohol abuse, and suicidal ideation as traditional combat aircrews. These effects appeared to spike at the exact time of Bryant’s deployment, during the surge in Iraq. (Chillingly, to mitigate these effects, researchers have proposed creating a Siri-like user interface, a virtual copilot that anthropomorphizes the drone and lets crews shunt off the blame for whatever happens. Siri, have those people killed.)”—Confessions of an American Drone Operator
“One evening, Steve and I had a party at the Presidio house. I don’t remember much about the party or who was there — likely, Bill Fernandez, Woz [Steve Wozniak], and Daniel, and their girlfriends. What I do remember is that the next morning there was a confusing moment when Steve, looking around and squinting, asked what we should do with “it.” I didn’t understand the question until I realized that he was asking if there was a service we could call in to take care of the dirty dishes. Doing the dishes ourselves was simply no longer an option for Steve. He had entered into an elite world where others took care of the lower-level functions so that he could operate with more efficiency, on his presumably higher plane. I not too happily cleaned them up by myself. This put me into the wrong kind of position with him, because in no world should I ever have been in a service role to Steve in this way. I just didn’t understand how to take care of myself in the face of his enlarged sense of self importance.”—
The man is totally committed to the muse of music. And he’ll do anything for good music. And sometimes it’s very strange. I was at Neil’s ranch one day just south of San Francisco, and he has a beautiful lake with red-wing blackbirds. And he asked me if I wanted to hear his new album, “Harvest.” And I said sure, let’s go into the studio and listen.
Oh, no. That’s not what Neil had in mind. He said get into the rowboat.
I said get into the rowboat? He said, yeah, we’re going to go out into the middle of the lake. Now, I think he’s got a little cassette player with him or a little, you know, early digital format player. So I’m thinking I’m going to wear headphones and listen in the relative peace in the middle of Neil’s lake.
Oh, no. He has his entire house as the left speaker and his entire barn as the right speaker. And I heard “Harvest” coming out of these two incredibly large loud speakers louder than hell. It was unbelievable. Elliot Mazer, who produced Neil, produced “Harvest,” came down to the shore of the lake and he shouted out to Neil: How was that, Neil?
And I swear to god, Neil Young shouted back: More barn!
“Calling his radical-sounding proposal “Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit,” Srinivasan thinks that these limitless spaces, popularly postulated by Page at this year’s Google I/O, are already being created, thanks to technology and a desire to exit. Ultimately, the Stanford lecturer and co-founder of Counsyl, a genetics startup, thinks Silicon Valley could lead the charge in exiting en masse because, eventually, “they are going to try and blame the economy on Silicon Valley.”—A radical dream for making techno utopias a reality
Pharmaceutical companies also buttress high prices by choosing to sell a medicine by prescription, rather than over the counter, so that insurers cover a price tag that would be unacceptable to consumers paying full freight. They even pay generic drug makers not to produce cut-rate competitors in a controversial scheme called pay for delay.
Thanks in part to the $250 million last year spent on lobbying for pharmaceutical and health products — more than even the defense industry — the government allows such practices. Lawmakers in Washington have forbidden Medicare, the largest government purchaser of health care, to negotiate drug prices. Unlike its counterparts in other countries, the United States Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which evaluates treatments for coverage by federal programs, is not allowed to consider cost comparisons or cost-effectiveness in its recommendations. And importation of prescription medicines from abroad is illegal, even personal purchases from mail-order pharmacies.
“Our regulatory and approval system seems constructed to achieve high-priced outcomes,” said Dr. Peter Bach, the director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “We don’t give any reason for drug makers to charge less.”
What’s more, many of the customers we interviewed told us that a lack of transparency at banks contributed to the costs they incurred; they found it difficult to predict when and what they would be charged. At RiteCheck and most other check cashers, in contrast, the fees for each transaction are typically displayed on large illuminated signs that span the row of teller windows, like the menu sign at a fast-food restaurant.
The Pew Health Group recently analyzed two hundred and fifty types of checking accounts at the nation’s ten largest banks, and found that banks’ checking-account disclosures are anything but transparent. These disclosures have, on average, a hundred and eleven pages—more than “Romeo and Juliet.” One RiteCheck customer, who had opened a bank account in the past, said, “You always have problems with [fees], you always have bounced checks, you know what I mean? Checks that are late.” Customers like him live so close to the edge that they cannot keep extra money in their accounts to buffer these expenses.
“Among those impressed has been Apple, which redesigned iOS this year with a flatter, minimalist look championed by Any.do. Along with music app Rdio, word game Letterpress, and competing task app Clear, Any.do was among the apps that Apple looked to for inspiration as it redesigned iOS, according to people familiar with the matter. When Jony Ive took over as the company’s head of design, he was given a list of forward-looking apps that suggested how iOS could evolve, these people said — and Any.do was on that list. (Apple did not respond to a request for comment.)”—
If this is true, and I suspect it is, I think it lends credence to what I’ve suspected all along: iOS 7 is not quite the coherent product of a forceful design vision that we’re led to believe, but rather a somewhat uneven and scattershot response to what Apple perceives as the general direction of its ecosystem as increasingly driven by independent developers. For Apple, a company that has generally prided itself (modulo a Sherlock here and there) on a policy of “push, not pull” (as one manager once put it to me when I worked there), it seems to me that this represents a bit of a sea change. I’m not saying it’s entirely a negative thing—I’ve always thought that for Apple to remain relevant it was going to have to open itself up to more outside influences—but it may be a bit of a bumpy transition.
How did he even get on stage? This is how did he did it,
“I told them I had just returned from Mogadishu where I was shooting war journalism following this group of women cleaning up the neighborhood, and by picking up trash, they had lowered crime rate. So it’s like broken window theory there, or whatever the fuck. A little Malcolm Gladwell. [They] wrote back and said, ‘Wow, that’s exciting. We got some real hard hitting stuff here.’”
“Nevertheless, she’s bound to face adversaries. Her principal nemesis is likely to be a chain-smoking, abrasive terrorist killer known only as “Roger,” the first name of his cover identity. Roger, chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, has presided over the drone program for years and is said to be a ferocious infighter who jealously guards his fiefdom. Intelligence officials say he is nothing short of contemptuous of lawyers and White House officials whose risk-averse ways, as he sees it, will make it harder to do his job: killing bad guys. And Roger is a survivor. One of the longest continually serving counterterrorism officials in the government, he has headed the CTC since 2006.”—
Fascinating article about Avril Haines—a lawyer, former physicist and indie bookstore owner, and seemingly one of the most unlikely people who could be appointed Deputy Director of the CIA. Based on the above paragraph, I’m already writing a screenplay in my head.
“A 2010 Stanford University study, in which students came up with, and pitched, concepts that could form the basis of a movie, found the narcissists’ ideas were, on average, no better than anyone else’s. However, their in-person pitches were more persuasive, presumably because they believed in themselves so strongly. (It also found the presence of two narcissists in a collection of people boosted innovation, apparently because the competition between them set off creative sparks within the group.)
There’s no evidence at this point that narcissists are more creative than the rest of us. But there is evidence that they think they are, and that that belief drives them to try their hand at various creative pursuits.”—Study: Narcissism Breeds Belief in One’s Own Creativity
All the Valley’s talk about transhumanism, human potential, life extension, and generally “changing the world” is a bunch of hooey. It’s a myth — in the pejorative sense of that term. It’s a fluffy religion meant to snooker young professionals into giving their employers everything they have and working their brains down to the myelin until they become too old to be relevant anymore.
No, it’s worse than that.
They don’t get too old to be relevant. They get too old to be cheap.
“I suddenly realized yesterday that New York feels like an old city. And of course the whole idea of New York was to be the modern 20th century city. I don’t mean that in a nasty way. I quite like it. New York has become one of the old great capital cities. It feels like it has changed. It’s relaxed a bit. Its modernity has moved elsewhere. I was in Chongqing a few months ago, and funnily enough it reminded me of the descriptions of the chaotic, modern New York in the novels of the Twenties — like John Dos Passos. It’s a city that is just exploding. New York suddenly feels like it has relaxed. The people have relaxed and they can be a bit older.”—
“For example, participants with the most emotional stability refer to sports much more. Researcher Lyle Ungar said this suggests “we should explore the possibility that neurotic individuals would become more emotionally stable if they played more sports.”—
The first element of the strategy is a kind of legislative strike. Initially, House Republicans decided to boycott all direct negotiations with President Obama, and then subsequently extended that boycott to negotiations with the Democratic Senate. (Senate Democrats have spent months pleading with House Republicans to negotiate with them, to no avail.) This kind of refusal to even enter negotiations is highly unusual. The way to make sense of it is that Republicans have planned since January to force Obama to accede to large chunks of the Republican agenda, without Republicans having to offer any policy concessions of their own.
Republicans have thrashed this way and that throughout the year. Republicans have fallen out, often sharply, over which hostages to ransom, with the most conservative ones favoring a government shutdown threat and the more pragmatic wing, oddly, endorsing a debt default threat. They have also struggled to define the terms of their ransom. The Williamsburg Accord initially envisioned forcing Obama to sign spending cuts, or some form of the Paul Ryan budget. During the summer, Republicans flirted with making Obama lock in lower marginal tax rates. Recently, Republicans settled on pressuring him to kill his health-care law. But the general contours of the legislative strike, and the plan of obtaining policy victories without offering any policy concessions, has enjoyed general agreement within the party.
“This shutdown is not the result of the two parties acting equally irresponsibly. It is the product of an increasingly radicalized Republican Party, controlled by a deeply disaffected base that demands legislative hostage-taking in an effort to get what it has not been able to attain through the electoral process or the judiciary.
Republicans in the House are making demands that are both preposterous and largely unrelated to budgetary matters. In return for keeping government running (and, even more ominously, for paying its bills), they want President Obama to undermine the health care law that he ran on in 2008 and 2012, and now considers his signature domestic accomplishment.
No president of either party could accept that kind of badgering. No president should, as it would set a terrible precedent.”—USA Todayon the shutdown
“Slovis also celebrated the show’s shooting format. Breaking Bad is one of the few modern shows to have been shot on 35mm film, a choice that is allowing Sony to re-transfer the show at 4K in anticipation of the next wave of television technology. It’s something that wouldn’t have been possible if the show had been shot digitally. “Film is upscaleable,” Slovis notes. “It’s archiveable, as the formats change.”—'Breaking Bad' cinematographer thanks Netflix and cheap HDTVs for show's success | The Verge