We should reevaluate our fanaticism for Silicon Valley

David Bordelon

What is worshipped by the masses, (slightly) world-changing, a fighter for your rights, the cultivator of your ideas and beliefs and has the power to peacefully fight unjust governments? Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley has become the new religious holy site for millennials, offering its own set of edicts (god bless futurism!) and its own prophets in Elon Musk, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos and their peers. And of course, the Creator — please bow your heads and say your thanks for what is given to you by him — “Dear Steve Jobs, thank you for providing me with my iPhone and Macbook.”

While it’s healthy to admire successful figures and aspire to be like them, we need to reevaluate our veneration for the Valley. We have taken its culture and its leaders and respectively made them into our religious platform and our gods. And while we praise them, they exert more and more power in daily society, often not to our benefit.

In the recent Gawker vs. Hulk Hogan case, Peter Thiel, the founder of Paypal, funded Hogan’s litigation in an apparent attempt at revenge for them outing him as gay (Gawker’s article was supportive of him, even if it was undesirable). Many Silicon Valley leaders supported his fight against Gawker, despite its lack of transparency, a virtue the Valley purportedly loves. Silicon Valley not only exerts power of media sources, but also over our privacy and allegedly even our opinions by suppressing news that counters their political narratives.

And when the prophets speak, we listen. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, recently said that the chance of us living in a base reality, as opposed to a computer simulation, is “one in billions.” It’s not a revolutionary or new idea, but it becomes newsworthy when one of our great entrepreneur-prophets of the Valley says it. Likewise, Musk’s view on robots now seems the definitive opinion of the subject, despite the nearly endless potential ways that robots can develop.

These are relatively minor examples. Musk’s (and other leaders’) philosophical views are not directly tied to our well-being. The main issue is that we critically examine the Valley’s statements as we would for a politician or anyone else, and not give free credence to ideas just because of the speaker’s entrepreneurial prestige. We should test the ideas they propagate like we test the products they offer, and not blindly accept their “prophetic” preachings.

The story of blood-testing company Theranos indicates our need for caution. While blindly accepting the company’s “revolutionary” processes (without knowing any details), we raised the company to god status. Their subsequent financial fallout and criminal investigation presages other startups following the same path. In Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’ founder and CEO whose story will be told cinematically starring Jennifer Lawrence, we learned we had a false prophet.

As a society, we choose our prophets. While Silicon Valley clearly offers societal benefits, technological advancements and trivial distractions, we should realize that the Valley outlook on life is merely one, rather insular, view of life. And we should supplement this insularity with differing views. The prophets of today should be less business-savvy capitalists and more writers, philosophers and artists. Otherwise, remember to always be a pious capital-futurist, and pray three times a day to the Trinity — Facebook, Uber and Google.

Bordelon is a philosophy junior from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @davbord.