Replied to The 2010s Killed the Cult of the Tech Founder. Great! (Wired)

The 2010s might have begun with Mark Zuckerberg posing for Time magazine’s Person of the Year, a role model for countless behoodied wannabe entrepreneurs. But it ended with him trying to look stoic while absorbing six hours of enraged verbal piñata swings from legislators.

Congress, along with the rest of us, is clearly disenchanted with the claims that founders are engines of wealth creation and change agents for global goodness. While their stated goals might have been lofty, the consequences of founder dreams have been low-paid gig economy jobs, misinformation campaigns, and the theft of our attention. Even Google/Alphabet, fabled for its happy workers, is experiencing employee unrest and regulatory pushback on privacy and antitrust issues.

I am intrigued that the culture that created the problem can also be it’s cure?

Even in Y Combinator’s cathedral of founderdom, there’s been a change. CEO Micheal Siebel acknowledges the shift in perception. But he says the ecosystem is course-correcting, with a new wave of founders whose focus is social good. “We’re going to see some new role models,” he says. “Founders, investors, and users all have to live in this society. We’re all seeing the problems. And everyone wants to feel like they can be part of the solution.”

This reminds me of the attempt of the humane movement.

I guess time will tell.

Bookmarked Silicon Valley Abandons the Culture That Made It the Envy of the World (The Atlantic)

This is a full reversal of the language that tech promoters used to sell Silicon Valley–style innovation and competitiveness for decades. Saxenian has noticed the change in how the Valley describes itself, or at least in how the dominant firms do. “Advocacy of the small, innovative firm and entrepreneurial ecosystem is giving way to more and more justifications for bigness (scale economics, competitive advantage, etc.),” Saxenian wrote to me in an email. “The big is beautiful line is coming especially from the large companies (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple) that are threatened by antitrust and need to justify their scale.”

Alexis Madrigal discusses the way in which Silicon Valley has pivoted the narrative about innovation away from small startups to big is best.
Liked Escape from Google by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (

Let’s be clear: Google is participating in the prevailing business model for internet businesses in Silicon Valley. So in that sense, they’re not more evil than any other business that seeks to make money through personal data. You could also make the argument that they’re not as directly harmful as a company like Facebook, whose data practices have been shown to have undermined democracy in countries like the United States and Britain, and even to have supported genocides in countries like Myanmar.

However, the impact of Google’s business is exponentially greater because of its size. From widespread location collection in Google Maps, to the fact that the majority of sites on the internet host Google tracking code, it’s very hard to not be tracked and profiled by them in some way. That information has the potential to be cross-referenced, together with offline information like credit card purchases, which it adds together to create a highly targeted profile.

Listened The Psychology of Silicon Valley from Radio National

To understand where technology might take us in the future requires more than just an understanding of the way technologists think, says psychologist Katy Cook. We also need to comprehend the social, cultural and economic influences that affect their sense of who they are.

Also, German neuroscientist, Henning Beck, on our understanding of the power of AI. Making direct comparisons between the human mind and Artificial Intelligence is counterproductive, he argues.


Dr Katy Cook – psychologist and founder of the Center for Technology Awareness

Dr Henning Beck – neuroscientist and author

Antony Funnell speaks with Katy Cook about her book The Psychology of Silicon Valley exploring some of the influences on Silicon Valley. A key concern raised is the place of ethics and values within this community. Henning Beck believes a lot would be gained from increasing the emotional intelligence of those within Silicon Valley. This is something touched upon by Audrey Watters and Mike Isaac.


To understand new technology we need to comprehend the social, cultural and economic influences of the developers.

Bookmarked HEWN, No. 321 (

It’s not simply that the Silicon Valley positivity machine only rewards positive ideas. (“We build things,” someone once told me. “You just tear things down.”) Without a grounding in theory or knowledge or ethics or care, the Silicon Valley machine rewards stupid and dangerous ideas, propping up and propped up by ridiculous, self-serving men. There won’t ever be a reckoning if we’re nice.

Bookmarked Hillsong’s tech incubator plans to give Facebook a run for its money (ABC News)

The evangelical church is not the only religious group growing its digital focus.

I remember Genevieve Bell saying every company being about data, obviously this applies to religions too? It is interesting to think about something like Hillsong from the perspective of platform capitalism. As a side note, I can’t see digital prayer requests being abused. There is a lot of good faith involved.
Bookmarked Opinion | Silicon Valley’s Saudi Arabia Problem by Anand Giridharadas (

Technology companies can no longer turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses of one of their largest investors.

Anand Giridharadas explores Saudi Arabia’s growing involvement with Silicon Valley. Through their investment in SoftBank, they have invested in a long list of startups including Wag, DoorDash, WeWork, Plenty, Cruise, Katerra, Nvidia and Slack. The question is at what cost? Silence? Support? With the recent disappearance of a Saudi Journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, these are compromises that need to be considered. Listen to the recent episode of the Have You Heard podcast for more on Anand Giridharadas’ work. Also
read the work of Audrey Watters and Benjamin Doxtdator for more discussion on investment in Silicon Valley (and subsequently EdTech).


SoftBank, with the help of that Saudi money, is now said to be the largest shareholder in Uber. It has also put significant money into a long list of start-ups that includes Wag, DoorDash, WeWork, Plenty, Cruise, Katerra, Nvidia and Slack. As the world fills up car tanks with gas and climate change worsens, Saudi Arabia reaps enormous profits — and some of that money shows up in the bank accounts of fast-growing companies that love to talk about “making the world a better place.

As Saudi Arabia establishes its new role as one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors, the risk grows that its investments will purchase silence. Companies that pride themselves on openness and freedom may find themselves unable to speak ill of one of their largest investors

Silicon Valley has enough issues already: Tech companies are compromising our elections, upholding monopolies, and profiteering from the abuse of privacy. There is no need to add to that list by becoming a reputation-laundering machine for one of the least admirable regimes on earth — a regime that would seem to violate all the values that Silicon Valley is proud of trumpeting

via HEWN

Bookmarked The tech elite is making a power-grab for public education (code acts in education)

The tech elite now making a power-grab for public education probably has little to fear from FBI warnings about education technology. The FBI is primarily concerned with potentially malicious uses of sensitive student information by cybercriminals. There’s nothing criminal about creating Montessori-inspired preschool networks, using ClassDojo as a vehicle to build a liberal society, reimagining high school as personalized learning, or reshaping universities as AI-enhanced factories for producing labour market outcomes–unless you consider all of this a kind of theft of public education for private commercial advantage and influence.

Ben Williamson discussions Silicon Valley’s intrusion into education. From Amazon’s entry into early years education to Elon Musk’s Ad Astra.
Bookmarked “Google Was Not a Normal Place”: Brin, Page, and Mayer on the Accidental Birth of the Company that Changed Everything by Adam Fisher (The Hive)

A behind-the-scenes account of the most important company on the Internet, from grad-school all-nighters, space tethers, and Burning Man to the “eigenvector of a matrix,” humongous wealth, and extraordinary power.

I really didn’t know how to read this attempt at some sort of truth from those who were there.

This oral history, gathered from a mix of original reporting and previously published and unpublished reflections, is an excerpt from Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (as Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom), published by Twelve.

Is it meant to discredit Google as just another misogynistic Silicon Valley startup? Why now? Are there any biases at play as there was with Quinn Norton’s doppelganger. I am reminded of Faulkner’s quote:

The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

Liked Storytelling And The Technological Nothing (

90% of what you are being told about AI, Blockchain, and automation right now isn’t truthful. It is only meant allocate space in your imagination, so that at the right time you can be sold something, and distracted while your data, privacy, and security can be exploited, or straight up swindled out from under you.

Bookmarked Tesla: The brilliant company that may meet a spectacular end (The New Daily)

Elon Musk has a beautiful vision for Tesla: Shift the world to clean-powered vehicles, and do it with giant charisma and cool factor.

What other car company would call their fast-acceleration option “ludicrous mode,” and their eco-mode “chill mode”? What other car company is launching the fastest production car ever? What other car company installs a disco mode that makes the car dance?!

Tesla is brilliant at making their cars extremely desirable. If I could find $100,000 and a place to charge it, I’d get one of their Model S sedans in a heartbeat.

While at the Canberra #EdTechTeam Summit, Amy Burvall introduced the activity of creating a playlist that represented somebody. This was about using the meaning within the songs, rather than understanding the actual person. My table chose Elon Musk. Another participant chose Bowie’s Star Man, I suggested The Smith’s Stop Me If You Think You Have Heard This One Before. I think this captures what Watters describes as the myth of Musk. On the one hand you cannot help be amazed, but on the flipside, these stories are full of unfulfilled promises.
Listened Why Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand – podcast by Mark O’Connell;Andrew McGregor;Simon Barnard from the Guardian

How an extreme libertarian tract predicting the collapse of liberal democracies – written by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s father – inspired the likes of Peter Thiel to buy up property across the Pacific

A text version can be found here.

Liked Tesla Looked Like the Future. Now Some Ask if It Has One. (New York Times)

“There is a huge part of Tesla that is simply presentation and not substance, and Elon is a master at messaging,” said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “The problem is the reality is starting to stack up, and that’s a reality of accidents the cars have had, quality issues, and massive misses on Model 3 production numbers. You add all that up and there’s a real question about whether this company can deliver what it promises.”

Liked Theranos and Silicon Valley’s ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ Culture (WIRED)

The scale of Theranos’ alleged fraud is unusual, but the forces behind it are not. Startup culture venerates the kind of “fake it till you make it” hustling that Holmes deployed. When Theranos was first exposed, tech industry leaders defended the company. As more reporting about its wrongdoing emerged, industry leaders characterized Theranos as an outlier, not indicative of the broader startup culture. A music video made by a venture firm even included the line, “Theranos doesn’t represent us, we are better.”

But scores of minor scandals and lawsuits, combined with 2017’s series of scandals at the country’s most valuable private startup, Uber (former motto: “Always be hustlin’”), make it clear that faking it is more common than just Theranos.

via HEWN
Bookmarked How Vero became the most-loved and most hated social media app in a matter of days (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Those feeling put out by Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms and ad targeting may have valid concerns. But next time a too-good-to-be-true alternative comes knocking it might be worth finding out what it is, or waiting two days to see if it pans out, before signing up.

Sadly I was not one of the million rushing for a free account. For me, if it looks like a social media site, acts like a social media site, then it probably is just another data munching social media site. I think that this thread sums it up:

I also like how Colin Walker explains it:

Although Vero promises an algorithm free feed and no ads (it will monetise using subscriptions and charges for selling via the platform) I’m not sure that jumping from the frying pan of one silo straight into the as yet unproven fire of another is what we really need right now. It all just sounds too good to be true.

Even if only half of what is true is reported, it is not good. Surely our problem is not Instagram or Facebook, but the model they are built on. At least Mastadon and are offering something different. A more human approach.

Bookmarked Founding a Startup, Just One More Time – Ben Werdmuller – Medium by Ben Werdmuller (Medium)

Knowing what I know now, from the founders I work with, my background in startups, and what I’ve learned from working at a values-based accelerator: if I was to do it all again, what choices would I make?

Ben Werdmuller reflects on his experiences with three different startups and provides a number of lessons he has learnt along the way. These include starting by getting your feet wet, working out how far you can go without going full-time, identifying who else might be needed for the journey, which ownership structure will work best, how you will build the solution and who will buy it.

Silicon Valley Futures

American libertarian activist Patri Friedman thinks that the future of the city-state are ‘seasteads’:

Patri is taking the Silicon Valley mindset and applying it to the nation-state. There are all these things you could now do that didn’t exist when our current system of government was invented, he told me. Constant online direct-democracy voting, building smart-cities, using crypto-currencies. And yet we still use a 19th-century model. source

Although not if French Polynesia has anything to do with it.

An alternative to the floating city maybe reclaiming reefs, such as that which is happening in the South China Sea

Building on the concept of driverless cars is the notion of driverless hotels:

In a Tesla Model S there are only 18 moving parts compared to the 1500 in an average internal combustion engine vehicle. As such it’s predicted that by 2025 all new vehicles produced will be 100% electric and cost much less than the cheapest combustion engine vehicles sold today. This opens endless possibilities to re-imagine vehicles as moving rooms able to cater to a vast array of human experiences and activities: the driverless office, the driverless boardroom, the driverless gym, the driverless bedroom, the driverless bathroom, the driverless cafe, the driverless cinema and the driverless shop. These rooms need not be used in isolation either. They can be dynamic, modular and interconnected with other driverless rooms via an ondemand request. Tap a button or speak a request, and moments later you can have a bathroom or gym module drive itself to your location and autonomously connect to the office module you’re currently working from.

Immense vertical skyscrapers can autonomously lift these driverless rooms and their passengers hundreds of meters up, where they’re slotted into position before the wall panels open to reveal other connected room modules.source

Alternatively, Annalee Newitz talks about sky cities (is that a ‘skystead’?) on Venus:

Life on Venus would be wholly unlike Earth. The surface of the planet is unlivable for humans: the intense atmospheric pressure and heat is like being at the bottom of a very deep ocean that’s hot enough to melt lead. So we’d have to live in the clouds, right below the protective ionosphere that sucks up radiation. What’s cool about Venus is that we could build cities inside balloons of breathable atmosphere, and they would float. That’s the idea of a NASA scientist named Geoffrey Landis.

While Jeff Bezos imagines mammoth space stations:

In 2000, Bezos founded his own spaceflight firm, Blue Origin. But Bezos’s view wasn’t quite the sunny New Frontier ethos of Gene Roddenberry; it had a distinctly Malthusian cast. Humanity, he argued, needed to escape the planet in order to save it from utter devastation; he envisioned one day building mammoth space stations complete with farms and trains.

The question that such ideas pose is:

What if Silicon Valley’s core beliefs — even the benign ones — are wrong?source