The Tenets of Silicon Valley Religion

This weekend I helped a friend pack up a house to move. In the throwaway stack was a bunch of old magazines. It's fascinating to look at these old covers and headlines and remember the old stories that were "news of the day." Sometimes the news that seemed so perilous then, is a shoulder shrug and laugh now.

"The Silicon Valley Saints" was the cover of Christianity Today's August 2001 edition. This was post "dot com" bubble and Silicon Valley had mud on its face from the crash of the NASDAQ.

An interview with Paulina Borsook, a former contributer to Wired, seemed eerily prescient of how technology and the mindset it creates, affects (and would affect) our culture. There are so many gems in this cover article that need to be shared.

Remember, this is pre-Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. Google was still a private, 3-year old company and Amazon's homepage looked like this. And this magazine's cover said "AOL Keyword: Christianity Today."

Could you describe the tenets of the "religion" espoused by the high-tech community?

The beliefs include things like "Technology is the solution to all human problems," "The market is the true test of everything," "Money is the highest good," and "All government and regulation is bad."

There is also an overreliance on the spreadsheet way of knowledge, which says that if it can't be quantified, then it has no value. In the high-tech world, the intuitive and subjective is bad. If you can't count it, it doesn't exist. So I ask, How do you quantify social services or art? Do these things have no value because they are nonquantifiable?

Are we seeing an attitude change now that the days of easy money seem to be behind us?

I don't know yet; it's a little early to tell. I have to wonder, with the Nasdaq sinking and dot-coms dying, what are people going to fall back on? If they've been taught that money is the only and best good and the market is the best test, what are they left with? I wonder about the people who felt that money was the only thing worth having, that the wealth somehow proved you were a hip, evolved, wise person, but now what? Are you not as evolved?

With all this real dot-com kookiness gone away, perhaps there's going to be a resurgence of craft over wealth, people attracted to stuff only because they like it instead of wanting to get rick quick from it.

Has technology impeded people in this industry from fostering true human connections?

We crave intimacy and we fear it. The Net can give you a marvelous feeling of pseudointimacy, but I would never tell people that what they're experiencing online isn't real. Particularly in high tech, where work is the only thing in your life, the online avenue may be the only way to have a connection that's human. But although technology has value, it's not a replacement for the real thing. It is good for some things, but not the same thing as having neighbors and friends.

Do we have anything to fear as a culture from technology's presence in our everyday life?

Since the late '60s, we've become increasingly media-saturated, and that to me is problematic. It blows my mind that people will go hiking and bring their cell phones with them. Or go hiking and bring their laptops but not enough water! We live in such mediated environments now, and we need to make efforts not to be bombarded all the time.