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When I realized that the kids of the old money elite began to see Silicon Valley, not Wall Street, as the means to big money, I decided I could never go back.

The elitists came to Northern California - a vanguard of social liberalism, student protest, and most importantly communitarianism - and brought their elitism with them.

Northern California still exists in the nostalgic hippie image of the 60s, but it's compartmentalised, like the Dropbox brogrammers elbowing out kids at a playground. Public spaces increasingly become private in the name of profit.

Over time, the feel of free love will fade away entirely in the Bay Area. Everyone interesting who isn't a millionaire will be pushed to the margins, and eventually, more welcoming spaces, like Detroit. I implore the tech elite of Silicon Valley to consider a future where an expensive tech-centered monoculture makes the Bay Area an unattractive location for long-term employees, and instead relying on mercenary college grads who put up with the cost and the crazy for a few years before moving on to a more fulfilling job and place to call home.




If you're a big landowner or cattle baron in the Not So Old West, gunslingers are a fungible commodity in steady supply.

I mean - who was Leland Stanford, anyway? Railroad baron. Similar deal.

This IS normal for America, from the Mississippi Bubble onward.

If there is a 'hacker ethic', it's a variation on ham radio, maintaining your own vehicle ala John Muir, the Unix philosophy and possibly DOS using int21 calls. That's not a complete list.

I knew of much more Hacker Ethic in the people who went through the Depression and WWII. They were Maintainers, the sworn enemy of the dread lord Entropy. I worked for one; he used a 40 horse Ford tractor to move these giant sandstone rocks - hydraulics popping like doom; stand carefully - to build these phenomenal, beautiful houses of native materials. The houses looked a bit like Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

What came later is a caricature of this; college kids who'd read about Emma Goldman, or read Jack Kerouac, or Richard Farina, or...

The counterculture per se got coopted long ago. "Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform, don't kid yourself." - Frank Zappa.


All countercultures get coopted. "Counter" is a dynamic thing. I understand the nostalgia, but this is the same old "get off my lawn" stuff that all old punks/goths/hackers/hippies/whatever write 20 years after their heyday.


I wouldn't say it gets coopted. I'd say it has historically gotten appropriated, and then the public has been too ignorant to tell the difference.

(Either through the unwillingness or incompetence of any of the original disciples to popularize the true meaning, or simple giving way beneath ever better funded commercial interests)


> I wouldn't say it gets coopted. I'd say it has historically gotten appropriated, and then the public has been too ignorant to tell the difference.

That's exactly what coopting is. See definition 2b here:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/co-opt


http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/appropriating

I'm quibbling over words too. But the difference to me is that the problem is not that "hacking" (or "hippie culture", "patriot", "environmentalism", or "American") gets used in a context at odds with what its founders would espouse.

It's that a lot of times that secondary (historically speaking) definition then becomes the dominant definition in the public's mind. Whatever mutually exclusive word for that is the one I want to use.

Because, ultimately, it doesn't matter a rat's ass if my local LUG knows the more positive definition of a hacker, if a geeky 8-year old with a penchant for figuring out interesting things to do with computers is surrounded by exposure (news, adults, school, popular media) to the negative definition.


Completely agree. There's currently a Kickstarter to build a wall around SF to keep the Burners from coming back after Burning Man. Frankly, though, my first thought upon seeing it was "Geez, the Burners are the only people left in SF who are really SF-ish and weird anymore.

SF has changed. It's becoming Manhattan West.


Honestly I see Burning Man as a sorta weird expression of the same elitism, except in this norcal style. Rather then these tech/artists/trustafarians/whatever investing their energy into arts and music in public spaces in the Bay Area they work year round to build a completely inaccessible community hundreds of miles away and light it on fire. Nothing more indulgent than that in my opinion.

I have mixed feelings about it...my burner friends (most are techies) do some incredibly weird and impressive things as part of Burning Man but why can't some of that happen right here in the Bay for everyone.


> why can't some of that happen right here in the Bay for everyone.

Because then all of the people that protest things like high-rise apartments, and Google shuttle buses will show up to protest that too.


I'm not advocating a protest...I'm advocating that us techies should focus our extra energy for creative activities locally and share the, rather than keep them exclusive with this desert party.

All these well known famous tech founders such as the FB guys or Larry and Sergey are big burners and certainly participate in arts there but are nowhere to be found right here in SF/Oakland. Same can be said about my peers sadly.


The grandparent is saying that the other residents of San Francisco who have no interest in going to Burning Man and protest stuff like Google buses would protest the art as well, whether it is in the form of an actual public protest or by opposing permits/funding at the local politics level. Especially when it comes to Burning Man art, one man's master piece is another's unnecessary traffic jam.

Many, if not the majority of the most interesting, art pieces can't even be safely installed or operated (yes, operated in the case of art cars) anywhere near a suburban or urban environment. Where else can you build several climbable three to five story buildings with labels like "Bank of Unamerica" and "Goldman Suchs" [1] just to destroy them in a blaze of glory more symbolic than the art itself? Where else can you drive around a giant party boat [2], explore a sunken pirate ship buried in the playa [3], or watch action movie style explosions light a giant effigy on fire [3]?

If you've ever seen the LED lights lining the Bay Bridge a few years ago, that was an art project costing in the same ballpark as some of the most impressive Burning Man art (i.e., like the dancing lady now found on Treasure Island) and took several years to get properly off the ground with all of the local politics involved in installing something on a major landmark.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KPrLgWHMF0

[2] http://static01.nyt.com/images/2014/08/21/fashion/21DISRUPT1...

[3] http://blog.burningman.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/pier2_...

[4] https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7414/10302625835_f9a0f51bef_b....


Wow, how about:

http://abc7news.com/technology/naked-sculpture-in-san-leandr... http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g60713-d1... https://thebaylights.org/

Not to mention countless parties, maker spaces, artist spaces, (eg: american steel), and many other space which are all very open to newcomers and hold a lot of parties and host and support all sorts of arts.

As for the indulgence of burning man, put in a certain way, anything but work seems like an indulgence. So you're going on a cruise? Putting all that fuel oil into a remote inaccessible place and slowly lighting it on fire? Or a road trip - really, burning all that petrol?

As for _my_ burner friends, most of them are NOT "techies".


There are some strange contradictions here. There's a huge overlap between burning man culture and tech culture. Part of the sentiment against burning man is because of this. The world may not be as simple as you think.


Yes, there is a lot of overlap. But there used to be, too. Burning Man was the place where the weird and the tech came together.

These days, with $600+ tickets, it is just a rich kids place to go. But there are still all those warehouses full of weirdos that burn and remain in the Bay Area. Just because Burning Man is now frequented by rich frat people doesn't make it too much less weird and anti-puritanical, the way the SF Bay Area used to be.


Your comment sounds like it could have been written by someone who had never been to Burning Man. There's kind of an idealization at play in your comment, almost a "noble savage" thing. Ticket prices have increased $190 in the past 15 years. The $10-$20 yearly ticket price increase is pretty insignificant next to what people pay for costumes, art, etc. You're going to one of the least hospitable places on earth, bringing in all food and water, bringing a bunch of art and electronics, then setting it all on fire. It's never been a particularly inexpensive undertaking. I remember being a broke kid in a soma warehouse and having to sell my ticket for rent money and being really bummed. Now I program computers and have money to spend on art to bring to burning man. I'm still the same person.


> I'm still the same person.

Are you, though? What would your younger, broker (perhaps more idealistic?) self think if they met modern-day wealthy-you? Would they like you? Everyone changes as they age. For most people, they become some variations of more mature, more cynical, more conservative, and more set in their ways.


There is certain irony in a group of people who favor open borders, open and anarchist societies, ect, trying to erect physical, social, and "legal" barriers to keep undesirable people out.


Okay except it's clearly a huge joke, and refers to Burning Man principles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=159&v=PO_r6ndZRZY


> SF has changed. It's becoming Manhattan West.

That feels about right. Except that it's nowhere near as tall.


There's a peculiar phrasing of this statement. Would you happen to originally be from the Pittsburgh area?

We're dealing with a similar phenomenon here. We have a lot of Colleges and Universities and big money is coming in and heavily recruiting people. Instead of a large number of start-ups, we have a culture that favors going straight to work for big businesses.


> SF has changed. It's becoming Manhattan West.

Just in time for Manhattan to try to become Brooklyn West.


No, Manhattan is becoming Mall of America East.


“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

So now we just have New Francisco, and a half-bulldozed New Orleans?


You inspired me to look up the origin of that quote, which was actually quite an interesting (albeit inconclusive) investigation; see http://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/06/18/cleveland/


I'd always heard Tennessee Williams, but impressive due diligence. It's interesting that Cleveland only gets tacked on as the butt of the quip when it has problems and white-flight in the mid-1970s.


It's not a Kickstarter, it's a parody. You're right about the sentiment, though.


I dunno, building a wall around SF sounds pretty SF-ish and weird to me.


"and most importantly communitarianism"

Regardless of your definition of a hacker, hacker culture was born out of interaction. It's sharing of information and exploring together that made programmers, hobbyists and tinkerers into hackers. I think one thing that makes "hackerdom" so easily distorted is that people don't look at what actually happened. It's quite illustrative how the article, in it's first paragraph, gets the story wrong. Which no one seems to have commented on so far.

From the article: "A young Air Force serviceman named John Draper – aka Captain Crunch – discovered that he could manipulate the rules of tone-dialling systems by using children’s whistles found in Cap’n Crunch cereal boxes."

From Wikipedia: "While Draper was driving around in his Volkswagen Microbus to test a pirate radio transmitter he had built, he broadcast a telephone number to listeners as feedback to gauge his station's reception. A callback from a "Denny" resulted in a meeting that caused him to blunder into the world of the phone phreaks. [...] A blind boy who had taken the moniker of Joybubbles had perfect pitch and was able to identify the exact frequencies. They informed him that a toy whistle that was, at the time, packaged in boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal could emit a tone at precisely 2600 hertz—the same frequency that was used by AT&T long lines to indicate that a trunk line was ready and available to route a new call."


After grad school I moved to NYC, and your description was apt there: a place for millionaires or a sea of fresh graduates who'd willingly or unwillingly have to move on after a couple years.

After three years I moved to SF, but in terms of cost and general atmosphere it's starting to feel more and more like the population is being split between the same two groups as I saw in NYC.


Kind of funny you mention Detroit. My in-laws just moved out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I mentioned to them the edgy art studios around when they moved into Brooklyn. Their comment was that the artists have been moving to Detroit for several years because the gentrification in Williamsburg makes it impossible for them to live.

From everything I've been reading, Detroit has become THE place to live now if you like more edgy, but affordable, neighborhoods.

(EDIT: grammar)


Portland, Denver, Nashville, Seattle (less so), even Boise are starting to take up that old mantel. I agree though, SF is now the gold rush town stultified by takes and not givers. Other commenters mention the Burn and that some SFers want the Burners gone, a mystery to a Bay Area native that left. I guess things really have changed there. The Burn was all about participation, not gawking, but recent Burns have seen that change into entertainment that you are not acting in as well as viewing. It seems that SF became the same as we see in the Castro. Oh well, I'll take my Rocky Mountains then.


Denverite I take it? I just moved there. I like it but really miss a lot of the west coast 'feel' (lived in SEA and SF before). I can't shake the sense of bro-ey white midwestern I feel in Denver, but perhaps I'm not looking hard enough just yet.


There are some decent meetups in town, but the really cool folks don't seem to leave their personal labs very often, unfortunately. They're around, though.

Still new and hard to say, but this might be a good place to meet a more eclectic group: http://denvertoollibrary.org


Thanks for the breadcrumb.


Denver, is very white and male, yes (Men-ver is a good name). The diversity is something i miss as well. Though the bro-y-ness of it is missing to me. I get more beer snob and hipster these days. SF is more 'don't arrest me, my dad is a lawyer'-bro-y than Denver is.


Well, it's been almost ten years now since my punk friends from the US told me the Bay Area was gone and that the new punk/alternative capital was Portland. Don't know if it still is, but they had all moved there or somewhere else. Almost ten years ago.


Portland is slowly losing it's edge. I say slowly because the wages here are silly low so that does keep out a lot of the yuppies the article is referring to (although many will come here and take advantage of that).

I've only been here for a little over a year but I've seen the city change very much in that short amount of time. Old abandon buildings are now apartment complexes for tech kids. In May of 2014 there was _maybe_ 3 co-working spaces. Now there are at least 7 or 8 (including a newly put together `we work`). Rent has risen more than 7% this past year and housing prices are poised to increase 15% in 2015 alone.

I moved to Portland mostly because it was a west coast city that didn't get snow and had a cool vibe the one time I visited. I'm definitely adding to the problems Portland is having but at least I didn't move here from California and don't have a trust fund...


"at least I didn't move here from California"

Yup. You being born in a state that is not California and moving to Portland makes you very superior to those living in Portland but born in California. You should put on your very superior hat and feel good about your total authenticity and unquestionable non-yuppiedom.


I was half joking.

The other serious half was in reference to Bay Area yuppies moving here and subversively driving up the cost of pretty much everything.


Overly loose credit, the decisions of companies to centralize, and NIMBYism is driving up the cost of pretty much everything. People just move to where the work is.

I have coworkers from Oregon in the Bay Area. Some would say that by moving here they're 'driving up the price of everything'. At this juncture if they move back, they'll then be 'driving up the price of everything' at home. It's meaningless.


According to my wife (a fifth generation Oregonian), being from "not California" is a big plus in that neck of the woods.


I left Portland a month after you arrived. The combination of lack of seriousness about education (failure to meet state minimum standard instructional hours, anyone), anti fluoride stupidity, and trustafarians got on my nerves, as well as persistently low wages. I do miss the weather (and had no trouble finding co working spaces even then)

For my part I'd recommend Montreal - I was impressed by the hackerspaces and coworking there


I am reminded of James Hughes, a transhumanist but also a proper sociologist, who wrote about the change in transhumanism from democratic left-leaning people, whose vision of technology was for the good of all, to libertarians (and thence singularitarians and neoreactionaries): http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/hughes20130501

> In 2009 the libertarians and Singularitarians launched a campaign to take over the World Transhumanist Association Board of Directors, pushing out the Left in favor of allies like Milton Friedman’s grandson and Seasteader leader Patri Friedman. Since then the libertarians and Singularitarians, backed by Thiel’s philanthropy, have secured extensive hegemony in the transhumanist community. As the global capitalist system spiraled into the crisis in which it remains, partly created by the speculation of hedge fund managers like Thiel, the left-leaning majority of transhumanists around the world have increasingly seen the contradiction between the millennialist escapism of the Singularitarians and practical concerns of ensuring that technological innovation is safe and its benefits universally enjoyed. While the alliance of Left and libertarian transhumanists held together until 2008 in the belief that the new biopolitical alignments were as important as the older alignments around political economy, the global economic crisis has given new life to the technoprogressive tendency, those who want to organize for a more egalitarian world and transhumanist technologies, a project with a long Enlightenment pedigree and distinctly millenarian possibilities.

It isn't something that just happened. It's something that was done to the area.


The overlap between communitarian student protesters and Wall Street focused old money elite isn't zero but I find it very odd that you would paint them as a joint monolith. There are important tensions between those two cultures that you erase with such a claim.

(Also the timing is bizarre, the hippie image was already solidified in the summer of '68, but the old money came in increasing tides of the 80s 90s and 00s.)


Truth be told I've actually been considering Wall Street. With all the jerkwads wandering around SF in forced-chillax-corporate-uniforms (hoodie, t-shirt with company logo, jeans), it might actually be pretty chill. : )


It's not the suits. Suits can actually be pretty comfortable, if you spend enough money. It's the culture.

I suggest you try Wall Street and Silicon Valley, both.


> instead relying on mercenary college grads who put up with the cost and the crazy for a few years before moving on to a more fulfilling job

Good mercenaries know a lot more than fresh grads.


I'm not sure what your point is. Turnover is expensive, and the presumption that one can tough it out at a big company before taking a more lucrative offer elsewhere compounds the problem. This is particularly acute for young consultants at big names like McKinsey, where the first Google result is an ad for ex-McKinsey consultants. When engineers leave before they become managers, it forces the company to promote from a smaller pool or recruit externally, neither of which is preferable for long-term stability.


A company that hires the less skilled ought to lose money, and that could work against the forming of a mono-culture.


It's not about skill, it's about loyalty. These companies are losing money precisely because they hire great people and fail to keep them. If you ran a major company, would you like the perception that the job you offer is only meant to be a resume-padding stepping stone? What happens when those people leave and new ones have to be filtered from application pools, acquainted with your teams and business practices, trained to use your systems, and then you have to repeat the process in a year or two? What does that do for morale among the people who stay?


Whatever--it's not our problem.

Companies (as a class of socioeconomic entity) have, since the 80s, been continually shirking their duties to their employees. At this point, the employer-employee relationship is adversarial. Thus, if it makes more sense for prospective employees to view their next job as resume padding, that's what they'll do.

If companies bothered to treat their workers well, to pay them well, to tie their fortunes to those of their employees, maybe we'd have something to talk about.

As the movie "Killing Them Softly" said:

This guy wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business. Now fuckin' pay me.

And yeah, that makes life hard for people starting new companies. So it goes.




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