The technology sphere is one of the few in the US economy that is still fully functional, dynamic, often fast growing, highly innovative, and wildly profitable. It's also one of the few in which you can still get very wealthy starting from very little, and do it fairly quickly.
The parts of the country mired in perpetual erosion, from Detroit to Baltimore etc, are extremely envious of Silicon Valley. The truth is, Silicon Valley has separated itself off from the collapse that the rest of America has experienced, and it has been able to do so because so much of tech is still a free market. That free market has produced bountiful wealth, and outsized influence that goes with it, while much of the rest of the country has stopped producing new wealth.
There simply are no other fields in which I can spend $100 tomorrow and set up a new business (AWS, or a dedicated server, and off you go). I need no permission. I need no lawyers. I need no zoning permits. I need no environmental studies. I need no retail space or warehouse. I need no tv spot, newspaper ad, or yellow pages placement. I need no consultants. I need no incorporation to get started. I don't need an army of workers. I don't even need to buy any software. I'm limited only by ... me. Oh and I need a $150 Windows XP machine with notepad and a free copy of WSFTP from 1997 that would run equally well on Windows 95, with a shitty $50 17" LCD monitor - and most of that hardware you can pick up for free from lots of sources.
Accusing Silicon Valley detractors of jealousy and envy contributes absolutely nothing to the discussion, particularly when they are talking about the culture of a place and you are conflating it with an industry.
You can attempt to work in a field from just about anywhere, but that's not how most companies are started, that's not how talent pools, that's not how rich geographic ecosystems of labor + capital are formed, and that's not how Big Things happen. You'll also find, education from anywhere is not as beneficial as the total punch of collaboration + social + network value of actually going to MIT or Stanford or Wharton or Harvard et al.
There are very good reasons why so many of the great tech companies have come from Silicon Valley. There are very good reasons why - in the age of being able to 'work from anywhere' - Silicon Valley continues to be Silicon Valley.
14 out of the youngest 25 members of the Forbes 400 are products of Silicon Valley.
Is it easier for a software startup to succeed in Silicon Valley? Probably. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. The most compelling thing about the software industry is that you can start and run a company from literally anywhere in the world.
My issue with your mindset is that you're only considering "big" companies. For every Facebook there are hundreds or thousands of startups, many of them profitable or otherwise successful, and many of them not located in Silicon Valley.
I'd give a fair amount of credit to the universities, the gold rush and the acid craze, too. Tech culture didn't just pop into existence at unixtime 0.
Plus, the universities + tech sector have worked extremely well in tandem. They fund each other, one with labor talent, the other with money being donated back.
That's not true. You can develop software anywhere but you cannot fully sell, recruit, and support being outside the central economic places. There are exceptions (if buying is just a click without a sales force) but there is a hard limit of scale.
This kind of intellectually lazy and arrogant attitude will only serve to alienate SV further from the rest of society, which, not coincidentally, is one of the core arguments of most recent criticism directed at SV.
You cannot, for instance, buy a $10K CNC machine and start building production cars because you will find yourself mired in red tape for until you are completely broke and never ship a single unit. Because of that, Detroit, the place known for cars, never got to see any real innovation beyond what the established players could generate and eventually started to die out as a result. That is not a failing of Detroit, just a failing of the industry Detroit is known for.
I would argue that for company that is going to be based of of something web-related (since you mentioned AWS), a Linux based work environment would be as productive, if not more productive than Windows 95 (or XP).
I agree with the gist of your comment though, that you can get up and running extremely cheaply. But thanks to the huge efforts and progress in free software, you can even do so without compromising in most areas.
Somebody with just basic computing skills (who is not going to understand Linux), able to run Windows XP, can get started right now, learning and building. They can pursue that knowledge to whatever extent they're willing to work for it.
You can literally, as a 19 year old that just knows how to surf and use Windows XP or basic computing, source a junky 2004 era machine for free, fire up notepad, teach yourself to write simple web applications (in whatever language, eg php), leveraging the web for knowledge (or even libraries for books), leverage dirt cheap hosting, and off you go. And yes, there are a lot of ways to go about this, obviously.
Not too long ago (say, the year 2000), the free market of the tech industry lost bountiful wealth.
Bill Gates, freshly wealthiest man in the world, laments the limited influence of his $5 billion has in US education, a $800+ billion national expense.
I'm not sure anyone in the Economist is jealous of anything. At least they get to write for an intelligent audience. I'm pretty sure at the highest echelons of SV engineering, all that you can really claim is writing PHP code to help people share dick pics and earning a lot of money.
People who work in SV are just like people anywhere else, yet how many times a week is there an article published railing on the culture for not focusing on more important problems like cancer, poverty or something similar? Its almost like SV is the child and everyone else is the "Tiger Mom" triggering the rebellion and resentment.
So what? People say this all the time. I can't remember how many times I hear this about other fields (oh no, smart kids are going to Wall Street instead of curing cancer).
Just sack up, accept the fact that the real money is in areas of the economy that aren't necessarily (at least on their face) the most socially useful (e.g. banking in the case of Wall Street, advertising in the case of Silicon Valley) and that this fact will always rub people the wrong way. People in Silicon Valley are making a lot of money doing whatever it is that they're doing. Do they really need adoring approval from everyone else?
I have about as much to do with Silicon Valley tech culture as I do with Tibetan monk culture (I have spoken to people in both, but am not involved in either), but even I couldn't help thinking that this sounds like a lot of sour grapes and unfulfilled schadenfreude.
First of all the fact remains that there is an age discrimination hurdle present in most parts of the country (almost opposite in Silicon Valley where apparently they discriminate against the old).
Second starting out in an area surrounded by individuals who are more likely to embrace your ideas and progress and in general be more open minded leads to faster progress, regardless of if you succeed or fail. If the idea works great if not then you find out faster and move on but at least you don't have to spend time dealing with unrelated hurdles.
Its not that Silicon Valley or MIT are some great magical places, its that the people that are already there are creating the culture that make it easier to succeed. Second regarding industry, again I agree, compare the tech industry to drug development or biotech (my area) which is so incredibly regulated and tough to get an idea approved much less tested that even big money (pharma,vc,etc) is walking away despite the obvious benefit to humanity oh and not to mention boatloads of money that could be made.
Not to mention Baltimore is extraordinarily dangerous, with their crime rate and murder rate being through the roof.
Who said Silicon Valley was the only place you can create a tech company? New York has nearly all the structures you could ever possibly ask for to do so. Baltimore does not however, nor does Detroit.