It's a field alright, and it does have some reality-distorting side effects, but there is actually a "there" there.
If I had to boil it down I'd say it's this:
(1) California believes in the future. People in California (stereotypically) think about what they can do tomorrow, building on what they have today. Everyone else thinks about what they already have today and fears losing it tomorrow.
(2) California reasons from first principles more than elsewhere. Everyone else looks at what everyone else is doing and tries to superficially copy what looks like it works, or looks to the past. Ideas from the past will only get you what was done in the past, and other peoples' ideas will not make you competitive since they're everyone else's advantages. (Assuming you succeed in copying them at all, and don't just end up cargo-culting them.)
I quoted this elsewhere in the thread. It bears repetition.
"For the engine which drives Enterprise is not Thrift, but Profit." - John Maynard Keynes
California runs on this.
I'm not saying that a lot of great stuff doesn't come out of California/SV (just like Apple, for whom the 'reality distortion field' thing was first coined, also produces great products). The casualness with which you suppose that California alone is producing more innovation the entire rest of the country suggests that you're overwhelmingly focused on a very, very specific definition of 'innovation'.
The places where innovation comes from are going to be places that believe in the future, are open to experimentation and risk, and reason from first principles instead of cargo-cultism. It just seems like California (and SV in particular) has an above-average amount of these things.
There is no "California mindset" just like there's no "Wall Street mindset" in New York. You're just being sectionalist.
[A little background about me: I was born in Cali, left when I was 6 months old, returned when I was in my late 20s, and stayed there for 5 years (San Diego).]
The reason I ask you this is that your viewpoint is why I went to Cali. But when I got there I found that the idea of Cali is very different from the reality of Cali. I have lived in a variety of places around the world, and I must honestly say that California was one of the worst...
Re your first point: (1) California believes in the future.
I would say NO, California believes in itself. They think (sometimes)that they are the future, but most often they build on what they have today because they fear about losing it. Not about what they can do tomorrow. A lot of what they do is about preserving the image of what they are, not about progress or the future. And as for the people (stereotypically)... Rednecks, gangbangers, surfer-dudes... There are a lot of them.
Your second quote: (2) California reasons from first principles more than elsewhere. Everyone else looks at what everyone else is doing and tries to superficially copy what looks like it works...
I think here you have it 50-50. Yes, some new things come out of Cali, but on the whole, they copy, (it's just that sometimes the copy is way better than the original)Except the idea of copy is a little changed, they don't copy exactly, they take an idea and 'shift' it. First is was a shift from real world to online. At the moment it's a shift from many to individual (online).
And your quote does need repeating, as is sums up Cali well, from gold rush to dotcom boom -
California runs on this.
Cali is about profit, nothing more, nothing less.