I don’t know Jack Dorsey, though I know plenty of people who do. Based on second hand stories, and now dueling high-flying profiles, he strikes me as someone of above-average intelligence, though certainly short of genius. Privileged, like so many young white men of our generation, to pick up computer programming at a young age and convert that to a career fueled by irrational exuberance.
His sense of style seems overblown to say the least. His idiosyncratic sartorial quirks give off the vibe of a Bond-villain. Square’s famously literal interface now appears quaintly fashionable, but last season. His cultured, minimalist aesthetic makes for good copy, even if it is a luxury of extreme wealth few can imagine, let alone afford. The seemingly endless, empty aphorisms that he speaks in are more Chauncey Gardner than Zen master1. It all feels like so much affectation.
These are minor crimes, perpetrated as much by a feckless press eager for a gripping narrative as by Dorsey himself. Much more sinister and less forgivable is the monstrous vanity and cynical glibness with which he associates himself with heroic historical figures like Martin Luther King and Gandhi.
These have become so frequent and mundane they are a punchline. Dorsey rarely misses an opportunity to compare the work he’s doing streamlining credit card processing to true heroes who fought brutal, systemic oppression. A man who has a standing weekly dinner reservation at a Michelin starred restaurant has no business comparing himself to a martyr who fasted for weeks to end the subjugation of his homeland. Dr. King, a socialist who gave his life to lift up the least among us, would surely have little use for an app that lets hipsters buy $4 lattes without having to reach for their wallets.
Square and Twitter, exciting though they may be, aren’t revolutions, you can’t even really call them disruptive, in the parlance of our gilded time. They are largely complementary, which is a fine thing to build and even to be handsomely rewarded for, but they don’t create freedom or fight inequality.
Dorsey is lucky that he’s been able to mostly create his own myth, and even have The New Yorker pass off his version of it as truth. Given his penchant for believing this myth so thoroughly, he’d be wise to stop short of hagiography.
what passes for a press in the tech industry seems to be willing to give Dorsey a pass on his quasi-philosophisizing. No one seems to be bothered to ask a follow up when he says something like “payments are intimate”. What the hell does that even mean? Is it actually profound or merely a Markov chain of memetic mimicry? ↩
Bircher anti-Communism, anti-Catholicism, racism (Dallas was the last large American city to desegregate its schools), Kennedy hatred—that suffused many people in Dallas with the spirit of dissension and incipient violence during the early sixties, including some of its leading citizens: elected officials, Baptist ministers, the billionaire oilman H. L. Hunt, the right-wing zealot General Edwin Walker, even the publisher of the Morning News, Ted Dealey. During the 1960 Presidential campaign, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, the state’s most powerful politician, and his wife, Lady Bird, were spat upon in Dallas; Adlai Stevenson, J.F.K.’s Ambassador to the United Nations, was assaulted there just a month before the assassination. “WELCOME MR. KENNEDY TO DALLAS …,” ran the headline of a black-bordered, full-page ad in the Morning News on the morning of November 22, 1963, with a bill of particulars that stopped just short of accusing the President of treason. Kennedy had warned his wife, “We’re heading into nut country.Dallas fifty years ago sounds familiar today.
The property market is no longer about people making a long-term investment in owning their shelter, but a place for the world’s richest people to park their money at an annualized rate of return of around 10 percent. It has made my adopted hometown a no-go area for increasing numbers of the middle class.From an article about how property speculation in London has all but pushed the middle class out. Many of the specifics are about London and how wealthy foreigners have pushed housing prices up and up, however, it’s a similar story in many global cities. I certainly saw plenty of analogues to San Francisco here.
Big nasty contradictions usually point to some deeper misalignment. Based on what I know of the Valley, the culture it exports, and the nature of the winner-take-all New Economy it’s building, the only thing I can come up with is this:
All the Valley’s talk about transhumanism, human potential, life extension, and generally “changing the world” is a bunch of hooey. It’s a myth — in the pejorative sense of that term. It’s a fluffy religion meant to snooker young professionals into giving their employers everything they have and working their brains down to the myelin until they become too old to be relevant anymore.
No, it’s worse than that.
They don’t get too old to be relevant. They get too old to be cheap.
Adam Ierymenko on the inherent dissonance of the Singularity true believers and the devaluing of a workforce creeping into middle age.
Which isn’t entirely true. It’s more that you’re supposed to have made it by the time you’re 35 or 40. You should be able to retire thanks to a few liquidity events, work should be something you can’t give up because you’ve spent your entire life hustling.
In short, these eighty members represent an America where the population is getting whiter, where there are few major cities, where Obama lost the last election in a landslide, and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular. Meanwhile, in national politics, each of these trends is actually reversed.The G.O.P.’s suicide caucus
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge from Yerba Buena Island in 1936.Photograph by the California State Department of Public Works