in Nerds, Technology, Work

Literally and Figuratively Out of Touch on Powder Mountain

I have no doubt that the previous generations of rich businessmen were as out of touch as these guys, but at least they presumably had the good sense to keep their mouths shut about it.

From The Guardian, “Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite“:

But it was an experience on a Summit cruise ship that Chawla says made the biggest impression. He was on the deck, casually talking to the founder of a not-for-profit company whose career had been devoted “to building schools in Africa or something like that”. “I felt so embarrassed to say, ‘Oh, I run a technology company, I build apps.’ It was just so purposeless. It felt so selfish, what I was doing.” Chawla says the first thing he did when he got off the boat was set up his own (now defunct) not-for-profit company: Charity Swear Box. It was a website connected to Twitter that would monitor how often a user swears in their tweets, and recommend they make a donation to charity. “I would have never spent the time and effort to do that had I not come to Summit,” he says.

It also shows an astounding lack of self awareness around what technology is enabling for some, while completely crushing the worlds of others:

I tell Rosenthal that I’ve met many people in America who work as hard as him and his friends – harder, in fact – but struggle to make ends meet. He acknowledges that he’s benefited from considerable advantage, but insists we now live in an era in which “the internet is the great equaliser”. “What are you doing to create the utility for yourself? Are you introducing people so they can collaborate?” he says. Struggling Americans, he adds, might want to “host a dinner. Invite 10 strangers. See what happens.”

The conversation reminds me of so many I have had in and around San Francisco, in which millennials made rich through technology relay snippets of revelatory conversations they’ve had with Uber drivers, some of whom live and sleep in their cars. It is as though the taxi-sharing app is one of the last remaining cords keeping the new elites connected to everyone else’s world. When Uber rolls out its self-driving cars, even that fragile connection will be broken.

Lord, give me the confidence of a white tech dude.