Net Dreams

Descend into the valley of riches. Feast on the nourishment of hope. Start up a tech company and sell it. See if your soul can survive.

| November/December 1999

By car, by plane, they come, giving up lives elsewhere for the tremendous opportunity of Silicon Valley. They believe that in no other place in the world right now can one person accomplish so much with talent, initiative, and a good idea. It's a region where how much money you have and who you know have never been less relevant to success. They come because it doesn't matter that they're young, or left college without a degree, or have dark skin, or speak with an accent. They come even if it's illegal to come, because they feel they'll regret it the rest of their lives if they don't give it a try. They come to be part of history, to build the technology that will reshape how people live 10 years from now. They come for the excitement, to be a part of it, to score big. They come to make enough money so they will never have to think about money again.

Every generation before this one has had to make a choice between pursuing a steady career and pursuing wild adventures. In Silicon Valley, that trade-off has been recircuited. Injecting mind-boggling amounts of risk into the once stodgy domain of gray-suited business, young people no longer have to choose. They've turned life into a two-for-one deal: career path as roller-coaster adventure. Working has become sport. Here in superachieverland, people are motivated by the thrill of the competition and the danger of losing, and every year the rules evolve to make it happen quicker, on higher margins, with more amazing sums.

I imagine a manifesto for Silicon Valley: Get lean, strip down, live on nothing. Bare bones. Focus. Ration yourself daily one Snickers, one jackoff, and one Dilbert cartoon. Forget about love that nourishes, food that satiates. Forget about long conversations that only get good in the middle of the night, when that third bottle of wine gets uncorked. Forget about poetry: the whisper, the leaf, the tuck of hair. Forget about politics: the bilingual-ed revolt, the dams diverting more water south.

Get ready for ultracapitalism.

The Idealist
I'm on my way out of a Saturday night party when I glance up and see a vaguely familiar face, plastered with a merry whiskey grin, perched on a high stool tipped back against the wall. I had met this guy three years ago when he was in town for a convention. Back then he was based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and he had loudly trumpeted the notion that in the telecommuting age one could work anywhere.

'Another convention in town?' I ask.

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