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Posted at 5:05 PM ET, 12/10/2010

Why I like reading about Silicon Valley

By Ezra Klein

I've been reading and thinking more about the technology sector lately, in part because it's interesting and in part because it cultivates good habits of mind. In Washington, thinking is constrained by the routine experience of being unable to achieve the clearly possible. In Silicon Valley, it's unconstrained by the routine experience of being able to achieve the seemingly impossible. Talking to people from technology companies is just very different from talking to people from the Hill.

Sometimes, in fact, it's very, very, very different. I'm a member of the online Q&A community Quora.com. One of the recent questions asked how it felt to be physically unattractive and undesirable. A number of very poignant answers followed, including a particularly affecting reply from a man who was uncommonly short. The comments on his post quickly piled up, and the nature of the encouragement was, well, different from what I'm used to:

If you're under 35, you have a reasonable chance of living until the singularity, which will allow you to cross the "bridge to immortality." This will allow you to live forever (or more realistically, 1000 years), during which time technological advance will allow you to transplant your consciousness into a new, taller body. So while women can get their chests "fixed" today, height is not really that far off for men under a certain age. Stay healthy, and try to stay alive until technology catches up. If you die prematurely, have yourself frozen.

By Ezra Klein  | December 10, 2010; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  Tech  
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Comments

Very very very different, yes. Also very very very crazy.

I work in Silicon Valley, and sometimes this attitude can come across as not letting reality get in your way. It's useful for the purpose of discussion, but less useful for actually implementing something if you skip directly to Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Posted by: apsalar | December 10, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I like Cloud Cuckoo Land. I get my mail there.

Posted by: will12 | December 10, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

At last, short people finally have a reason to live.

Posted by: ostap666 | December 10, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

I grew up there surrounded by Mensa nudists. Equal parts insane and brilliant. On one hand you'd be talking to the guys who invented the icon-based computer interface that led to the modern Mac/PC mouse-based systems, and on the other hand, some drunk physicist would be rambling about some crazy personal theory regarding telepathy...all with their junk just swinging openly in the wind.

I was building lasers before I even knew how to ride a bike, but the flip side to that was a whole lot of naked eccentricity that I could have done without.

Posted by: Nylund154 | December 10, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

In the range of possible jobs, I do cool stuff- one line summary could be that I use robots to (try to) cure cancer, though that's obviously a ridiculous oversimplification. But stuff like this is worse than useless- it obscures the amazing things we can do because people want to know why we haven't extended lives to 200 years yet. It's the worst when computer science guys start talking out of their a$$ about biology- see here, for example:
http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2010/12/02/amazing_stuff_guess_where_its_from_.php

Posted by: _SP_ | December 10, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Surely someone has to express outrage at the obvious opportunity for Quora to coordinate the planting of talking points in Ezra's blog? Didn't we establish earlier this year that it's unethical for Ezra to communicate online without a mirror of the conversation posted (or at least linked) here?

Posted by: zimbar | December 11, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I like reading about silicon valley because it is a great example of capitalism and the profit motive leading to innovation. Computers are always getting better, and that's because every company is motivated to create a better product, because, for one reason, it will be profitable to them. Computers are always getting better, but Washington is mired in a cesspool of nastiness and aggression.

Posted by: christopherfarrell | December 12, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

Your example was a distraction, I think, but the post itself was refreshing. I moved to northern CA after living on the east coast and the difference is striking. It is not about eccentricity; it is about innovation. All innovation involves eccentric players, however the changes keep coming.

While the Senate demonstrates the dysfunctional behavior associated with rigid attachment to the past, particularly among aging white males, the tech world keeps creating the innovations that concurrently create the conditions that require those mired in the past to adapt. John McCain using twitter comes to mind.

The Washington DC rigor mortis of the mind has become increasingly tedious. Until we get more young minds making decisions we are stuck with this bizarre problem. I encourage you to keep posting on the tech world and the world view in Silicon Valley...if for no other reason than to disrupt the impact of this DC attachment to the past. I take great pride in noting that while there was a great deal of money invested in "buying CA" in the last elections...we were not for sale.

While DC and the East Coast corridor slog about in the sludge of dying days, the West Coast corridor is creating the future.

Posted by: pbkritek | December 13, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Here in CA we have a little (some say alot) of everything. Businesses from winemaking to steel manufacturing yet we also have liberal thinking centers as well as big pockets of conservatism, all of whom get along. Why? Because we have one of the world's most advanced and innovative educational systems. Sometimes not well funded ("those damn teachers make too much and I pay too much in taxes for them") but it continues to attract talented youngsters willing to pay (or their parents do) for the benefit of a higher level of education and are looking forward to finding good jobs in the expanding state economy. Fortunately, we have a group who understand and believe that science and math are tracks to success. Not religion!

Posted by: wallyb | December 13, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

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