Silicon Wasteland

07 Jan 2015

Category: life

Tags: life, work, society, musings

I have recently become more disillusioned with the culture around me and which I am a part. When I was working at Facebook, I had metacognitive moments sitting in meetings where people were discussing things like the text on an alert telling people about their privacy settings, or where people had trouble resetting their password, where I just could not believe this was real life. Like these people were being 100% serious about things that seemed so absolutely ridiculous and trivial to me. But then I had to remember that I had these feelings before and that it was just the way that I viewed the world.

I have an inability to "take things seriously." By that, I mean that whenever I am in a situation where others view something as important, I am usually confused because I just don't see what the big deal is either way. There hasn't been anything in the past ten years or more where I've had feelings like I have to be serious or something good won't happen or something bad will. Someone died? I am much more likely to just make a joke than say something sympathetic, not because I'm a dick or I am covering up something, but because I don't think anything is really that important.

We live, things happen, you have to enjoy what you enjoy while you can, but you can't take anything too seriously. This point hit home for me really hard, when I watched a show on HBO called "Planet Twelve: The Secret Life of 12-Year-Olds" which is basically just following 6th graders around for a week asking them questions about what is important and difficult or good about their lives. It was eye-opening because I remember being that age, and I remember feeling and hearing some of the same things these kids talked about it. I remember thinking that something was so important that if it didn't go one way then my life was just going be over. But when you hear the same things coming out of a 12 year olds mouth when you are 20, you realize how stupid it sounds. How meaningless their "problems" are. But, I think most people take this and turn it into, "oh geez, these kids don't know what real problems are like the one's I have, when they grow up they will realize how stupid those problems were when they've got real adult problems to deal with." I have talked to other people about this concept and that is usually the gist of their reaction. My reaction was quite different. Rather than making the same mistake as those 12 year olds, just with larger problems, I took a step back and thought, maybe nothing we think is important today really is. What if, we realize in the moment, than in 5 years we will think that the most important thing today is actually pretty meaningless. Whatever it is, our future self will have resolved it and we won't really see a direct link from that decision to whatever is the next important thing at that point in the future. Realizing that in the moment, we can then have a larger view of the present that isn't overly concerned with the mundane or even the exceptional. Clearly there are some things that can be so life changing that they are "important", for instance if you are paralyzed or get a life sentence in prison. But I would argue that even those things, as long as you are still alive, after 5 years or so, you will have settled in to a new routine and life will just go on for you.

With that context on why I don't take things serious, I have to say that people in Silicon Valley have their head's so far up their asses that what they think is important, I don't think most people elsewhere in the world would find important, but I definitely do not. I hear people talking about how they believe they are changing the world because they are creating an iPhone app that lets you do, I stop listening at this point. They pitch their companies with such highfalutin language and attitude that I just want to vomit. Is Uber changing the world? Are people's lives meaningfully different? I would say technically the answer to the first question is yes because the world is constantly changing, and there must be some people whose lives are very different now, but does it matter? I am disillusioned by the concepts that people are getting off on. I just don't get how people can wake up every day and do what they do with a straight face. This is not unique to tech or the Valley, but it is where I currently live, where I work, and I think it is a magnified here more than other places and industries.

I left Facebook for lots of reasons, but one that I don't think I fully internalized at the time was what I am talking about here. I didn't realize how large this was and how much I didn't get it. I thought that leaving a social network to go to a company that was doing something real was the solution to my philosophical ruminations, but I now realize that is not the solution. My actual problems were deeper seeded, I feel how unimportant things are, and even more how ridiculous it is that I can live my life just writing basically straight forward code. I actually can't even find the words right now to say what I really mean. There is just a ludicrousness to it all that is eating away at me.

All of this has led me to think about other things that I have always wanted to do, or what type of day to day would be less absurd to me. It is hard to say exactly what would not be absurd because it often comes down just down to perspective. But, there is one thing that I am seriously considering, which I alluded to in one of my previous posts about a book that I recently read. Nothing is going to change yet, but I am thinking and we will see what happens.

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