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The Mark Zuckerberg quote comes from an interview done for Y Combinator’s “How to Build a
Future”-series and can be found here:
Franklin Foer spoke about what Silicon Valley’s business model does to our thinking in
conversation with Keith A. Spencer, the text of the interview can be found here:
In 1995, Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron endeavored to describe to describe “dotcom
neoliberalism” as “the California ideology,” an ideology which concerns some of the nexus this
book will deal with ( I do
not use this term because, as will become clear, I do not think that the combination of counter
culture and Ayn Rand is as counterintuitive as Barbrook and Cameron thought it was. If
anything, the time that has elapsed since their essay has shown deep and troubling
compatibilities. Nevertheless, their presentation is very much worth checking out. Similarly, for
the conceptual underpinnings of tech’s regulatory capture since the early 2000s, see: Jonathan
Taplin, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and
Undermined Democracy (New York: Hachette, 2017), 127f

The McLuhan-quote can be found in Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, ed. Terrence
Gordon (Berkeley: Gingko Press, 2017), 31

I owe my sense that algorithms, incentive structures and gamification are clearly intended to
push Uber and Lyft drivers towards something resembling full employment without being full
employees, from hours spent talking to individual drivers across the Bay Area, as well as
hanging out on online forums that cater to gig workers. For an incredibly brilliant on-the-ground
report and analysis of gamification and algorithms in rideshare apps, see Sarah Mason’s article
“Chasing the Pink” in Logic-magazine’s Play-issue (Issue 6, Winter 2018), pp. 17-32

Much has been written about Silicon Valley’s peculiar cult of personality. I recommend Sunny
Bains’s analysis (see for example:
science-tech/), because she shows how this cult works in the actual operation of companies

This is because I find the observation that there is something “prophetic” or “messianic” and
therefore religious about the devotion such figures inspire on the whole unconvincing. Or, at
least, I don’t see why the connection to religion tells us anything that a sociology of the firm

The figure of the “thought leader” is explored in both its origins in the 60s counterculture and in
the fictions of Ayn Rand, by Satiajit Das, Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult
of Risk (London: FT Publishing, 2011)

“Learn to code”: For a thoughtful but impassioned takedown of why “selling coding as a ticket
to economic salvation for the masses is dishonest,” see Basel Farag, “Please don’t learn to
I take Stephen Adams’s point about Silicon Valley boosterism emerging from an attempt to
reverse a brain drain from the West to the East Coast of the United States from his article
“Regionalism in Stanford’s Contribution to the Rise of Silicon Valley,” Enterprise and Society,
Vol. 4, No.3 (September 2003), 521-543

The quotes from Fred Turner in this chapter come from an interview I conducted with him in
August 2018

The quotes from Eric Roberts in this chapter and others come from an interview I conducted
with him in November of 2019

David Kelley’s TED Talk can be found at
I drew on Edward Hoffman’s biography on Maslow, The Right to Be Human (New York: McGraw
Hill, 1999). The Esalen-connection is described on page 273f

Chapter 1: Dropping Out
The CNN headline can be found here:
Holmes’s financing is described by John Carreyrou in Bad Blood (John Carreyrou, Bad Blood:
Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (New York: Knopf, 2018)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s report on a “dropout epidemic” can be found here:
Terry Winograd was Larry Page’s advisor when Page was pursuing a PhD at Stanford
( It seems that a lot of the foundational work for
Google’s tech was done during this time. In 2001, Page and Brin wrote an academic paper on
PageRank, the algorithm behind Google’s search, and Winograd was listed as a fourth author

Harvard’s core requirement during the years Mark Zuckerberg attended the school can be
found here:
The CNBC report can be found here (
says-he-learned-more-from-a-hobby-than-he-did-at-harvard.html), but it references a 2017
town hall at North Carolina A&T State University — the question begins at around the 36-
minute mark:
The course description for Drug Delivery in the 21st Century can be found archived here:
Elizabeth Holmes using the phrase “I was trained as an engineer” can be found in an interview
with Charlie Rose. The full quote reads: “I was trained as an engineer, and I would like to think
of myself as an engineer, but now my time is spent trying to realize this mission.”
Robert Greenfield, Timothy Leary: A Biography (New York: Harcourt, 2006)

Timothy Leary, Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (Berkeley: Ronin Publishing, 1999)

Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems (San Francisco: City Lights, 2002). 9

Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf, translated by Basil Creighton (New York: Macmillan, 2002), 175

For an essay of Leary’s that exemplifies how the 60s read Hesse, see: Timothy Leary, The Politics
of Ecstasy (Berkeley: Ronin Publishing, 1998)

Huxley’s view of antipodes (and the origins of the metaphor) are explored in: Aldous Huxley,
Complete Essays: 1939-1965, Vol. 5 (Chicago: Dee, 2002), 9-15

Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (New York: Signet, 1962), 192

Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (New York: Penguin, 2016), 242

Ram Dass, Be Here Now (San Cristobal, NM: Lama Foundation, 2010). [TIL: Lama Foundation is
apparently now a subsidiary of Random House Bertelsman, so … that’s depressing]
On Turner’s description of the “cybernetic counterculture,” see: Fred Turner, From
Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital
Utopianism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2006), 42f

On former Stanford president John Hennessy’s relationship to investing in Silicon Valley
companies, including ones started by students, see:

“That’s a bus. You invented a bus”: The tweet can be found here
Chapter 2: Content
“Has to live in the utmost proximity created by our electric involvement in one another’s lives”:
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, ed. Terrence Gordon (Berkeley: Gingko Press, 2017),

On the counterculture, cyberculture and McLuhan, see: Fred Turner, From Counterculture to
Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
(Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2006), 52-55

“Like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind”:
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, ed. Terrence Gordon (Berkeley: Gingko Press, 2017),

On the death of the Tumblr ecosystems, see e.g. this from The Washington Post:
The filings in Tasini et al. v. AOL, Inc. et al. can be found here:
The filings in Panzer v. Yelp can be found at Santa Clara University Law School here:
Annika Butler-Wall’s dissertation project is titled Gender and Labor in the Digital Age. You
should be able to find it in a university library near you in 2021

The gender politics of Yelp (the actual company as opposed to the platform) do not come from
Butler-Wall, but rather from a short interview I did with an early employee of the company

Both I and my fact checker have tried to get in touch with Snowflake several times to find out
what they were going for with the ad. We never heard back, but in September 2020, the same
company raised heckles by another stunt, projecting its logo onto San Francisco City Hall on the
occasion of their IPO:
For a recent in-depth study of Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, see: Jeff Kosseff,
The Twenty-Six Words that Created the Internet (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019)

Jack Dorsey’s Rolling Stone interview came out in January 2019 and can be found archived here:
Chapter 3: Genius
White’s essay is quoted in Mimi Reisel Gladstein (editor), The Ayn Rand Companion (Westport:
Greenwood Press, 1984), 93

For background I have relied extensively on my colleague Jennifer Burns’s excellent Goddess of
the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009)

“How it was possible, in those graceless years of transition”: Ayn Rand, Anthem: I couldn’t help
myself and used the Project Gutenberg free version, because I’m a taker:
Pixar’s Randianism has been the subject of much debate online. Director Brad Bird (Ratatouille,
The Incredibles, Tomorrowland, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) has been strongly
identified with her ideas (A.O. Scott’s review of The Incredibles makes the care quite clearly),
although others have pushed back against this – here for instance is Emily VanDer Werff in Vox:

It’s curious that online commentary seem to regard identifying Randian elements in Bird’s films
as somehow criticisms – as opposed to simply ideas that, in children’s entertainment are indeed
unusual and fun to talk with kids about. As Mark Fischer and others have pointed out, though,
there are plenty of Pixar films with which Bird seems to have had no involvement, that
nevertheless make some fairly similar points. Rather than say that Pixar’s films are
straightforwardly objectivist, it might be better to say that they represent a typical Bay Area mix
of Rand’s ideas with counterculture tropes

“Gestural anti-capitalism”: Mark Fischer, Capitalist Realism (Ropley: O Books, 2009), 12

Jeff Riggenbach, “The Disowned Children of Ayn Rand,” Reason (Dec. 1982). The article is
archived here:
“Libertarian counterinsurgency”: Jonathan Taplin, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook,
Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy (New York: Hachette, 2017),

Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture and the Rise of Hip
Consumerism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997)

Fred Turner on the Whole Earth Catalogue: Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture:
Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (Chicago: Chicago
University Press, 2006), 69

For an explication of the genius aesthetic and its historic emergence, see Hans-Georg Gadamer,
Truth and Method, translated by W. Glen-Doepel, Joel Weinsheimer, and Donald G. Marshall
(London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 55f

“Perhaps, in those days, there were…”: Ayn Rand, Anthem,
Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (London: Verso, 2005), 50

Chapter 4: Communication
“A society of island universes”: Aldous Huxley, Complete Essays: 1939-1965, Vol. 5 (Chicago:
Dee, 2002), 159-160

On the origins of the Human Potential Movement, see: Walter Truett Anderson, The Upstart
Spring: Esalen and the Human Potential Movement (Lincoln: iUniverse, 2004), 9-15

On Esalen and TRAC, see: Jeffrey Kripal, Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 334

“How people are changed by the instruments they employ”: The distinction between a
descriptive and a transformational theory of communication comes from a lecture McLuhan
gave in 1974, the relevant clip can be found here –
John Durham Peters, Speaking Into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2012), 10-21

Karp’s Frankfurt dissertation (Aggression in der Lebenswelt) can be found archived here. It is
obviously in German: https:/
The quote on page 85 (“respect for certain social taboos”/”die Rücksicht auf Tabus einer
Gesellschaft”) is on page 125

Since I wrote this book, Moira Weigel has written about the document here: Moira Weigel,
“Palantir Goes to the Frankfurt School,” boundary 2. The article is archived here:
Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a
Category of Bourgeois Society, translated by Thomas Burger (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991)

“Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” a.k.a. the “Google Memo” is archived here:
David Brooks’s view of the Google Memo expressing a “legitimate tension” and handwringing
about Google’s reaction to the Memo can be found here:
“Enlightened false consciousness”: Peter Sloterdijk, The Critique of Cynical Reason, translated
by Andreas Huyssen (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987)

Peters’s characterization of the troll comes from: John Durham Peters, “U Mad?”, Logic
Magazine, Issue 6: Play (Winter, 2018). It is archived online here:
Angela Nagle, Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the
Alt-Right (Winchester: Zero Books, 2017), 25

Nick Srnicek, Platform Capitalism (Cambridge: Polity, 2017), 47

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Imp of the Perverse” in The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
(New York: Modern Library, 1992), 280-284

Ralph Hartley’s paper “Transmission of Information” was presented at the amazingly-named
International Congress of Telegraphy and Telephony (!) in Lake Como (!), Italy in 1927 and
published in published in the July 1928 issue of the Bell System Technical Journal (Vol. 7, No. 3)

It can be found (behind a paywall) here:
I should mention that I could make heads or tails of what Hartley meant until I read Jimmy Soni
and Rob Goodman’s A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age (New
York: Simon & Schuster, 2017). The discussion of Hartley occurs from p. 132 onwards

Susan Sontag, “Fascinating Fascism,” in Under the Sign of Saturn: Essays (New York: Picador,
2012), 73-108

The slogan Viva La Muerte is most famously associated with a confrontation between General
José Millán-Astray and the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno in October 1936: Carlos Rojas has
written the most in-depth account of the contested details of that day: Carlos Rojas, Muera la
inteligencia! Viva la Muerte: Salamanca, 1936, Unamuno y Millán-Astray frente a frente
(Madrid: Planeta, 1995)

Chapter 5: Desire
Cynthia Haven wrote an excellent biography of Girard: Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard
(Ann Arbor: Michigan State University Press, 2018). What emerges from Haven’s portrait is a
man whose philosophy (and its pronounced allergy to competition) made him an exceptionally
happy fellow traveler – not only was he unlikely to defend his philosophy from cooptation, he
was likely to welcome it to some extent. Haven’s insights are one reason why I focus on what
tech (and above all Thiel) made of Girard, not necessarily on what Girard did and intended

The Thiel-interview can be found here:
“How disturbingly herdlike people become in some many different contexts”: this interview
with Thiel can be found here
Peter Thiel and David O. Sacks, The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on
Campus (Oakland, CA: Independent Institute, 1995). The quote about multiculturalism on page
104 is from 191 on Thiel’s book

You can find the bonmot about a “bombastic redescription of orthodoxy” from Daniel Dennett’s
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014), page 320). It is about the neo-
mystic Teilhard de Chardin

Joshua Landy, “Deceit, Desire, and the Literature Professor: Why Girardians Exist,” Republics of
Letters, Vol. 3, Issue 1 (September 2012), 1-21. The article can be found online here:
Geoff Shullenberger, “The Scapegoating Machine,” The New Inquiry
Peter Thiel, Blake Masters, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, Or How to Build the Future (New
York: Crown, 2014)

Blake Masters’s notes for CS 183 can be found here:
Chapter 6: Disruption
Tech’s use of the language of disruption is brilliantly analyzed in Jonathan Taplin, Move Fast and
Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined
Democracy (New York: Hachette, 2017), 20ff

David Kirkpatrick’s Vanity Fair profile of Sean Parker with the “Loki character”-line appeared in
September 2010, and can be found here:
Joshua Gans, The Disruption Dilemma (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016)

For a classic articulation of modernity as a disruption of traditional lifecycles, see: Georg
Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” in The Sociology of Georg Simmel, translated by Kurt
Wolf (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1950), 409-424. The idea of modern experience as one for
which “the experience of shock has become the norm” comes from Walter Benjamin, “On
Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” in The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire,
translated by Michael Jennings (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), 177

Baudelaire’s poem is “Le Cygne” (“The Swan”), one of the most famous of his Flowers of Evil
(Les Fleurs du mal, 1857). It is one of the guiding texts for Benjamin’s investigation into
Baudelaire’s modernism, and can be found online here:
The strange mix of modishness and outmodedness, the fact that modernity’s disruptiveness
always implies a surfeit of ruins, remainders, and relics, is the main theme – albeit never
expressed very straightforwardly – in Walter Benjamin’s monumental Arcades Project (Walter
Benjamin, The Arcades Project, translated Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge:
Belknap, 1999), especially convolutes B, C, D, and I). For a thorough exploration of Benjamin’s
fragmentary work see: Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the
Arcades Project (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991)

The passage from The Communist Manifesto can be found in many places (Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, translated by Samuel Moore (Chicago:
Kerr, 1906), 17), but the translation is also available online here: The passage in
question also lends its title to Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (New York:
Penuin, 1988), which represents an excellent and accessible summary of Marxist thought about
modernity and its impact on everyday experience

The classic overview of Schumpeter’s life and work seems to be Thomas K. McCraw, Prophet of
Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction (Cambridge: Belknap, 2007). I should
not that I diverge in my reading of Schumpeter from McCraw’s, at least when it comes to the
question of how Schumpeter viewed the future of capitalism

“The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion”: Joseph A

Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1942), 83

Nick Land, “A Quick-and-Dirty Introduction to Accelerationism,” Jacobite Magazine:
It’s pretty academic, but for the best overview of Heidegger’s concept of Gelassenheit and how
it is not just about a suspension of willing, but a suspension of “projection” into the future, see:
Bret W. Davis, Heidegger and the Will (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007)

However, Davis elsewhere points out that Heidegger did not extend this idea of “letting go” (or,
as he puts it, “releasement”) to our relationship to technology – we’re not supposed to lean
into tech, instead tech is a form of willing from which we have to release ourselves. See: Bret
W. Davis, “Heidegger’s Releasement From Technological Will” in Aaron James Wendland et al

(eds.), Heidegger on Technology (New York: Routledge, 2019), 133-148

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (New York: Penguin,
2005), 10-11

Richard L. Nolan, David C. Croson, Creative Destruction: A Six-Stage Process for Transforming
the Organization (Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press, 1995)

“Forgetfulness is a property of all action”: Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Use and Abuse of
History,” trans. Adrian Collins (New York: Bobbs Merrill, 1957), 6-7

Jim Cramer’s interview with Elizabeth Holmes, in all its cringey glory, can be found here:
Chapter 7: Failure
The quotes from Cass Philipps are largely from an interview I did with her in the March 2019

The quotes from insiders come from interviews a mergers and acquisition attorney, a startup
founder, and two venture capital investors who prefer to remain anonymous. Parts of this
chapter are based on an essay I published in the “Failure”-issue of Logic-magazine: Adrian
Daub, “The Undertakers of Silicon Valley,” Logic (Issue 5: Failure). It can be found online here:
Samuel Beckett, “Worstward Ho!” In Samuel Beckett, Nohow On (New York: Grove, 2014), 90

A transcript of Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard commencement speech can be found here:
The New York Times article on Cass Philipps and FailCon can be found here:
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career”: This is a detail I take from John Carreyrou,
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (New York: Knopf, 2018). Bad Blood
The Hegel-quote comes from G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree (New
York: Colonial, 1899), 21

Lee Vinsel, “Design Thinking is Kind of Like Syphilis – It’s Contagious and it Rots Your Brain,
Medium, Dec. 6, 2017:
Bill Burnett, Dave Evans, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life (New York:
Knopf, 2016)

“No matter where he directed his campaigns, fortune consistently favored him”: Herodotus,
The Histories, translated by Tom Holland (New York: Penguin, 2015)

Hanging out on online forums that cater to gig workers. For an incredibly brilliant on-the-ground (A.O. Scott’s review of The Incredibles makes the care quite clearly), Fred Turner on the Whole Earth Catalogue: Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network,

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