Why Techie Hipsters are Less than Zero

Last week I went to a Salesforce world tour event in Toronto. The presentations were persuasive and enjoyable. All the presenters were extremely likable. I expected to have fun, and I did. But suddenly, from out from the blue clear sky, a flurry of questions struck my central nervous system. Just like that, the inner constitutional architecture of my belief systems were shattered like 9/11.

If business innovation means spending the rest of my life paying more attention to screens, obsessing over apps, or having a better gaming experience, what will happen to my marriage? What kind of a foundation is that for maintaining a healthy family or community?

This loaded question continued to revolve in my mind as Mike Rosenbaum and Daniel Debow gave their fantastic and very informative presentations. I came to the event already a Salesforce fan, a prospective client in fact, but something in the overarching narrative, in the company’s marketing, in their vision of the future, disturbed me deeply. Maybe I was “over-teched”, but it made me want to set up a fund, find a universal army and go on a crusade to short the entire Techie Hipster industry back to the future. Why would I suddenly feel this way?

Most of the time, technology and social media are innovative time bandit tools pregnant with escapism and addiction. Think about the amount of time you waste looking at a screen to browse, check or post whatever. Even in spite of the warnings from Snowden, think the amount of personal information people have posted voluntarily in their narcissistic drunken stupor.

Meanwhile, as Anat Admati put so aptly in The Banker’s New Clothes, the banks are in the same tenuous shape that they were in 2008. If I were to recommend one book to my Greek fans around the world this would be it. I know the topic of banks creates a great degree of anxiety for those incubated in the utopic narrative of the Techie hipster, but the institutions that we rely on to be the financial foundation for insurance, security and trust are still high on their own supply and are the biggest gambling trading addicts because they know they can lobby any candidate within any political party and count on being bailed out every time. It’s a game at the people’s expense; for Greeks living in Greece this is nothing new. What real business can happen under that backdrop? But most of our attention is focused on our devices, snorting or injecting apps, and not on any issues that require sober thinking, mature deliberation or substance.

In the movie Less than Zero, based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho), Robert Downey Jr. plays a drug addict who eventually turns to prostitution to pay off a debt to his drug dealer. It’s a moving performance and an important story. Throughout the world, even after the financial crisis of 2008, even after Greece, even after Spain, even after Cyprus, even as millions of people were evicted from their homes, everyone’s addiction to easy money has enlisted more levels of gamblers. From finance, government, all the way to the loan shark, the smartest people in the world have developed the discipline of a drug dealer by exercising killer cognitive dissonance as they prostitute taxpayers to pay off their debts. Techie Hipsters are accomplices in this and have more of an impact than any drug cartel or pharmaceutical. How medicated are we? How many addictions sedate us from forgetting?

Anyone who has read Huxley’s Brave New World will acknowledge the parallels. Raised on computers, I thought I was smarter, and more connected to both the present and the future, and I was simply high on me. By high I mean based on the techie hipster PR narrative we know all too well, starting with Microsoft and Apple. I consumed all the books, the biographies, the movies, the TED talks, and drank the CNBC gold rush Kool Aid. I was a consumer to all the dealers and an overdosed ‘malaka’ with no one else to blame. Don’t get me wrong, I love the spirit of free market capitalism. But I hate corporate welfare and I love exercising my right not to buy, and I feel the need to not invest in any metaphorical crack cocaine of any kind from now on. I cannot ignore the effects it has had on our society.

The people of the extreme political center who run our bureaucracies in banks, and governments, all need an intervention and a stint in rehab before restructuring. The environment that has been caused by their decisions has spread psychopathy, depression, suicides, and mental illness at an alarming pace. Techie Hipsters cannot look the other way and pretend they are not, in some way, accomplices to this. But like a fascist soldier, it is shocking what people will not say or do because they are getting paid.

In the spirit of Edward Snowden, Techie Hipster companies need to unlearn their narrow definitions of innovation and teach or coach their clients to be more responsible with managing their time and attention. Perhaps then people can begin to have meaningful relationships outside of staring at a screen.

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