You’ll never understand Silicon Valley until you consider the possibility that it is not centered on technology bent on changing the worldalone. Denizens of Silicon Valley are instead rather like alchemists.
A commitment to technologies of social and technological transformation goes hand in hand with a commitment to technologies of self-transformation. Hence, it’s fitting that Jack Dorsey is our“secular abbot,”bringing to bear ascetic practices upon himself, just as he’s trying to change the media (Twitter), methods of payment (Square), and so on. If you listen closely enough, you’ll soon learn about all the ascetic practices that bastions of Silicon Valley have brought to bear on themselves. This is because they seek not just to “optimize” for the best solutions to tech problems but also because they want to “optimize” for the best form of life for themselves.
In one noticeable respect, then, they loosely resemble medieval alchemists. The latter cared about the process of spiritual transformation that occurred while their experiments were being performed. No experiment on reality could be said to be successful if the experimenter were not himself transmogrified in the process.
The analogy, however, soon breaks down once one notices that modern-day quasi-alchemists do not, in the final analysis, really know what they’re optimizing for. They have left out the question of depth—that is, the ground-level question of why they do all this–in order to operationalize the how.