On the Nature of the Cyberselfish

In reading a law review last week, I saw a footnote to a booked called Cyberselfish, A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech. Intrigued, I purchased it immediately and have been reading it the law few nights. The author, Paulina Borsook, wrote for Wired and yet was shocked by some of the socioretardation in the Silicon Valley tech community. She published this book in 2000; it’s a significant expansion of her 1996 Mother Jones article on the same topic, which concludes:

…Just as 19th-century timber and cattle and mining robber barons made their fortunes from public resources, so are technolibertarians creaming the profits from public resources — from the orderly society that has resulted from the wise use of regulation and public spending. And they have neither the wisdom nor the manners nor the mindset to give anything that’s not electronic back.

Her point is the technolibertarians are some of the biggest benefactors of government largess (Arpanet, aerospace/defense spending, UC Berkeley, etc), they are a generation that was never really mistreated by the government (no draft, major wars, etc), and yet they are bizarrely anti-government. Switching back to the book, she describes this philosophy as:

…the most virulent form of philosophical technolibertarianism is a kind of scary, psychologically brittle, prepolitical autism. It bespeaks a lack of human connection and a discomfort with the core of what many of us consider it means to be human…As many political schools of thought do, these technolibertarians make a philosophy out of a personality defect.

Ouch! And right on! MarkH and I encountered many such things at a party several years ago in DC. MarkH, being MarkH, spent the night engaging with these creeps, to find the core of their objection to humanity. I just wanted to take a shower. I’ve had enough.

If you’re interested in the technolibertarian form of denialism, pick up Borsook’s book. Sciblings would probably be most interested in her description of the social darwinist attitudes among the technolibertarians (these people would be the first to die under rugged individualism), and their pseudosciency belief in the market functioning as a biological system (something called Bionomics, the 1990s, Silicon Valley version of The Secret).