We Have it So Good

I was listening to a fantastic podcast about a guy named Khe Hy. After 15 years working very successfully on Wall Street he left that career to become an entrepreneur. One of the things he mentioned was the allure of Silicon Valley and the tech entrepreneur culture:

Finance is a very zero sum game. I win, you lose. And that was the prevailing mindset in the industry. The example I always use to exemplify this scarcity thinking, is [when] a star analyst say they’re leaving to go to a competitor… what happens?

HR calls security…. they come in and they open your desk, and within 2 hours you’re out of the building and you’re locked out of your email.

It’s so humiliating. It’s so inhumane.

But what happens in tech? When [someone quits] in tech, the CEO writes this florally blog post that’s like “we’re so happy that so-and-so’s dedicated so much time. These are all the innovations that were attributable to them. While we’re really sad they’re gonna go, we’re gonna throw a party for them and we hope that we encourage you all to stay friends.”

People in tech often take for granted how relatively nice everyone is. And how long-term oriented the valley is. Personally I wouldn’t know how to operate under any other ethos.

But you could add to this list. For example, people complain about employees getting screwed by stock option terms which, okay, I’m sure happens in one form or another.

But the very normal alternative for employees in other industries is that equity never even enters the conversation.

It seems to me there’s never been a class of employee as well situated as the tech engineer: nearly unquenchable demand for their skillset and maximum availability of information to make the most informed decision possible.

We make the same mistake when we talk about money. According to givingwhatwecan.org, if you make $20,000 USD and have a family of 4, you’re in the top richest 20% of the world.  If you bump that to $51k (the median US household income) you’re in the top 8%.

It blows my mind that we basically never hear or talk about our wealth relative to the rest of the world. If you’re born with a healthy body in the US you’re probably one of the luckiest people in the history of humanity.

Go to El Paso, Texas and you can literally see over the border into Mexico. The difference between the housing & infrastructure that exists on opposite sides of an imaginary line some 100 feet apart is stark. How lucky some of us were to be born on this side of the line.

And the Internet? “The Internet creates horrible clickbait content, we’re on our phones all day, it makes us not like each other. Destroying our attention spans, etc.” What a depressing take.

It’s another cliche at this point to say how amazing the iPhone would have been to someone just 30 years ago. “Instant access to all the world’s information” isn’t quite accurate, but the fact that’s it’s even close to describing reality is remarkable.

We have it so good.