Thomas Friedman, a reliable target of mockery for the pundit class, writes a column seemingly tailor-made to be shredded by Valleywag, which is critical of Silicon Valley by default:
The first line in town idiot Thomas Friedman’s latest column is maybe the most stupid part: “The most striking thing about visiting Silicon Valley these days is how many creative ideas you can hear in just 48 hours.” These are exciting times, and our nation’s foremost public intellectual blowhard is on it.
Here’s my two cents.
I’m not going to be quite as mean to Friedman (who at this point is a predictable target of mockery). It’s true that Washington is plagued with do-nothingness. However, it doesn’t seem that Friedman has paused to consider whether the fount of ideas coming out of Silicon Valley is actually useful for most people. For instance, we get this line:
Aaron Levie, the chief executive of Box, explains how his online storage and collaboration technology is enabling anyone on any mobile device to securely upload files, collaborate, and share content from anywhere to anywhere.
Does this actually matter for someone who’s out of work and struggling to pay her phone bill?
Curt Carlson, the chief executive of SRI International, which invented Siri for your iPhone, recalls how one leading innovator just told him that something would never happen and “then I pick up the paper and it just did.”
What did he make happen? Siri’s acquisition by Apple? The ability to get stilted, monotone replies to “Where can I find the nearest deli”? On a product/business level, these are great accomplishments. On a societal level, not so much.
What they all have in common is they wake up every day and ask: “What are the biggest trends in the world, and how do I best invent/reinvent my business to thrive from them?” They’re fixated on creating abundance for themselves, not redividing scarcity, and they respect no limits on imagination. [words in italics added]
There, I fixed that line.
I have nothing against entrepreneurship (or else I wouldn’t write about it for a living). Many of these people are doing admirable things, and many within that group are also working to help others benefit from their progress. But building a start-up for primarily personal benefit still has important differences than developing an organization for the public good (as those in the ed-reform movement are learning). I don’t think it’s helpful to compare those two enterprises in such a facile way.