June 30th, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The second half of “Chaos Monkeys” takes place at Facebook, and it concerns the handful of dominant companies that have emerged from this start-up culture. These companies (in addition to Facebook, notably Google and Amazon), whose market values start at more than $300 billion, are approaching (or in the case of Apple and Microsoft, managing) middle age. In addition to contrasting their collective ethos with that of the start-up world, “Chaos Monkeys” touches on the also-rans like Twitter who failed to break into this rarefied plane.
Beyond the author’s personal story, what connects the two distinct halves of the book is his area of actual domain expertise: advertising. Mr. García was a Ph.D. student in physics at Berkeley before joining Goldman Sachs to model prices for credit derivatives. He moved to Silicon Valley to perform the same magic in valuing the attention of internet users. And it is the explosion of digital advertising that has fed the emergence of the most recent crop of internet giants. In the course of describing his path from ad-tech start-ups to ad-targeting product manager at Facebook, Mr. García provides fascinating insights into the nature of the online and offline advertising worlds – both regarding what has changed and what has stayed stubbornly the same.
Two aspects in these central lessons make “Chaos Monkeys” a particularly compelling read, despite its faults. First, Mr. García is not just a keen observer of corporate and social culture, but a thoughtful business and policy analyst armed with a highly refined detector for pretentious nonsense. Well before the investor Peter Thiel was revealed as the secret backer of the lawsuit that put Gawker into bankruptcy, Mr. García was writing that “the tech start-up scene, for all its pretensions of transparency, principled innovation, and a counterculture renouncement of pressed shirts and staid social convention, is actually a surprisingly reactionary crowd.”