Rick Webb: an apology for Utopian idealism regarding the Internet

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com


Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as a bastion of rationality. But if you think about it, Silicon Valley, like virtually every other organization or entity, has a set of core beliefs at the bottom of its philosophical pyramid that are just that: core beliefs. They extend beyond rationality. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” our declaration of independence begins. Every good philosophical treatise starts with these. Every debate starts with the polite agreement about defintions.

What if Silicon Valley’s core beliefs — even the benign ones — are wrong?

What if we were never meant to be a global species? What if Zuck’s wrong when he says “Our greatest opportunities are now global.”?

What if information doesn’t want to be free?

In 1996, I was so smitten with radical transparency I spent about a week going around telling everyone the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If they looked bad that day, I told them. If I thought their marriage was a sham, I told them. When someone asked me “how are you?” I told them: honestly and extensively.

It probably doesn’t surprise anyone to hear that at the end of a couple weeks I had alienated almost every friend I had. I had gotten into a couple big fights. Twenty five years later, there are still people mad at me about it. I was saved only when my best friend Annie, who was sympathetic to the experiment said, with marvelous tact and patience after I had said something offensive to her, “I don’t think this experiment is working and you better stop before you’ve irreparably damaged every friendship you have.”

I really, really, really want the world to be globally connected. I’ve never liked the idea of nations. I have always believed that particular core tenet of Silicon Valley. But it would be irresponsible, at this point, to not consider that it’s wrong.