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The Religious Fanaticism of Silicon Valley Elites

​As our society rushes toward technological ataraxia, it may do us some good to ponder the costs of what has become Silicon Valley’s new religious covenant. For the enlightened technocrat and the venture capitalist, God is long dead and buried, democracy sundered, the American dream lost. These beliefs they keep hush-hushed, out of earshot of their consumer base. Best not to run afoul of the millions of middle-class Americans who have developed slavish devotions to their smartphones and tablets and Echo Dots, pouring billions into the coffers of the ballooning technocracy.

While Silicon Valley types delay giving their own children screens, knowing full well their deleterious effects on cognitive and social development (not to mention their addictive qualities), they hardly bat an eye when handing these gadgets to our middle class. Some of our Silicon oligarchs have gone so far as to call these products “demonic,” yet on they go ushering them into schools, ruthlessly agnostic as to whatever reckoning this might have for future generations.

As they do this, their political views seem to become more radical by the day. They as a class represent the junction of meritocracy and the soft nihilism that has infiltrated almost every major institution in contemporary society. By day they inveigh against guns and walls and inequality; by night they decamp into multimillion-dollar bunkers, safeguarded against the rest of the world, shamelessly indifferent to their blatant hypocrisy. This cognitive dissonance results in a plundering worldview, one whose consequences are not yet fully understood but are certainly catastrophic. Its early casualties already include some of the most fundamental elements of American civil society: privacy, freedom of thought, even truth itself.

​Hence a recent New York Times profile [1] of Silicon Valley’s anointed guru, Yuval Harari. Harari is an Israeli futurist-philosopher whose apocalyptic forecasts, made in books like Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, have tantalized some of the biggest names on the political and business scenes, including Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg. The Times portrays Harari as gloomy about the modern world and especially its embrace of technology:

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Part of the reason might be that Silicon Valley, at a certain level, is not optimistic on the future of democracy. The more of a mess Washington becomes, the more interested the tech world is in creating something else, and it might not look like elected representation. Rank-and-file coders have long been wary of regulation and curious about alternative forms of government. A separatist streak runs through the place: Venture capitalists periodically call for California to secede or shatter, or for the creation of corporate nation-states. And this summer, Mark Zuckerberg, who has recommended Mr. Harari to his book club, acknowledged a fixation with the autocrat Caesar Augustus. “Basically,” Mr. Zuckerberg told The New Yorker, “through a really harsh approach, he established 200 years of world peace.”

Harari understands that liberal democracy is in peril, and he’s taken it upon himself to act as a foil to the anxieties of the elite class. In return, they regale him with lavish dinner parties and treat him like their maharishi. Yet from reading the article, one gets the impression that, at least in Harari’s view, this is but a facade, or what psychologists call “reaction formation.” In other words, by paying lip service to Harari, who is skeptical of their designs, our elites hope to spare themselves from incurring any moral responsibility for the costs of their social engineering. And “social engineering” is not a farfetched term to use. A portion of the Times article interrogates the premise of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian 1932 novel Brave New World, which tells the story of a totalitarian regime that has anesthetized a docile underclass into blind submission:

As we boarded the black gull-wing Tesla Mr. Harari had rented for his visit, he brought up Aldous Huxley. Generations have been horrified by his novel “Brave New World,” which depicts a regime of emotion control and painless consumption. Readers who encounter the book today, Mr. Harari said, often think it sounds great. “Everything is so nice, and in that way it is an intellectually disturbing book because you’re really hard-pressed to explain what’s wrong with it,” he said. “And you do get today a vision coming out of some people in Silicon Valley which goes in that direction.”

Here, Harari divulges with brutal frankness the indisputable link between private atheism and political thought. Lacking an immutable ontology, man is left in the desert, unmoored from anything to keep his insatiable passions in check. His pride entices him into playing the role of God.

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At one point in the article, Harari wonders why we should even maintain a low-skilled “useless” class, whose work is doomed to disappear over the next several decades, replaced by artificial intelligence. “You’re totally expendable,” Harari tells his audience. This is why, the Times says, the Silicon elites recommend social engineering solutions like universal income to try and mitigate the more unpleasant effects of that “useless” class. They seem unaware (or at least they’re incapable of admitting) that human nature is imperfect, sinful, and can never be perfected from on high. Since many of the Silicon breed reject the possibility of a timeless, intelligent metaphysics (to say nothing of Christianity), such truisms about our natures go over their heads. Metaphysics aside, the fact that our elites are even thinking this way to begin with—that technology may render an entire underclass “expendable”—is in itself cause for concern. (As Keynes once quipped, “In the long run we are all dead.”)

Harari seems to have a vendetta against traditions—which can be extrapolated to the tradition of Western civilization writ large—for long considering homosexuality aberrant. He is quoted as saying, “If society got this thing wrong, who guarantees it didn’t get everything else wrong as well?” Thus do the Silicon elites have the audacity to shirk their entire Western birthright, handed down to them across generations, in the name of creating a utopia oriented around a modern, hyper-individualistic view of man.

When man abandons God, he begins to channel his religious desire, more devouring than even his sexual instinct, into other worldly outlets. Thus has modern liberalism evolved from a political school of thought into an out-and-out ecclesiology, one that perverts elements of Christian dogma into technocratic channels. (Of course, one can debate whether this was liberalism’s intent in the first place.) Our elites have crafted for themselves a new religion. Humility to them is nothing more than a vice.

The reason the elites are entertaining alternatives to democracy is because they know that so long as we adhere to constitutional government—our American system, even in its severely compromised form—we are bound to the utterly natural constraints hardwired by our framers (who, by the way, revered Aristotle and Jesus). Realizing this, they seek alternative forms in Silicon Valley social engineering projects, hoping to create a regime that will conform to their megalomaniacal fancies.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it’s that in the real word, any such attempt to base a political regime on naked ego is bound to fail. Such things have been tried before, in our lifetimes, no less, and they have never worked because they cannot work. Man should never be made the center of the universe because, per impossible, there is already a natural order that cannot be breached. May he come to realize this sooner rather than later. And may Mr. Harari’s wildest nightmares never come to fruition.

Paul Ingrassia is a co-host of the Right on Point podcast. To listen to his podcast, click here [2].

18 Comments (Open | Close)

18 Comments To "The Religious Fanaticism of Silicon Valley Elites"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 10, 2019 @ 2:58 am

“in the real word, any such attempt to base a political regime on naked ego is bound to fail. Such things have been tried before, in our lifetimes, no less, and they have never worked because they cannot work.”

But they can create hells on earth for many decades, in which millions are consumed, until played out.

#2 Comment By George Crosley On January 10, 2019 @ 7:47 am

As Kipling so aptly put it, in the final stanzas of a poem:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

#3 Comment By madge On January 10, 2019 @ 9:03 am

“The reason the elites are entertaining alternatives to democracy is because they know that so long as we adhere to constitutional government—our American system, even in its severely compromised form—we are bound to the utterly natural constraints hardwired by our framers (who, by the way, revered Aristotle and Jesus). ”

Um, you do know that one of the gravest dangers the founders feared was democracy? And the bulwarks they put in place are all meant to constraint majority rule? Now, if the argument you are making that the elites have so corrupted the hoi polloi that only rule by a minority of REAL AMERICANS can save us, say so, don’t do the idiotic dodge of invoking democratic arguments while obviously advocating minority rule.

#4 Comment By TomG On January 10, 2019 @ 9:42 am

These secular technocrats have no corner on humility as a vice. Christians have made pride such a virtue that it is hard to go back in our history and see where this supposed reverence for Jesus ever had any meaning other than in our rhetoric. We, as Christians, fail miserably at living the sermon on the mount. Our congress may stand and applaud the Pope when he talks about Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King. But we have no intention of loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us.

We can scapegoat gays, atheists, technocrats, secularists for our failed moral state or we can look in the mirror.

#5 Comment By Mccormick47 On January 10, 2019 @ 10:12 am

One fantasy construct heaped upon another, written in a pompous voice.

#6 Comment By TheSnark On January 10, 2019 @ 10:23 am

The problem with Silicon Valley elites is a bit simpler than that. They are all very smart, but their knowledge is limited. They know everything about electronics, computers, and coding, but know little of history, philosophy, or the human condition. Hence they see everything as an engineering problem, something with an optimal, measurable solution.

As a result, they do not even understand the systems they have built; witness Zuckerberg struggling to get Facebook under control.

If they go the way the author fears it will be by accident, not design. Despite their smarts, they really don’t know what they are doing in terms of society.

#7 Comment By M. Orban On January 10, 2019 @ 1:30 pm

This screed is a year old. Anyone noticed?

#8 Comment By CLW On January 10, 2019 @ 3:07 pm

This is an interesting topic meriting serous thought and analysis; instead, we get corny, hyperbolic alarmism.

You can do better than this, TAC.

#9 Comment By Sisera On January 10, 2019 @ 8:05 pm

As Tucker Carlson is realizing, Artificial Intelligence eliminating around 55% of all jobs (as the Future of Employment study found) so that wealthy people can have more disposable income to demand other services also provided by robots is madness. This is religious devotion either to defacto anarcho-capitalism, transhumanism, or both.

They’re literally selling out human existence for their own myopic short-term gain, yet have a moral superiority complex. I suppose the consensus is that the useless class gets welfare depending on their social credit score. Maybe sterilization will lead to a higher social credits score. Dark days are coming.

Great article.

#10 Comment By peterc On January 11, 2019 @ 12:33 pm

@TheSnark – valid observation:
The Silicon Valley elites ” know everything about electronics, computers, and coding, but know little of history, philosophy, or the human condition.”
Religion is not an engineering issue.
Knowing a little about history, philosophy, human condition would help them to understand that humans need something for their soul.
And the human soul is not described by boolean “1”s or “0”s…

#11 Comment By R Henry On January 11, 2019 @ 2:14 pm

Western Culture is struggling to adapt to the new communication technologies that inhabit the Internet. That the developers of these technologies see themselves as gods of a sort is entirely consistent with human history and nature.

The best historical example of how new communication technology can change society occurred about 500 years ago, when the printing press was developed in Europe. A theologian and professor named Martin Luther (Perhaps you have heard of him?) composed a list of 95 discussion questions regarding the then-current activities of The Church. That list, known as the “95 Theses” was posted on the chapel door in Wittenburg, Germany. Before long, the list was transcribed and published. The list, and many responses, were distributed throughout Europe. The Protestant Reformation was sparked.

The Press and Protestant Reformation it launched remains a primary foundation of today’s Western Culture. It has initiated much violence, much dissension, war with millions of deaths, The Enlightenment, and much else. The printing press ushered in the modern era.

Just as the printing press enabled profound change in the world 500 years ago, The Internet is prompting similar disruption today. I think we are in the early stages, and estimate that our great great grandchildren will be among the first to fully appreciate what has been gained…and lost…as a result of this technology.

#12 Comment By grumpy realist On January 11, 2019 @ 4:12 pm

So the arrogance of religious believers convinced that they know “the TRUTH!”, are the only ones to do so, and are justified in forcing non-believers to act as “God says!” is to be completely ignored?

Methinks we’re seeing a huge case of projection here….

#13 Comment By Frederick On January 12, 2019 @ 12:03 am

The problem is also that once those religious foundations are gone, they don’t come back easily. How can you talk to an atheist/muslim/buddhist who doesn’t even believe that lying is always sin? People in the west have started to think that all our nice freedoms and comfort have magically come from the heart of humans, that we are all somehow equal and want the same things but the bible tells us the real story: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Then we have religions who fundamentally do not even view death as a problem. Now this is where we enter the danger zone. In the west we have lived on such a good, superior christian foundation we seem to have forgotten how truly horrible and inferior the alternatives are. Suddenly you get people who endorse cannibalism and child sacrifice again, I have seen this myself. How do you even explain to somebody that this is wrong when he fundamentally disagrees on the morality of killing?
People don’t understand that christian morality was hard fought for, they refuse to understand that human beings do not have a magical switch that makes them disapprove of murder.
Thousands were burned alive in England just for wanting to read the bible. It is like a technological innovation. We found a trick in the human condition, we discovered the truth about humanity. Now these coddled silicon valley people who have grown up in a christian society with christian morality and protections in their arrogance think that christian behavior is the base of human morality anyway and needs no protection. Thanks to them in no small part the entire world is currently doing its utmost to reject the reality of the bible. We see insane propositions that say we should not judge people. Or that everyone is equal. Of course the bible never says that with the meaning they imply, but it was coopted beautifully for their own evil agenda. Yes evil, did I mention that our technocratic genius overlords don’t believe in that either?
How can you talk with somebody that has rejected the most base truths of human life. How can you say a murderer is equal to a non-criminal? You must understand that these new age fake christians truly think like this, they truly believe that everyone is equal. You can’t allow yourself to think that ‘oh they just mean we are all equal like.. on a human level, in our humanity’. Nono, I made the mistake to be too charitable with them. They actually think we are all equal no matter what. I found it hard to believe that we have degenerated so much, I have been in a quasi state of shock for a long time over this.

#14 Comment By Pete from Baltimore On January 12, 2019 @ 8:57 am

Zuckerberg’s comment about the Roman Empire is bizzare.to say the least. Augustus didnt create “200 years of peace”. The Roman Empire was constantly conquering its neighbors. And of the first 5 Roman Emperors, Augustus was the only one who defintly died of natural causes

This time period was an extremely violent time period. The fact that Zuckerberg doesn’t realize this, indicates to me that while he is smart at creating a business, he is basicly a pseudo-intellectual

#15 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On January 12, 2019 @ 10:09 am

“…one of the gravest dangers the founders feared was democracy?”

Wrong! They didn’t fear democracy per se’, only democracy run amok, hence the checks and balances

#16 Comment By bt On January 13, 2019 @ 7:25 pm

Perhaps the religiously inclined should develop their own high technology, as a counter to the malign influence of those pernicious California atheists.

The great thing about our great country is that is a marketplace of ideas, it’s a free market. The best ideas will always win, right?

If the religious would just get working! The marketplace will most assuredly make the right choices and reject that immoral Silicon Valley technology from Califonia.

#17 Comment By jay kalend On January 14, 2019 @ 7:27 pm

The love of avatars, recalling the indulgence of “Dungeons and Dragons” says it all. People desire to be better, and desire approval. To think that you can hide behind a new synthetic identity to do this, creating unjustified love in your own mysteriousness, and seeking the possibility of adventures in a new reality without guilt or permanence!

The internecine email fight revealed at Google revealed such personages, who would even cast aside corporate responsibilities, decorum, or higher purpose in work and human contact, for the cyber possibilities of becoming permanently transformed ubermenschen. Their ultimate purpose, and the only apparent one that consumes their time so efficiently is politics — defined as the practice of influencing people in groups. Since this is the purpose of marketing, and the easy means of finding favor in corporate culture, we have now nurtured doctorate holders in this craft, who know nothing else.

And although it may be only my opinion, I’ll say it: No wonder we are in a sexual desert today! We have bred a generation of Roswell aliens fit for being dolls won at a penny arcade, but not fit for much else.

#18 Comment By Ed On January 15, 2019 @ 11:55 am

Harari is a provocative and frightening thinker, probably somebody you want to seriously engage with while it’s still possible.

Beware getting trapped in an us versus them, right versus left, believer versus atheist schema. The future comes unexpectedly and doesn’t always fit into the categories we’ve already established.

I notice from short accounts of Homo Deus that Harari is highly critical of humanism and where it may lead us. Maybe that’s a good place to start. Your idea about Silicon Valley’s enthusiasm for Harari’s ideas as an example of “reaction formation” was also interesting.