Big brains, small minds: The troubling vision of Silicon Valley's elites

Tech mogul or movie villain? Well, they both want private islands, exempt from ethical, legal, or even logical standards

Most nerds can point to difficult childhood memories: searing moments when the geek persona meets the unexpectedly harsh side of social reality; a spasm of turtle-shell social wariness that has us wishing for a place where we were the norm and the rest of the world would leave us alone. That's often the first subtle step on a walk that, to some degree, deliberately separates those of us who feel we're too intelligent to be happy in this world from those of us we feel are plebian enough to thrive there.

Fortunately, most of us recognize these insidious isolationist tendencies and identify them as childish impulses before they get out of hand and further damage our lives -- but not all. Certainly, that memo didn't reach Balaji Srinivasn, a newly minted general partner at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, who wants to move all the people he likes to a protected geek sanctuary off the coast of California, unbothered by his non-BFFs, co-citizens, and the tax man.

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We all have our magnificent midnight mind farts, but clearly, the mental fog had yet to break when Srinivasn cracked open his bleary peepers the next morning. He really thought he was on to something, and he's been making enough noise about it over the last few months that it's become more than another nutty tweetfest. All I can think is that the day before his aforementioned midnight moment, Srinivasn must have binge-watched one too many episodes of Syfy's "Eureka."

Tech utopia now!

Suspiciously similar to that TV saga, he wants the not-so-smarts to fund an autonomous zone within the United States to house the smarts and let them do whatever they want without "bothering" the rest of us. Presumably, he'll allow us to continue evolving thumbs while farming their food and protecting them from hordes of other thumbless trogs sent by third-world governments to steal their research.

Within this zone, the smarts will be allowed to play with and, inevitably, innovate new technologies and scientific wonderments without the nuisance of legal, governmental, or even conventional moral oversight. After all, when you put ex-startup CEOs in a room together and leave them alone, what else could happen? An Xbox tournament -- or a business plan for an online dog grooming service?

Srinivasn describes his dream island as being populated by "inverse Amish," big-IQ people who lust after new technical advancements instead of abstaining from them. We should be happy to support this benevolent upper-brain class; just like President Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economy, the money we pour into this project in the form of tax breaks, unlimited logistical support, and Mountain Dew will eventually dribble new innovations that bring colorful salvation into our gray, Luddite lives.

All the tech moguls are doing it

Finally, people crazier than the tea party! Yes, it is "people," not "person" -- the tech exalted have come out in support of Srinivasn. He's not the only one to come up with the idea either. PayPal founder Peter Thiel is building a floating version; Google co-founder Larry Page wants in too. I suppose that's what bothers me: One wingnut preaching a techno-separationist sermon is worth a smile and a shrug, but a small movement -- in all seriousness and with their bare faces hanging out -- asking the world for support, that's downright offensive.

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