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

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Truth is, Srinivasn, your idea isn't just painfully arrogant -- it's also flagrantly devoid of merit. You can't can innovation. You can't invent viral. Just because the people whom you hope will come to inhabit your nerdvana might have had previous inventive success by no means indicates they'll do it again, especially if the people you choose, like you, seem to grade intelligence by only the size of round 1 VC financing and creativity only if it's vomited out as a slick brand.

Drop a few thousand of those kinds of folks onto an island off central California, and you can glaze that place with Google Glass, hand out free Surface Pro tablets on every street corner, and rain Skittles on Sundays. You still won't be able to guarantee any more innovation than might come out of a dank, Coke bottle-encrusted basement a few blocks from any community college or public high school. Inverse Amish? It sounds more like an inverse leper colony that winds up more distrustful of us non-techno Elois than an undiscovered New Guinea jungle tribe.

Real innovation is unpredictable and weird, like the Yemeni dad who digitized his daughter's dowry into 1 million likes to promote the poetry on his Facebook page or the municipal politician who resigned in Klingon -- or my idea for a tech curmudgeon zone where only the snarky ruled and lower castes are composed of supermodels with forgiving standards and French Creole chefs looking for a place to express themselves without regard for federal nutrition laws. Now that's innovation!

Moreau, I presume?

Srinivasn's current startup is about genetic research, fittingly since this scenario has an "Island of Dr. Moreau" flavor. Let's definitely couple that kind of startup with a boatload of federal funding and drop the whole shebang onto an island free of pesky legal or ethical restraints. Come visit that place again in a couple of years and be amazed at all the innovation -- that is, if the island's new mutant population, governed by Skynet, doesn't flap the leathery wings that used to be their ears, fly over to the mainland, drop off the zombie apocalypse's patient zero, then bite your head off. Sound outlandish? No more so than expecting nerd island to spin off anything more benevolent or inventive than a new Snapchat logo.

Innovation and creativity direct their own plays, and they choose their own players. Any attempts to package them have always ended in greedy failure, and any future tries certainly shouldn't be rewarded with government-funded, classist, geek-luxury isolation; legal immunity; tax breaks; and bulging barges of techno-toys.

Get a grip and realize that moving us forward isn't a job for a few pointy heads behind some intellectual moat. To be relevant, your so-called upper class of smart, creative, innovative brains is going to have to lower the drawbridge, find adult ways of interacting with people, and stay here in the mediocre muck of the real world -- with the rest of us.

Who'd you like to see dropped on a desert island for the rest of eternity? Post your nominations below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Big brains, small minds: The troubling vision of Silicon Valley's elites," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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