Daily Balajisms – Tech Tribe
Protopians of the world, unite!
I am starting my third series of Daily Balajisms (#71-#90) in an attempt to add my 2¢ and synthesize ideas of Balaji Srinivasan, a tech founder with the highest output of original good ideas. I recommend you first read Balaji Srinivasan’s book The Network State and Eric Jorgenson’s book The Anthology of Balaji.
Balaji Srinivasan divides the American political landscape specifically, and noosphere in general, into three main tribes – the Blue tribe, the Red Tribe and the Grey tribe. He uses a term originally coined by Scott Alexander for defectors of the Blue tribe who are pro-tech, and who value rationality and heterodox thinking from first principles.
Tech tribe sounds better than grey tribe, but using the color grey can be useful. Grey represents the nuance – the 50 shades of grey metaphor. It also represents grey t-shirt that Mark Zuckerberg always wears. The focus on minimalism, and the minimalism of pure startup focus for “just grinding” and “just building” products and services people want.
Previously we discussed tribal lens and the concept of noosphere where there are dozens and hundreds of memetic tribes – but they can be seen as sub-tribes of these three main tribes – with Red representing the past and the masses, Blue representing the eternal present of the current old establishment of Blue America post-1945, and the Grey representing the future and what Peter Turchin calls the counter-elites. We can also call the Red tribe conservatives, the Blue tribe (woke/baizuo) progressives and the Grey tribe technological progressives. Or normies, NPCs and netocrats.
We can illustrate the Red, Blue and Grey tribes with these three men:
The grilling guy meme who says: “Man that’s crazy, catch the game last night?” represents the Red tribe or normies.
Agustín Carstens is a general manager of BIS, The Bank of International Settlement, or a kind of a central bank of central banks. He is a former central bank governor of Mexico. He represents the Blue tribe or the NPCs – the non-player characters. Samo Burja has a mental model of live players vs dead players. (Balaji explains that we need NPCs, because not everyone can ruminate about political philosophy – there need to be people who just run the mental code and do what is expected from them for a society to function.)
And the best example of the Grey tribe is of course Elon Musk. He can be described as a netocrat. A member of a new aristocracy born on the internet. Alexander Bard, in his book Netocracy published in 2002, describes Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, as examples of emerging netocrats.
Balaji recently framed the tech tribe as a parallel establishment – founders of parallel societies and parallel services as well as reformers within the old analog world. He talks about internet values being the continuation of Western values. So the tech tribe lives by universal internet values of freedom and openness – as in permissionless creation of open-source software.
We can use Kevin Kelly’s word of protopia (as opposed to utopia/dystopia) to describe the tech tribe as protopians. People who want to improve the world incrementally, bit by bit, year by year and project by project. Protopians don’t focus on shiny utopian objects nor on dystopian subjective feelings, but on building projects.
Wokeism is about oppression Olympics and seeing everything as oppressed/oppressor dichotomy. A zero-sum world of power-hungry people who want to capture the State to eventually become kings of nothing. It’s “getting to Venezuela” as contrasted with the Fukuyama’s “getting to Denmark” idea of the last century.
Tech is the opposite of woke, says Balaji - it is about win and let win - in that order. A positive sum mentality. It is about Palmer Luckey starting Oculus VR in a trailer and proceeding to reform the US defense sector with Anduril.