Daily Balajisms – Tech vs Woke
Construction is hard, de(con)struction is easy.
Balaji Srinivasan thinks that true charity is investment. Imagine your net worth is 100,000 euros. You might be willing to give someone in need who asks you on the street 10 euros. Very few people would give 100 euros. But even if you are for equality in principle, you would not give 50,000 euros to some random person on the street.
Balaji explains, that for all its flaws, venture capital angel investing achieves more than equality – you root for people to get richer than you. The famous example is Peter Thiel investing in Marc Zuckerberg. Both got richer, but Marc Zuckerberg got far richer than Peter Thiel.
Venture investing is like running competition – only one person wins, but everyone gets a workout and improves their health. Investment creates independence, charity creates dependence – and job programs for activists who often perpetuate and exacerbate problems they intend to solve.
Tech is the opposite of woke. Tech produces hero mentality and “instabrag” resumes and twitter bios – people bragging about companies they founded and what revenue or valuations these companies achieved and how many people they employ.
Woke produces the victimhood mentality and a “instasag” resumes – how oppressed is one and on how many axes. Woke people are often paralyzed and disempowered by envy and resentment. Sometimes they come from born-rich backgrounds and “feel guilt, because they haven’t built”. So, they try to trade wealth for prestige – virtue signaling their political progressivism towards downstream media and activists.
Tech people are often from immigrant backgrounds and are built-rich, which is very different from born-rich. This is also the difference between founding and inheriting. For example, in China during Covid, many factories were still operated by actual founders of these factories. It is orders of magnitude more difficult to build a factory from scratch, than to operate the factory. And a founder also knows how to repair and repurpose the tools – when in time of emergency one needs to change production from widgets or toys to personal protective equipment.
To complicate things, money does not equal power. Money-rich doesn’t mean power-rich. You can be money-rich but powerless to change dysfunctional politics, like in SF and forced to leave. Or you can walk with empty pockets around the country, like Stalin, and you can take what you want, because everything practically belongs to you.
Both tech and woke are operating on a Network – to take Balaji’s concept of God-State-Network, the three Leviathans of agrarian, industrial and internet eras. Tech and woke are doctrines or ideologies optimized for the internet era and peer-to-peer interactions.
Woke is about redistribution of status from the oppressors to the oppressed and operates on social media, not on a factory floor like communism, which tried to redistribute wealth from management to workers. Many countries are immune to communism or socialism, but they still fall prey to this new mutation of a mind virus in the form of wokeism.
One can commit acts of destruction in parallel, explains Balaji – someone throws a stone, another person a Molotov cocktail and a third one a brick. To destroy a house is much faster and easier than to build one. Building something requires skill. And the ability to build is the actual source of power – and it is also the source of hard power as the West is learning the hard way – running low on ammunition after Russian aggression in Ukraine.
China has 100x-200x bigger ship-building capacity than the US. They can also build infrastructure 100x faster. Recently Palmer Luckey of Anduril mentioned that Russia, despite being quite corrupt, can produce ammunition 10x cheaper than the US.
The Grey (tech) tribe is globally competitive, Blue America is not. SpaceX puts 8x more payload to orbit than China. Blue America has still some prestige and soft power, and tries to flex its digital hard power in the form of sanctions, unbanking and canceling people in the press and online censorship.
With the current AI summer and movements like effective accelerationism (e/acc) we might see the tech tribe and American dynamism succeed and get ever more prominent as a parallel establishment and counter-elites. But it also might be too late for the US to make a turnaround. Balaji explains how once a hyperpower in 1991, the US squandered the biggest historical lead within 30 years, and is now a part of the declining world.
Like Indian diaspora did in the last century, the tech tribe might in this century increasingly leave the US for the ascending world, places like Dubai or Singapore. Then we would see what I call post-American dynamism, or fractal dynamism.