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Nellie Bowles on how we live in the future

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 09, 2019

I’m such a fan of Nellie Bowles. She covers tech for the NY Times, but has essentially created a beat that is the perfect encapsulation of late-stage capitalism. She captures both internet culture and the new tech economy in a way that could read as satire but it’s all too real. Here’s a look at some of her recent pieces that stuck out in my mind.

She’s starting a series of explainers. First up: Why Is Silicon Valley So Obsessed With The Virtue of Suffering?

Stoicism has been the preferred viral philosophy “for a moment” for years now — or two decades, by one count. The topic of Stoicism usually comes up in the Valley in terms of the maintenance of the personal life. Start-ups big and small believe their mission is to make the transactions of life frictionless and pleasing. But the executives building those things are convinced that a pleasing, on-demand life will make them soft. So they attempt to bring the pain.

Ok. But then she gets right down to it:

Instead, Stoics believed that everything in the universe is already perfect and that things that seem bad or unjust are secretly good underneath. The philosophy is handy if you already believe that the rich are meant to be rich and the poor meant to be poor.

Is post-tech the new high-tech? Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good

The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.

As more screens appear in the lives of the poor, screens are disappearing from the lives of the rich. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen.

As much as I want to hate this, I don’t (and El Pescadero is lovely): A New Luxury Retreat Caters to Elderly Workers in Tech (Ages 30 and Up)

Their anxieties are well founded. In Silicon Valley, the hiring rate seems to slow for workers once they hit 34, according to a 2017 study by Visier, a human-resources analytics provider. The median age of a worker at Facebook, LinkedIn and SpaceX is 29, according to a recent analysis by the workplace transparency site PayScale.

At Modern Elder, several people introduced themselves by rounding up their ages — one woman said she was “soon to be 39,” another was “almost 42,” and a third was “pretty soon looking at 50.” Some said they chose to come south because they thought vacationing would be more serene without 20-somethings in the mix.

I hope we see a book from Nellie Bowles soon. Who else is helping make sense of this bizarre future we live in?