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ESSAYS I VOL 4

A TECH PRIMER

(IN TEN LINES OF CODE)

ESSAY by KHARY SEPTH
PHOTOGRAPHY by JONATHAN GARDENHIRE
ILLUSTRATIONS by ANTHONY CONOVER

This abusive relationship I’m in with the machine is complicated; I’ve the got scars to prove it. But the boredom of life without it is difficult to escape, giving this tangled affair the narrative complexity of an early Toni Morrison novel—The Bluest, or Walker—The Color, but done by Spielberg—’cause this is tech, and probably pages 45-67 where Whoopie gets her ass beat for having a mind of her own. Only difference here is that Mark gets a text alert that rings “sissy” every time I take a blow. Every time I give one, he grabs my head with uncontrollable force and grunts shut the fuck up and take these News Feed updates, faggot, ignoring the fact that I hate to swallow; I disdain the taste of spunk that tastes like metal and code. Nevertheless, I powder my face to cover up the “like” marks. I make up elaborate lies for “friends” on Facebook as to why I’ve given him everything—my autonomy, my tight ass. You know how the Black queens are—always looking for love in all the wrong places.

There were the tortuous early years in which I would sit and stare into a blank blue screen for hours on end—an Apple IIGS with an 8-MHz processor, 1MB of RAM, and no hard drive— painfully on my own and cutting myself to abandon the pain of my Black gay childhood and avoid the boredom of having no software to get me hard. At twelve, the machine was already ruining my life.

I say a prayer every time I visit my mother’s grave for ruining her good credit back in ’96 with an Apple loan for $7,897 to get what I believed to be a nonthreatening Macintosh on my college dorm desktop that would crash, and crash, until I burned through eighty-thousand dollars worth of student loans and she died, broke.

I think I remember the day well: it was early May 1999. It was the height of the DOT.COM era and I was “getting my e-commerce on,” ordering ice cream, pet food, and lube—all from three different sites, all with free shipping, all while jacking off furiously to novel pics of BBC loading at 56K on a site called EBONYMALE, all while thinking to myself: the machine has finally transformed my miserable life into something neat. But by 9am, half of the Internet disappeared and many bubbles had been burst. The Web, I thought, had finally reached its saturation point (it did not)—more scars.

Carpal tunnel from years with a clunky hand at coding Myspace pages and constant headaches from living with such a dirty fingerprint-covered metallic lover for so many years. Rashes covering my body from the intellectual and cultural catastrophe of Web 2.0 where viral videos and blogging ruled the day and during which the Internet’s soil became fertile planting ground for the most uncontrollable of weeds—instant editors, non-pedigreed cultural critics, YouTube stars—fertilized by the darkest, dankest human excrement known as Internet humor, sprayed in anonymity of course.

Peer-to-peer, the end of ownership, pervasive media, total surveillance, social everything, falling in love on Facebook, and as the devices that lived on my apartment’s surfaces became smaller, and smarter, and moved into my jean pockets, they began to become curiously distinguished by a certain quality of overtaking, overwhelming—maggots feeding off rotting human flesh, mine. Semen, ashes, vomit, blood, more scars.

Psychological disorders grown from living in a world where untamable memes and neverending emoji threads have an uncanny way of driving one mad with confusion, and gashes in my forehead from banging it against tables on nights out with girlfriends who’d become post-human-mean-girl-cyborgs with dwindled intellect and depressed social skills, who just so happen to be very efficient at posting us “out” doing lines of code in the bathrooms of nightclubs—and somehow, this has made us famous.

Ethernet cable wounds reminiscent of those on Gordon’s back in the famous photograph, “The Scourged Back,” where he sits quiet and stable, looking off into the distance, as if numb by the afflictions of his forced servitude. I wonder if this is this how I will look to future generations who will instantly recognize the anesthetizing effects of technology by way of case study #1: my Instagram feed. These wounds connect me to him and through them, I am powered on by the ancestors. I know I cannot have survived what he did. I pray I never have to. But who knows—maybe I am.

When S.K. Towle, a surgeon in the 30th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers sent the original photograph to a friend in 1863, he included a letter, which read:



“I enclose a picture taken by an artist here, from life, of a Negro’s back, exhibiting the scars from an old whipping. Few sensation writers ever depicted worse punishments than this man must have received, though nothing in his appearance indicates any unusual viciousness — but on the contrary, he seems INTELLIGENT and WELL BEHAVED (Towel’s emphasis)."


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Hi, I’m here for a 3:34 appointment with Doctor Smith. I’m here, wounded and weary, but still, making no mistake in underrating the good doctor’s capacity for healing and just as likely his capacity to hurt. Let’s just say, I’m here woke. With scars covering my body and shards of sentiment silicon lodged in my limbs I am here—barely alive, hardly moving—but here, desperate for the doctor’s hand to touch my chest and release the tension in the wires of my body which have fried inside the old routine machinery of colonial oppression, and to apply technology as the gold-standard treatment for my afflictions.

But as archaeological layers of psychic damage from The Tuskegee Experiment came up as the doctor went down, along with nausea from the little blue pills and insurmountable bits of information about them, I quickly zipped up and thought to myself: I think I’ve fallen out of love with the machine. I’ll think I’ll just live with the scars.

The doctor stamped me with a clean bill of health on the way out nonetheless. Now a free man, I could see that the machine I’d been in this abusive relationship with for all of these years—and the software that makes it useful to me—has politics.

There have been crimes committed in the name of this technology. Environmental crimes like e-waste being disposed of on the shores of Ghana—discarded televisions, radios, computers, and phones, burned for copper as carcinogens fill the air while lead and cadmium leach into the soil and groundwater. Women barefoot in floppy hats and with looks of terror on their faces, along with their small children, impaled as they hunt for recoverable electronic waste along the banks of the Korle Lagoon and across the endless landfills of Accra.

The neverending war in the Congo over militia-controlled mines that feed tin, tantalum, and tungsten into the world’s biggest electronics companies—all of which praise themselves as civilizing agents in developing countries like Ghana and India with gadgets from credit-card-sized computers for poor children to aerial Internet balloons for everyone, but whose laptops and cell phones cannot escape responsibility in the ongoing wars for conflict minerals that have killed more than 5.4 million Africans in the region since 1998.

Carolyn De La Pena cites a number of examples from American history in her essay “Color Lines,” which include colonial land policies that transferred Native Americans’ lands to whites because of the former’s ‘inferior’ technical knowledge; systems of racial segregation held up by nineteenth-century pseudosciences like phrenology, which declared whites to be intellectually superior to other races; and medical professionals who used African-Americans as guinea pigs in experiments designed to further scientific knowledge by putting their bodies in peril.”

In Rayon Fouche’s “The Wretched of the Gulf,” he writes of the “Black politics of technology” and “technological regularization: the process by which a design constituency creates, appropriates, or modifies a technological production process, artifact, user activity, or system in such way that some of its technical features embody a political aim, that is, an intention to alter the allocation of power, prestige, or wealth in a social formation.”

New Orleans’ most-viewed-disaster porn Hurricane Katrina gives one the power of direct recognition when buffering the more recent 99,000-man gangbang in Flint, Michigan, where an entire community of Blacks were exposed to water contaminated with lead and the deadly Legionnaire’s disease based on what can be called noneother than technological neglect. Fouche is remarkably clear on the nature of this neglect: “The ‘failure’ of the levees during Hurricane Katrina shows how technology is often used to maintain racial and political structure, or the colonial nature of power. The levees became authoritative and unquestioned material stand-ins for a set of racial politics in New Orleans.”

Similarly, Flint returned to a Detroit-area water system last October, but its residents still can't drink the water without a filter until the system has been made safe with corrosion-reducing phosphates—a critical step that was missing when Flint switched to its lead-laced river “to save money” for 18 months back in April 2014. The state health agency says the decision on whether to shower or bathe with city water, still today, “is an individual one.” Back down South, despite the rebuilt levee system in New Orleans, it still remains inadequate to protect Black residents living in the the city from another Katrina-sized storm.

Even if we lighten the mood to an angry young rap star named Azealia Banks who was censored by Twitter last March after sending what they deemed to be “racist tweets” to little Miss Zayn Malik (all while a certain Republican presidential nominee could be found many nights during that same time, at 2, 3 in the morning, filling his Twitter feed with racist rhetoric and retweets so vile that even David Duke went all 😍🙌🏻😍🙌🏻😍 over it—uncensored), is solid proof that even a cute little bird that chirps in 280 characters can be racialized technology.

But was I a free man? Would he be back? Technology is one slick-ass nigga—he is practically invisible; he is also fine AF. Even worse, would I fall for another shiny object, a more sophisticated one? God knows I’ll need something for the cold and lonely nights. I began to see the world in code; I felt like I was in The Matrix. Larry, the local trade who sells molly offered me one to cope with the unglamorous environs of life outside of the machine and the anxiety of my ex showing up for another round. Thank THE ORACLE, it was a blue pill.

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VALLEY GURLS

It was a few blue pills and a whole lot of collective anxiety that found a crew of us—James, Marcus, Jonathan, Steven, Khari, Kholi and I—in an Airbnb in Oakland suffocating in Cali weed and deeply engaged in high-minded tech babble. This time last year, obliviously texting and ‘gramming and snapping, today, discussing the possible eclipse of Blackness by the machine—very clear that we are on a mission to confront she.

Marcus ran it through the Google, only for it to return the origins of technology as Greek (surprise). But between the three billion or so entries that traverse Plato’s old stomping grounds—streets that, according to a number of highly celebrated scholars such as Anthony Browder (University of Maryland) and Martin Bernal (Cornell), she learned to pave by the African engineers of great cities in Zimbabwe and Mozambique—to its contemporary definition which essentially entails anything that lights up, Google had pared the technological contributions of our ancestors down to a few low-lying search entries. Of course we were smoking bongs—and I can see white people not completely getting this— but internet knowledge only makes sense when a personal knowledge of history, culture, and humanity comes first. The late, great scholar Ivan Van Sertima once poignantly wrote that “the nerve of the world has been deadened for centuries to the vibrations of African genius."

Because I can say with all certainty, in matters of art and science, the Africans are older and backed by traditions of greater purity and age—they are in rap lingo: your favorite engineer’s favorite engineer. Even Technology and Culture,the principal journal on the history of technology, in a 1996 article, “Landscapes of Technology Transfer: Rice Cultivation and African Continuities” details how rice cultivation in South Carolina and Georgia depended on knowledge brought to those places by enslaved Africans and how Lowland South Carolina planters preferred slaves from the rice-growing regions of Africa as they were themselves ignorant of the techniques and processes of rice cultivation.

So these history books, chop. Google, girl bye. These Black gay minds on a mission to cover “technology” were no longer content to stand by, smile politely, look respectable, and be happy in the pumps of Miss first runner-up to Western triumphalism. We are reclaiming technological empowerment as a part of our cultural and historical identity, psychological wholeness and even, philosophical wisdom. We are snatching back technology’s true heritage—our own.

After all, it was the servers and the code of The Internet which had allowed us—a misfit crew of Black queers—to run a successful media platform, which had, among other things, a soon-to-be-released web channel and music label in the works.

Technology is what makes the leap from some Black queer kid’s bedroom in Kansas City to the bright lights of the big city possible. Its camera flash is the North Star; its LCD glow is the sunset. For kids who’ve had to spend most of our lives hiding in the dark, its light has been our savior.


Let’s just keep it at. Relationship status? It’s complicated.

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THE KINGS & I

It isn’t their fault (though I suspect they’ve developed a taste for it), the two Steves, Bill, Mark, Larry and Jeff think they are GODS; high-tech saviors of the free world. But by free world, I think they mean large trivial information system in which 3.2 billion agendas are non-peacefully coexisting in the name of self-love and financial gain, because freedom, to anyone who knows chains, cannot be found in these guys’ gadgetry and code—it is not under the control of their dubious technological instruments.

But the two Steves, Bill, Mark, Larry, and Jeff are risk takers—they’re intuitive, even epic I’ve been told. The two Steves, Bill, Mark, Larry, and Jeff are so smart that they can make fully-formed companies appear out of thin air in Silicon Valley garages where it’s always 90 to 95 degrees—apparently the perfect conditions for a two-minute gestation period that along with a $485,000 seed round delivers a magical unicorn whose otherworldly powers include extracting a fee whenever a transaction using its software takes place. So R.I.P to the days when a picture was something of value, meant to commemorate a moment—say Haaaiiiii to your new bestie Snapchat. Say your final goodbyes to affordable housing markets and labor protections—and shout “Great job, AirbBnb and PostMates.” Why, pour a little out for all the bank tellers and girls flipping burgers at McDonalds whose jobs are never coming back because a self-learning algorithm and touchscreen can do them better, and raise a glass for the killer unicorns for whom we are simply low-functioning, profit-turning data jerky.

And raise it high because the two Steves, Bill, Mark, Larry, and Jeff are still virtuous and talented and clever, which is a blessing for us all, right? They preach the gospel of technological evangelism while motivated not by personal gain, but in an effort to save the souls of all humanity through the transformative power of technology. That their sisters Big Capital and Big Business value them at racks on racks on racks is what makes—in true white American puritanical fashion—even their ascension into heaven have a halo effect that keeps their flocks coming back for more, even after they’re Apple 6-feet-under.

These are the boys—Steves, Bill, Mark, Larry, Jeff, and Jesus—who make the stock markets rise and the sun set and are the most famous, the most honored, and the most influential white boys to have ever walked their dad’s green earth, even if their genetic code is still [flesh & bones] like the rest of us.

Black boys like us, even with degrees from MIT, encounter a [STOPERROR]. Even with immense talent, some luck, and the right computer connections: [STOPERROR]. Even as we aspire to be “respectable” in the degree to which we define our connection with Western literary and artistic traditions, we encounter a [STOP ERROR].

If we showed up to the office with the conventional personality profile of a Silicon Valley’er—a competitive, rule-breaking, disruptive, petty-ass douchebag, we’d be called in by HR, escorted out by the boys in BIG blue, and made into a thirty-second video post sure to keep your News Feed outraged for at least 48 hours. ALL TEA.

ALL SHADE: Most programmers (read: white boys) suck. It's the nature of things. Consequently, the programs they write suck as well. It should be no stretch of the imagination for any Black queer to get this. What we may not understand is that we have cultural assets that are specific to us that can be employed to write our own. Every culture has its own values worth preserving—even as bright connected devices and dark Net culture devour them at the speed of light.

So. A young Black gay boy or girl. We don’t fit in. We don’t look, think or act like the other kids; we are often misunderstood at home. We possess a way with introspection and imagination that makes us the perfect candidates to disrupt some shit... the queers, fags, geeks, nerds, and punks—US—we aren’t just corruptors of tradition; we’re destroyers, so what exactly is the problem? STUPID—it’s all in the riddle of race; it all begins to dissolve once that’s figured out.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF RACISM


In Bruce Sinclair’s Integrating the Histories of Race and Technology he writes:



“White Americans, including those as committed to Enlightenment ideals as Thomas Jefferson—even as he corresponded with Benjamin Banneker, the African-American astronomer and almanac maker—believed the black people among them were mentally inferior, and by that they didn’t just mean a capacity for advanced intellectual accomplishment. What good would freedom be, one Southern planter put it, to a field hand whose highest faculties were taxed ‘to discriminate between cotton and crop-grass, and to strike one with a hoe without hitting the other?’ Crude preconceptions of mental inferiority went well beyond simple tool using to include almost any aptitude for technological competence, and these notions flowered in the basic conditions of forced servitude.”


He goes on: “But rather than simply the shell or emblem of racist thinking, defining African-Americans as technically incompetent and then—in a kind of double curse—denying them access to education, control over complex machinery, or the power of patent rights lay at the heart of the distinctions drawn between black and white people in this country.”

Want a Hollywood twist? Martin Kevorkian writes in Color Monitors: The Black Face of Technology in America of “Black technophilia” and presents a list of blockbusters too long to Netflix and Chill or ignore. Classics like Die Hard (1988), Terminator 2 (1991), and Independence Day (1996)—all of which present positive images of Black men as technologically adept characters, but, “behind the impulse for electronic affirmative action, we can see a PC paradox: the goodwill of Political Correctness betrays its unease about race and technology in the realm of the Personal Computer,” he writes.

I have a particularly strong memory of this toxic Blackman-machine interfacing in 1983’s Superman III where a top-of-his-game Richard Pryor plays a bumbling idiot named Gus who just happens to have a genius-level understanding of computer programming. Gus finds himself in cahoots with an evil white man and together with his money, Gus’s technical skills, and a computer, they would take over the world. But as the celluloid unwound, it seemed that Pryor’s plan in the movie was a flop as was the actual movie (critics blamed it on Pryor of course), and he’d built a machine with enough artificial intelligence to know that the Black man must be killed first in American cinema. Yikes! Of course it was only Superman—cute, white, morally superior Superman—who could defeat the machine and rewind Pryor’s high-tech fuck ups, proving that even Hollywood producers carry Kryptonite to keep Black folk in their place.

In Terminator 2 (1991), we find Joe Morton playing Dr. Miles Dyson, the star of the Special Projects at Cyberdyne Systems Corporation—a brilliant, aggressive, Black computer mastermind who creates a microprocessor which, unbeknownst to him, allows the machines to take over and kill 3 billion humans by way of nuclear bomb on August 29th, 1997—Judgment Day. The survivors live only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. A white girl (Linda Hamilton) and a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) have to come all the way from the future to stop him. I’m instantly reminded of Kevorkian again here: “...presiding over an apocalyptic vision of technology spun out of control which...resembles a hysterical fear of slave insurrection: the black man’s programming plants the seeds that enable the robotic servants to turn against their masters.”

In Hollywood’s racist key light, if there’s a line to be delivered by a Black man, it will be done so with with a super-bomb of discredit and fear. Like Cornel West shares in The New Cultural Politics of Difference, “This problem can best be understood as the lack of Black power, the clout that would enable black people to “present themselves…as complex human beings,” and contest the volume of “negative, degrading stereotypes put forward by white supremacist ideologies.”

I get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach when I come across things like this on the internet:

If there is a surfeit of minorities and women who are capable tech workers, and IF (as claimed) their product insight as distinct from those of white and Asian males is economically valuable, then the result of your argument should be that these minorities and women would be able to form their own companies that are imbalanced in the opposite way—few white and Asian males. Relative to the size of the market and the tech industry, such companies are rare. Since (I would argue) you cannot say that the cause is a lack of venture funding or seed capital for such ventures (note that there are several funding sources that are expressly for women and minorities only), it is therefore likely that one of the following premises is false: (A) the number of capable and interested women and minority tech workers corresponds to their share of the population; (B) the market insight of these workers provides competitive opportunities that would otherwise remain unexploited. I would argue that both A and B are false. Diversity is a cost without a profit, an "inefficiency" in economic terms. It might help to have diversity in a company's marketing departments and even in product management and design. But for the backend nuts and bolts, I would say that diversity is irrelevant, and only competence should count.

@stupidwhiteasshole


In describing his American Negro Exhibition at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, our great-grandmother W.E.B. Du Bois goes into such meticulous detail in presenting the virtues of Black life that it’s hard not to be embarrassed by his well-mannered intent, but we get it—we too romanticize springtime in Paris. We too understand that white girls need proof that Blacks are not savages; we too bear shame for the levels we’ve sometimes by force, sometimes willingly, stooped to in order to prove it.

Thirty-two charts, 500 photographs, and numerous maps and plans form the basis of the exhibit,” writes Du Bois. “There is, for instance, a series of striking models of the progress of the colored people, beginning with the homeless freedman and ending with the modern brick schoolhouse and its teachers.There are charts of the increase of Negro population, the routes of the African slave-trade, the progress of emancipation, and the decreasing illiteracy. There are pictures of the old cabins, and, in three great manuscript volumes, the complete black code of Georgia, from colonial times to the end of the nineteenth century. It was a Massachusetts lawyer who replied to the Patent Office inquiry, "I never knew a negro to invent anything but lies;" and yet here is a record of 350 patents granted to black men since 1834.”

Maybe I shouldn’t be so condescending to the past—even when it’s being ugly, because here we are 117 years later with a view as close to the “promised land” as ever, but somehow still outside the bounds of property and ownership. Here we are, stuck, in an un-green zone, in an uncanny valley, where the trees from which white boys snatch golden “apples” for us grow debt and despair.

But, if we must accept that the disease called racism is as simple as hatred because of some long-held core belief that Blacks are mentally inferior, or lazy and incompetent, then let us understand “diversity numbers in Silicon Valley” and “digital divides” for what they really are: crimes against our humanity aka—fighting words. Are these statistics indicative of a white majority that is still figuring out how to make the acts of daily life in a racially-integrated society bearable? Or are these numbers indicative of an ongoing tried-and-true racism where white people could give a damn about “negro ingenuity,” rendering the question of intention on the part of the entire “tech industry” entirely moot? Questions, questions.

In Antonio Garcia Martinez’s 2015 exposé on his time in Silicon Valley, Chaos Monkeys, he writes: “If you consider yourself a Gates or a Musk but aren’t seen as one, then you enter the realm of felt injustice. You assign yourself a certain value, but society ranks you at another. That difference between society’s perception and your own is the gap of injustice you feel. Multiply that gap times your ego, and you get the total balance of rage you’re to expend in your startup quest in Silicon Valley.”

Goddamnit!

Disconnect us from the machine.

Why, you might ask?

Because we are, and always have been.

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THE SILICON VALLEY WET DREAM

Emails went out. To about 15 firms. Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber—the usual suspects. Emails also went out to every Black LGBTQ person on the Internet with the world “technology” associated with their name—rather unusual subjects.

Before delving further into the world of “Silicon Valley” you should know it’s the type of place that Black folk go, “We’ve heard of it, but we don’t have a lot of details.” It seemed to us, prior to our arrival, to share DNA with places like The Hamptons, or The Hills—geographies invisible to the naked human eye, unless of course those eyes are blue and look into the soul of a heartless capitalist with similarly colored blood running through their veins.

But whereas the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts deliberately sought to awe and overpower the beholder of their monuments of family wealth and power up and down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and along the “Gold Coast” of Long Island and the gauche Hollywood elite ran for The Hills to build opulent boxes of steel and glass—feats of imagination and engineering complete with cameras watching, the tech magnates of Silicon Valley, in a more gracious gesture, greet guests while preserving symmetrical properties considered “friendly”—round-edged squares with Helvetica letters or silhouetted organic shapes inside—anything but an old-family crest with film crews in tow.

In their 1984 book, Silicon Valley Fever: Growth of High-Technology Culture, Everett Rogers and Judith Larsen write of the man who’s precipitated this epochal shift in the shape of our society:


“The Silicon Valley Man basically lives selfishly; he disregards ordinary interpersonal relationships, lacks culture and religious or philosophical commitment, and exhibits an almost complete lack of concern for social, civic, or charitable activities. He is of single-minded devotion to self-interest at the expense of the common good, it is, in short ‘supercapitalism’ or ‘high-technology capitalism’ run wild.”


Lovely Jack’D profile, isn’t it? No really, just who the fuck is this man? Is he Albert Einstein or Doctor Frankenstein? The doctor does have a strong ambition to play God and, in a sense, wants to push himself to see exactly what he is scientifically capable of. What he concocts— some call gruesome, some call “tomorrow’s greatest innovation”—whatever it is, it can surely be broken down into logical, mathematical parts, let's go.

Stanford and Berkeley boy parts are mixed into a great number of surrounding tech firms, where they will learn this morning’s developments or hacks in technological innovations at said firm so they can found their own startup with funds from a garden-variety Valley VC, and essentially develop a version of this product deemed tonite’s technology while the mad doctor sits back and waits for lightning. He is comfortable with the unknown—business models and customer value will be revealed over time. For now, the experiment is working.

Either… the experiment works and IT’S ALIVE with a white-hot user base, ensuing a $200 million buyout from Facebook, or, the scientific methodology is “acquired” by a larger lab to accelerate its own research, or, the experiment doesn’t work at all and it winds up on the mad scientist’s industry bible: Wired’s “2017’s Startups That Went Haywire.”

But fret not, in this whacky laboratory named after paper-thin semiconductor chips, a loss looks something like…a WIN! Because even if 90% of all startups fail, every venture capitalist knows, you’ve gotta kiss a lot of frogs to catch an Airbnb or an Uber, so don’t be scurred.

In this mashup of founders and entrepreneurs (or highly-educated and technically-skilled 25-and-up-year-old white males), and venture capitalists (or card sharks), and developers (or hordes of girls exploring possible applications for [insert Big Tech firm name here]’s users and data), and designers (or girls making the “product” as beautiful and usable as possible), and accelerators (or high-tech frat house), and sales girls and programmers and coders and engineers (or special sauce for all your back-end needs)... The omnidisciplinary mad scientist is using digital technologies to manipulate the world through his own devices—all ruled by speculation—to build more than what is necessary by all stretches of the imagination.

He may be going too far with experiments on traditional business models and using lightning to directly match service-and-goods providers with customers, but he doesn’t care; he has made yesterday’s science fiction recognizable today, and he has made that today better. He has created thousands of jobs and made a zillion names synonymous with the future at the peaks of their influence—Hewlett Packard, National Semiconductor, Intel, AMD, Oracle, Apple, Cisco Systems, Yahoo!, eBay, and Google, just to name a few. He knows what is best; he is GOD.

However, before the next experiment can proceed and, in order to avoid the regulatory glare of the government, the mad scientist has just received notice: He must add a few Blacks for color. Frankenstein 3.0 must know how to sing, and of course, how to dance.

+++

Silicon Valley—a cybertopia built on the belief in the power of the individual over his environment; on the ideals of innovation and entrepreneurship; on the dream of wealth-and-job-creating companies doing good in the world run by kids with cool ideas and big egos. Even if we hadn’t met one single Black gay technologist while in the Valley, we’d have still left different men—deeply committed to our radical Black gay media takeover but a “siliconized” version of it: faster, smarter, purring a little softer, and available for download in the App store, like tomorrow. We had in four weeks inherited a tradition we were not born into—we were going to dream, and we were going to dream BIG.

Because if Elon Musk could stand on stage at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, and walk an audience through how his SpaceX is going to colonize Mars in the next 20 years using big fucking space rockets, and have them believe it, well then we could certainly dream about building a thriving economy for the Black gays where the mindset is about investing in and inventing with one another.

Actually, fuck that, we want to go crazy. Cray like Snapchat founder Evan Ross when he passed on a $3 billion dollar offer from Mark Zuckerberg back in 2013 to buy the platform which had, at that time, yet to monetize. But crazy WERQS in the Valley with reports this year saying that a newly formed Snap Inc. is working on an IPO for as early as March 2017 that would value the company at $25 billion or higher. Think: Black gay culture’s new valuation—priceless.

We believed it and once that happens, you can never quite escape it as you find yourself subconsciously drawn in even deeper, trying to understand this phenomenon of the billion dollar unicorn, or the bloody veggie burger startup that raised $182 million in seed funding, that counts Microsoft founder Bill Gates as a backer.

We saw, with our own eyes, all these rich remorseless white boys running around the Valley, waving the flag of economic disruption, both coworkers and competitors, enjoying a champagne bath of stock options, buyouts, and IPOs—a world that is all bubbles—and simply wanted to know: Where’s our billion?

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This is the American Dream. These pages could be ripped out of any number of books out of any number of decades dating back to Benjamin Franklin’s famous essays “Advice to a Young Tradesman” (1748), “The Way to Wealth” (1758), and “Necessary Hints to Those That Would Be Rich” (1735). Books on achievement and success are more numerous than those on any other subject in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This tells you everything you need to know about American attitudes towards success and how this success is seen as the culmination of practicing natural virtues.

More than 150 years ago, Manifest Destiny drove American pioneers Westward to where we stood in California; a horde of speculators and moguls staking claim to everything before them. Today in Silicon Valley, the overinflated, highly subjective valuations and gold rush of Series A through Z investment rounds seem all too familiar to any student of history.

However, the man who would become the richest during the California gold rush—Samuel Brannan—never mined gold. Upon hearing of James Marshall’s discovery of it in 1848, he simply purchased every pickaxe, pan, and shovel in the region and, in a few days, a metal pan that sold for twenty cents a few days earlier, was now available from Brannan for fifteen dollars. In just nine weeks, he made thirty-six thousand dollars. Over the years, he extorted huge profits and was only the first in a long line of entrepreneurs who made their fortunes without so much as lifting a finger.

Sitting across from an anxiety-inducing building covered in a white tarp—the future home of sharing-caring unicorn Uber in Downtown Oakland—hands weren’t dirty either as the myth of Silicon Valley was present in all its guises: plaid with a buzzcut and knuckle tats, comfy with a hoodie and bad skin, lanky and somewhat shy with big hands, all white, all cute—scrabbling with code and nineteenth-century values. Amidst a haze of of coffee mugs and MacBooks at Tierra Mia on Broadway, they could be heard playing the billion dollar startup game—making introductory calls as “founders” of pioneering applications and technologies; selling run-of-the-mill projects as the leading edge of technology; bringing “disruption” to the mean streets of The East Bay.

As we waited, now impatiently, for our inboxes to be flooded with responses from Black LGBTQ people in tech, we overhear the legends. The one of a photo-sharing app named Instagram that only had 13 employees and no furniture in their office when it was bought by Facebook for a billion dollars back in 2012. Or the one of a transportation app called Uber that after just 6 years of operation surpassed the value of 100-year-old companies like General Motors and Ford without developing, manufacturing, owning, leasing, or driving one single muthafucking car.

No, these aren’t Detroit assembly lines, nor are they wildly valuable companies particularly expensive to maintain. There are millions of designers and engineers making products consumed and paid for by billions, creating vast wealth all the while exerting little to no manpower, especially when you consider the grit of a “gold rush” or grime of an industrial revolution.

In the new America, as the longing of American utopianism become progressively shallower, as luck would have it for us—a community of hard workers—only the hard workers are piss poor, yet for these guys at this coffee shop, exits are more than enough to compensate for the millions of people displaced from their jobs or disconnected from prosperity by the mechanisms they are building with their code.

This was a technological arms race, and they didn’t know if it was leading to the brink of global destruction or not, and they didn’t care. These guys woke up one morning, sold their apartments back East and headed West to start companies that are essentially new angles on well-understood markets—delivery services, transportation, photo sharing, file exchange—most of them straight knocking off what’s been proven successful already, all of them hoping to pawn their products off on Google or Microsoft for a huge multiple.

Having lived through the first tech bubble, it was tempting to call “seen it all before,” but we already know what these guys would say about then: The world wasn’t ready for technology then—no mobile phones, no high-speed internet, no connectivity. The world is ready for it now. They’d say that we’re living at a moment now when networks, computing power, and artificial intelligence are coalescing in what many technologists describe as "the second machine age,” a time where we’ve created machines to serve us, or maybe we’re serving them—who cares. The plot is more fantastically constructed than an early iteration of Star Wars, only these weren't mini-Spocks, nor were they doing any ground-breaking computer science work.

Here we found a cast of rather vanilla girls looking at the fairly vanilla problems that all the tech firms are facing (usability, scalability, etc.) and looking for just slightly better solutions to implement faster and more robustly. There are a lot of ways to solve them, and so you wind up with every coffee shop as far as the East Bay filled with basic-ass white boys running around without any thought or much skill, displaying what’s known in the Valley as The Dunning–Kruger effect: a series of experiments in the department of psychology at Cornell University indicating “a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is.” Bounty Basic white boys wiping up spills they made playing beer pong while round-the-clock coding; cutting that same roll of paper towels that’s been around since the ’50s into ever smaller perforated pieces, with moving gifs now (don’t ask how), and once again, adding features to a product that is already over-engineered as it is.

With the number of edits we’ve had to do for this piece, there is no question that the pace of system updates in Silicon Valley outstrips one’s analytical framework for comprehending them. It also challenges the very notion of—fuck what it means to be Black—what it means to be human: having to cope with certain limits and tradeoffs. Plenty of kids had reached superhuman status out here. By this point color was the last thing on our minds.

Apparently on theirs as well. According to a 2010 report by CB Insights, in Silicon Valley, 83% of teams getting seed and Series A money are all white and a mere 1% of that funding nationally went to Black founders. According to DigitalUndivided’s 2016 “The Real Unicorns of Tech,” venture capital firms lend white men $1.3 million on average (even if their startup fails), compared to $36,000 for Black women. It analyzed more than 60,000 start-ups and found that an almost invisible 0.2 percent of the tech start-ups funded by venture capitalists between 2012 and 2014 were created by Black women.

In 2011 CNN aired the series Black in America, which highlighted how race-based preference is still alive and well in the United States and in the segment “The New Promised Land,” a group of Black entrepreneurs chase their dreams at the NewME Accelerator in San Francisco. BeCouply, Vouch, Playd, Pencil You In, Fetchmob, and all the others seemed like they had a good a chance as any (10%) to make it; however, Dylan Kissane in a follow-up for the DOZ Blog in 2016 found that none of the 12 had survived, and many hadn’t even gotten off the ground.

There are the success stories. You’d have to be living under a first-generation iPod to not have heard of Tristan Webber’s Walker & Company—a startup focused on health & beauty products for colored folk. While it raised more than $33 million from investors, Webber described the process in a CNN Money article last year as "incredibly difficult, because the investors you're trying to pitch don't understand that the problem you're trying to fix is a problem." Then there’s hair extension startup Mayvenn, which raised $10 million in a series A funding round in 2015 that is changing the old brick-and-mortar distribution model for hair weaves by giving stylists their own online hair stores. Lest you forget, the African American Hair Care Products is a $9 billion a year market where we spend 3 times more than any other demographic in this category, so 🤔🤔🤔.

That’s one case of champagne, and there’s no party without the venture capitalists pouring Ace of Spades over us like it’s the 8K remake of Jay-Z’s Big Pimping video. VC firms provide the money, mentorship, and connections that have ignited the Valley’s phenomenal growth. Not to mention, the startups they fund are a key source of talent for large tech companies via acquisitions, reinforcing the racial and gender profile of Silicon Valley’s C-suite. There can be no solution to diversity within the Valley without the support of the venture community.

Black VC Troy Carter’s fine ass confirms in the press that these white boys don’t like us tampering wit they shit. Troy’s been involved in some of the most successful startups on record—Uber, Warby Parker, Dropbox, Lady Gaga, and has taken his investment strategy/tech obsession where few Black men have gone before: to an estimated $30 million net worth, for pretty much geeking out and being super cute about it—he brings it to you every ball. Even he says that some investors were hesitant to put money behind his latest fund. We need barely ask why, but Carter told CNNMoney: “They thought [we] were only going to invest in black founders…but who said African American founders can't build a billion-dollar company?”

Silicon Valley, always playing favorites—even when the fundamentals of the game they’re playing (random investing) suggest that they can pick anything and win. Suppose they figure, why wade through several hundred companies and annoying due diligence while you’re waiting for the next Slack? Just pick something—and make sure it isn’t Black.

So while Troy and the few other Black VCs get behind the shit you want—the shit you need, the rest of them—the 99 percent of ’em—get behind apps that bring you the “freshest juice in the world” like Juicero, which raised $120 million for a contraption that's sort of like a coffee Keurig for fresh fruit—no waste. Cool. They get behind an app that lets you find an interior designer online (Laurel and Wolf raised $25.5 million), or a design collaboration platform for product teams and power designers to build interactive, realistic web and mobile app mock-ups and prototypes (InVision raised $79.1 million), or a knockoff Google Maps (Mapbox raised $62.6 million) that promises to deliver “tools for developers to integrate map-based experiences into apps.” They especially like to get behind any app that is in the business of big data analytics (Zoomdata raised $22.2 million; Visier raised $46.5 million). They get behind whatever because they can not miss the next Uber; they can not miss the next social media app or streaming database or photo sharing platform; they cannot not be a part of the next overhyped technology IPO, so while they "spray and pray,” they burn time and money addressing the laziness problems of well-to-do twenty-and-thirty-something-year-olds.

Oh No! We thought Black was everyone’s favorite color.

Speaking of, Lupe Fiasco and Google executive Di-Ann Eisnor partnered on a $1 million “Neighborhood Start Fund,” where they're scouring communities overlooked by Silicon Valley investors to find ideas that could generate $100 million in revenue. According the the website, participants go through a pitch competition where $5,000 in funding is on the table to build a prototype. From there, the Neighborhood Start Fund could offer investments from $25,000 to $100,000.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is also now a tech investor, having invested $150,000 into a startup called Sidestep, which lets users order tour merchandise from an app before, during, or after a show—no lines, no formations, fewer mortifications than standing on (a real) line at Topshop to purchase Ivy Park.

500 Startups, which is here for it having invested early in high-profile startups like Walker & Co., All Day Media, and Mayvenn, just announced this past summer that they tapped venture partner and Black Founders’ cofounder Monique Woodard to oversee a $25 million dollar microfund to make early stage investments in Black and Latino founders.

As exciting as all this is, the champagne, we’re afraid, is burned. Most companies are raising these amounts in series A. We’d met snack closets in Silicon Valley with more capital put into them than our ideas. Honorable, noble, necessary, yes, but hardly the coin that’s going to allow some young Black queer kid to work in experimental and theoretical ways to reverse the ways of the world’s injustices.

This is Silicon Valley, where teams of hundreds of engineers and technologists spend millions and millions of dollars to figure out how to give you another filter for your Snapchat. When you’re melanated like us, Silicon Valley is a place with high ideals that simply don’t work, and the internet service really sucks, and Doctor Frankenstein is always lurking to harvest our rare, exotic brains to make his experiments on global humanity richer with a few drops of color for heightened effect.

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Was this why none of our emails were returned? Was this 2% actually automated? Were these Silicon-Valley-esque Blacks unable to receive communication from the outer limits of the Googleplex? Who knew? What we did know was that last Summer before Obama attended the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford, a veritable who’s who of the tech companies including Airbnb, Spotify, and Pinterest signed a pledge to make their workforces more representative and diverse, so who wouldn’t want to live in Silicon Valley? It’s Dreamy.

Dreamy like, “We’re trying to fix all of the world’s problems.”

Do these guys ever suffer humiliation? Apparently not. Facebook recently got called on its philanthropic shit and chopped in India when its Free Basics program, which claimed it wanted to bring more of India’s estimated billion unconnected Internet users online, was exposed for what it was: a limited Internet where users could access Facebook along with sites that Facebook chose; a web targeting the world’s poorest people; a complete and total violation of the tenets of net neutrality.

If Mark Z. were really trying to fix all of the world’s problems, why not just offer free access to the entire Internet which is as basic to innovation and economic growth as electricity was to America a century ago. Just saying.

Back home in the States, our problems, although not as dire, persist. The common denominator for them all is the economic disparity between us and them, the one that’s been with us for centuries—for which there seems to be no solution. Or is there?

Silicon Valley: How about a move towards a much more functional, even compassionate economy that favors all the Black women Uber drivers we met in Oakland, who should be able to feed their families rather than get got for 40-60% commissions by a $63 billion dollar automated management system?

Silicon Valley: How about an algorithm that can figure out the economic value of all the personae non gratae of the global economy throughout history who’ve been milked for free labor, which can then effectively redistribute said wealth via blockchain technology so that we can create value for future generations?

Silicon Valley: How about an app called Black Slack which, instead of referring to “the amount of time a delay could take from a task without causing subsequent problems in corporate America,” tallied the amount of time we’ve spent on the couch stoned each day thinking about really cool ideas that could change the world, and pay us our weight in California gold for it?

Dreamy like, “We’re all about innovation.”

But maybe “optimization” is a better word. And, there are levels to this shit.

Is software that eats its elders—Uber vs. taxis, Twitter vs. news media, Amazon vs. the department store, Airbnb vs. hotels—the same as radio and television electronics, silicon-based integrated circuits, the microprocessor, or the microcomputer?

When the Africans discovered fire, when German engineer Karl Benz invented the gasoline-powered internal-combustion engine, when the hotly-contested suite of a billion white boys invented the Internet—it is safe to say that we were witnessing man’s power over nature: the elements, migration patterns, human communication. Not so sure if the creation of Instacart gives the power of such sublimity.

Even Stevie Wonder in a Google Glass can see that Airbnb and Uber, today’s biggest “disruptors,” for as much as they’ve given anyone with a spare mattress or a car and some courage the ability to run their own businesses by giving them direct access to the market’s tools, is simply digitizing traditional market behaviors: renting, lending, swapping, sharing, bartering, gifting—and allowing them to take place in ways and on a scale not possible before the Internet. It has turned our cell phones into remote controls—not all that entirely new a concept. Human greed, old as dirt.

If firms like Google and Facebook are the disruptors of old media like print and television, you should know that the only real difference is that they own the most important asset class that’s been created in recent history—the virtual you. We are now pieces of code that wake up every morning, stretch, and then proceed to be tightly tracked all day by social media and the search engine, creating data so large and complex that it has outgrown our ability to understand it. Facebook, however, employs the greatest mathematical minds of the current generation to do so and, by gathering and analyzing and selling our data, it manages to make what would otherwise be an unprofitable tech business, profitable. It is over our heads; it is up in the clouds; it is entrapment in a “terms and conditions” box of cookies that is about as innovative as sixteenth-century slavery, without the blood and gore.

Internet pioneer and online advocate Carmen Hermosillo aka “Humdog” wrote foretellingly in 1994:



“It is fashionable to suggest that Cyberspace is some island of the blessed, where people are free to indulge and express their individuality; this is not true. I have seen many people spill out their emotions, their guts online. And I did so myself, until I began to see that I had commodified myself....In the 19th century commodities were made in factories by workers, who were mostly exploited; but I created my interior thoughts as commodities for the corporations who owned the board that I was posting to, like CompuServe, or AOL. Then that commodity is sold onto other consumer entities as entertainment. Cyberspace absorbs energy and personality, then represents it as an emotional spectacle. It is done by businesses that commodify human interaction and emotion, and we are getting lost in the spectacle.”


Dreamy like, “Welcome to the world’s greatest meritocracy.”

But we guess you can call it whatever you’d like when you’re in your garage all day, scrubbing the Internet and watching Judge Judy, stoned.

Way back in 1976, Ronald Reagan fresh off of his California Governorship introduced the nation to Linda Taylor, a Black 47-year-old Chicago “welfare queen” whom he had identified as the source of all wickedness. “If you are a slum dweller,” Reagan claimed in a 1977 speech, “you can get an apartment with 11‐foot ceilings, with a 20‐foot balcony, a swimming pool and gymnasium, laundry room and play room, and the rent begins at $113.20 and that includes utilities.” Funny, that stereotype still lives on today. Funny, because, how is assembling an unmanned rocket or an iPad from parts that were developed by government military spending in the formative stage of the information technology revolution—that is, between the 1940s and the 1970s—any different than a “welfare queen” salvaging all of her second-hand, worn-in furniture from street corners and yard sales? Funny, Billions in taxes gone unpaid by these gurls and yet, has the public ever seen an iPhone dividend?

The technology that makes the iPhone useful to us—capacitive sensors, solid-state memory, the click wheel, GPS, Internet, cellular communications, microchips, the touchscreen, Siri—all came from the research efforts and funding support of the U.S. government and military; all while most of the Silicon Valley stars of the “Unicorn List” were still in diapers. This idea of the “innovative entrepreneur” must be given context; these garage creation myths and college tech-girl gone wild “experiments” debunked.

Back in 1996, two graduate students working on the Stanford Integrated Digital Library Project, supported with $4.5 million in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), came up with an idea for a new algorithm, PageRank. This algorithm was the basis for a search engine they called BackRub. After first testing BackRub on equipment partially paid for by NSF, the two students sought private financing and founded the now ubiquitous company Google.

Your great-grandkids will surely live in Elon Musk’s world, presented by NASA, because $100 mil of his own invested in Space X after selling PayPal back in ’02 got him all … the … way … to … owning … Mars.

After his Falcon Rocket finally achieved orbit on the fourth try after a number of explosions and billions in losses, seems the government’s confidence in him blew up as well. A $1.6 billion commercial contract in December of 2008 to supply cargo and provisions to the NASA International Space Station led to a $2.6 billion contract in 2014, to design and certify a highly-modified Dragon capsule to carry astronauts to and from the space station. This then led all the way to NASA’s pledged technical support for Elon Musk’s Mission to Mars, where he’ll send an unmanned spacecraft every 26 months starting in 2018 to haul critical infrastructure to the Red planet, which will lay the groundwork for human colonization in 40-100 years.

Out of this world.

We’ve been there, and we’re here to tell you—we may have bigger dicks, but they’ve all bigger palms out in Silicon Valley. Guess every girl’s got her own creation myth.

But one man’s myth is another man’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

After showing up to perform his magnum opus for Zuck at Facebook back in 2010, Ye probably thought the two were friends. Everyone wants to be Ye’s friend—from Chance to Caitlin—but when everyone in the whole world wide web wants you to slut them out on Facebook, then one might imagine Kanye’s calls become that of fashionable fluff. Kanye resorted to Twitter of course, asking—or what the press called “begging”— the Facebook founder for a $1 billion dollar investment in what he simply called “Kanye West ideas,” and Kanye, probably for the first time since right before The College Dropout, got radio silence.

The press kept asking, “Is Kanye serious?” But were they serious? Kanye’d just come clean that he was carrying $53 million in debt after sinking exorbitant amounts of his own money into his businesses, and while they went all puzzled, we went all “AH HA!” There is an explanation as to why there is no large-scale YEEZY project floating in the skies above us.

YEEZY had the deal with Vuitton where he sold all those really cute high-priced sneakers, out; YEEZY has the deal with Adidas, which has arguably made the biggest impact on sneaker culture in the last decade—kicks that have been selling on the secondary market for thousands of dollars for years now (increasing Adidas’ share of said market by some 3000% in the last year); YEEZY sells out tours.

If Mr. West wants to launch a space balloon made out of recycled Ikea Bags that blasts The Life of Pablo across galaxies at approximately half a million cubic light years in hopes of discovering extraterrestrial life, thereby expanding his fuckboi universe and Instagram following for Kim, well, then, he should have at it. ’Tis how the French physicist Jacques Charles discovered the weather in 1783—in a hydrogen balloon equipped with a barometer and thermometer; ’tis how all of history’s madmen have worked towards posterity—for their works of art to have that quality called immortality.

What does it say about Silicon Valley when, as you read this, one high-profile white software entrepreneur is burning through something like $80 million in venture funding in his latest startup and has practically nothing to show for it except for a few press clippings and a couple of beta customers (because there is virtually no market for what he is building), but Kanye, who has proved to be more of a phenomenon than a cut-and-dry rapper, is being shaded by the Saline Valley “it crowd?”

Ye’s alluded to this a few times, too. When he unveiled his Only One video game at Madison Square Garden at the listening party for Pablo, he said that people in San Francisco laughed at the idea.

At Google, they have entire research labs (“X” and “Research”) that are dedicated to taking incredible risks across a wide variety of technological domains that have nothing to do with its massive search division. Small herds of geeks jerking off with no historical model, no precedent, just unlimited resources and the DEMAND that since they too cannot escape the historical genre of falling out of fashion, that they must try something—they must take a “moonshot.”

We laughed when we read that a small Arizona startup named World View—which calls itself a “space balloon company”—led by top Silicon Valley venture capital firms with a goal of sending tourists to the edge of space, used balloons rather than rockets to close a $15 million round of funding this past summer.

Late last year, Spaceflight Industries, a Seattle-based company that organizes launches of small satellites, announced an $18 million round of financing to fund its own constellation of satellites for Earth Imaging—a company that wants to let anyone with a smartphone request images of any place on Earth in 90 minutes, for $90.

BBBbbbbbaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

Planetary Resources, another startup based in the Seattle area, raised over $20 million last May toward its long-term goal of mining extraterrestrial asteroids. 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

Clever, indeed, they all seem the first couple of times, but the repetition becomes tedious to the point of caricature. Silicon Valley is built on dream logic.

The logic of risk with no consequence. The logic of “worst case scenario” is landing a $250,000 a year job at Groupon after you’ve failed ten too many times. The logic of calling celebrities you’ve bribed with million dollar checks to get on Facebook Live “early adopters.” The logic of the “self-made man” from an upper-middle-class family from Providence, who just happens to be the son of a tenured MIT professor.

In Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley, he writes as he furiously jacks the Valley off: “Myths are not necessarily bad. They serve a purpose. Myths inspire. A completely myth-free society would not be creative.”

But beware of myths ya’ll, and write down your dreams. Encoded in them is a higher lesson, some deeper meaning with which to de-code the time spent awake. Silicon Valley: We’re here to let your subconscious know that it’s full of it. And, it’s boring to have to sit and listen to the dream of some preachy, self-righteous geek, who inevitably sounds crazy, because dreams always sound crazy. The problem, guys, is this: all you know are dreams.



Dear White Boys,


If we made an App for it, would you switch with us for a day? Being Black and Queer would surely shock you the fuck up. But maybe with this wakefulness would come your ability to stand back and look at yourselves critically in the moment of acting (“These wins are merit-based, We’re all about innovation!”) and, this would in turn, bring greater moral responsibility. Maybe then, we could get our billion dollars too.



KHARY SEPTH
is the editor-in-cheif of The Tenth Magazine, and a former creative director for the man.

ANTHONY CONOVER
is an illustrator based in Los Angeles.

JONATHAN GARDENHIRE
is a photographer based in New York.