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Cyberselfish A Critical Romp Through The Terribly Libertarian Culture Of High Tech

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"Paulina Borsook has been stirring up a ruckus in Silicon Valley since her days as a regular contributor to Wired magazine."

288 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2000

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Paulina Borsook

2 books1 follower

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5 stars
5 (9%)
4 stars
15 (27%)
3 stars
14 (25%)
2 stars
15 (27%)
1 star
5 (9%)
Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews
Profile Image for grundoon.
623 reviews12 followers
September 14, 2013
I suppose you're going to either really enjoy this, or grudgingly acknowledge that she's at least a competent writer, depending on your own views. Which is pretty much the entire point. I've been in tech some way or another for going on three decades, and have quite a few libertarian (lower case intentional) views, but "Libertarian" has very much been co-opted by attitudes and values which could not be further from my own. Over a dozen years old now, this book-length essay takes an informed, critical look at a male-dominated, often misogynistic, arrogant, I've-got-mine, short-sighted culture of self-interest. I happen to find her observations as spot on today as they were then. Others will surely dismiss it out-of-hand, or be too infuriated to even give it some thought.
Profile Image for Llewellyn.
148 reviews
October 2, 2012
Repeating what was said on the Amazon review - painting with way too wide of a brush, very dismissive, and generally kind of insulting without any basis or evidence. I thought this would be more about the libertarian financial world of Oracle and others, but it's more about putting down "neopagans who go to Burning Man". I will say I thought she did have a way with words, but it was mainly to insult people who responded to a dating profile.
March 20, 2023
The chapter on wired is laser focused, incisive, and still feels fresh. Shame that the rest fails to live up to that standard. It has a tendency to pick up an intriguing thread, examine it for a paragraph, then let it go without chasing it down. What could be a damning indictment reads like shallow implications.

At one point, in chapter 5 (page 227) Barsook casually drops and seems to endorse some good old fashoned eugenics. I can't help but wonder if she got too close to her subjects.

The 90s tech flavor is fun and the cultural criticism is mostly still relevant (the conference reviews are kinda irrelevant for example.) and I don't regret reading it, but it could have been a lot better.

One thing that the author tends to do is cite some acquaintance then not ask them any of the follow-up questions that would have made the book interesting.
Profile Image for Avery.
75 reviews
May 8, 2022
Libertarians Mad about this one in reviews. Borsook is a great author with a sharp critical mind. There is an antilibertarian perspective in this book to which the author owns up and for which she argues eloquently throughout.
Worth reading, even in 2022
3 reviews
January 9, 2023
This book is well written, and it is aged extremely well. I’m giving it five stars because it’s one of the most succinct encapsulations of the culture driving so many forces in the world now. It’s important and it’s essential that we understand it more deeply.
Profile Image for Tom Schulte.
2,910 reviews55 followers
December 10, 2022
First published 2000, it could be argued that this book may be more of historical interest and rather devoid of current relevance. I was fine to enjoy it as a time capsule and consider if the extreme libertarianism, 'bionomics' Darwinian view of economic competition that manages to ignore the necessary role of government, and polyamory ever evidenced in colleagues as worked at the time of publication. Well, maybe some gun-loving libertarians I recall, bionomics seems a completely new word to me, but the polyamory has resurfaced in the saved tale of Sam Bankman-Fried: "Polyamory, penthouses and plenty of loans: inside the crazy world of FTX". So, I guess that is still a thing.

There is also a lot here on the history of Wired magazine. Borsook was involved from the earliest days. There she saw first hand the boys' clubhouse it was becoming in reflection of its subject area. I was myself, an avid reader of the magazine Boing Boing and even sometimes of Ray Gun. I liked what I saw in them as subversive, anti-establishment. Wired smelt elitist or at least smug to me.

One of the points Borsook (sounds like a planet named by pulp fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs) stresses is the lack of charity, especially meaningful charity, by successful and cash-rich tech firms. I wonder what her thought is on Bankman-Fried's "effective altruism". Well, he said he planned to donate the great majority of his wealth to effective charities over the course of his life, but in the end just stole and wasted his customer's money. This seems trued to the mark of Borsook's portrait of a male-dominated space rich in selfishness and poor in humanity. She also decries the focus on liberalness-data retrieval absent of context and narrow in scope:

It's spooky to think of a generation of kids who are deluded into thinking that if something ... isn't available on the Web then it doesn't exist or doesn't have value.
18 reviews
January 12, 2014
The author most certainly has expensive experience, knowledge and connections throughout Silicon Valley but appears to have become so intensely stuck in a single-track mindset that everyone in Silicon Valley is "technolibertarian" that she has closed herself off such that no other conclusions can be reached, and any thoughts or ideas otherwise tolerated.

The book provides an interesting insight into the culture and life of high technology in West Coast USA in the 90s with an incredible amount of quoted sources, studies and articles. You definitely come away with a strong image of the pervasive 24/7 working culture and found/test/cash out startup cycle that has produced countless twenty something multi-millionaires.

From a reading perspective I felt the author was out to prove how many contacts she had, name dropping some marginally once important person almost every paragraph., which got very tiring attempting to keep track of hundreds of people.

Overall an interesting insight, but definitely falling into the category of heavily weighted opinion piece.
Profile Image for Laura.
364 reviews
October 24, 2013
I appear to have clicked "audio" and really it's just hardcover. Ain't give a damn.

Written in 2001, read in 2013. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I had a hard time reading this for the same reason I had an issue with Steve Jobs' biography: the back-and-forth between "these are amazing times and folks are doing amazing things" and "holy shit some of these folks seem to have been assholes for YEARS" is just disconcerting and makes me want to set fire to something.
Profile Image for Patrick Rodriguez.
11 reviews2 followers
April 20, 2010
What libertarianism seems like to an outside observer. Some valid points, some outdated. Always good to synthesize multiple viewpoints.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews

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