A scathing, sardonic exploration of Silicon Valley tech culture, laying bare the greed, hubris, and retrograde politics of an industry that aspires to radically transform society for its own benefit
At the height of the startup boom, journalist Corey Pein set out for Silicon Valley with little more than a smartphone and his wits. His goal: to learn how such an overhyped industry could possibly sustain itself as long as it has. But to truly understand the delirious reality of the tech entrepreneurs, he knew he would have to inhabit that perspective—he would have to become an entrepreneur himself. Thus Pein begins his journey—skulking through gimmicky tech conferences, pitching his over-the-top business ideas to investors, and rooming with a succession of naive upstart programmers whose entire lives are managed by their employers—who work endlessly and obediently, never thinking to question their place in the system.
In showing us this frantic world, Pein challenges the positive, feel-good self-image that the tech tycoons have crafted—as nerdy and benevolent creators of wealth and opportunity—revealing their self-justifying views and their insidious visions for the future. Vivid and incisive, Live Work Work Work Die is a troubling portrait of a self-obsessed industry bent on imposing its disturbing visions on the rest of us.
Journalist Pein travels to San Francisco to expose the seedy underbelly of Silicon Valley culture with its overworked and underpaid drones toiling in a gig-based economy, nightmarish Airbnb rentals, and false narrative of meritocracy. His hunt for affordable housing provokes a discussion of gentrification and exorbitant rents (Pein ends up paying $35/night to sleep in a tent in someone's yard). For employment, he experiments with Fiverr, a directory platform where freelancers offer up their services at $5 per task, before attempting to sell his doomed start-up idea, an app for organizing labor unions. Along the way, Pein examines the unethical and often illegal practices of tech industry giants, from Yelp extorting cash from businesses in exchange for the removal of bad reviews to Groupon's "dubious" accounting practices in the weeks leading up to its IPO. He also directs his ire at the tech press, referring to it as "an interchangeable assortment of sycophantic blogs, gee-whiz podcasts, and thinly veiled advertising supplements." Pein's analysis of this toxic culture culminates in a trip to Holland for a conference on technological singularity, the "physical and metaphysical merger of humanity and computers" believed by many to be in the near future, which, by this point in the book, will strike many readers as a terrifying prospect. Both entertaining and damning, Pein's book unmasks the shell game being run by venture capitalists in an industry that is not nearly as benign as it claims to be.
gonzo class struggle journalism
it’s good you should read it, especially if you work in tech