Playa Nights 3 - Thoughts on Tech and Burning Man

By September 11, 2009
Playa Nights 3 - Thoughts on Tech and Burning Man

1. Despite the growing mobile infrastructure at Burning Man, I think I only saw one person using a computer during the week, though the amount of people at center camp using a phone grew as the event stretched on. Even so, there weren’t all that many. Though the place was full of us valley types, a surprising number of us stayed -- at least publicly -- disconnected. 2. There’s a stereotype of the army of Silicon Valley types who descend on Black Rock City. According to legend, one of the reasons Eric Schmidt got the Google gig was because he was a burner.

Burning Man started as a San Francisco event and is still at its heart a San Francisco event, and in that sense is a document of how much the city has changed in the dot-com boom’s wake.

As one employee of a large PC company who has been to more than a handful of burns told me, it’s all about real estate. “If Burning Man was near New York it would be all people from finance,” he said. 3.

Of course, there are strong ties between the SF counter-culture and tech, one of the reasons parts of the valley shut down the week of the event. In the 60s, early computer science innovators had links to The Diggers and Whole Earth Catalog  -- which Steve Jobs called “the precursor to the internet.” (I thought the Web's precursor was Borges).

Today we have Survival Research Laboratories, Anonymous and culture jams.

No matter what, it's not surprising that tech and counter-culture -- two of the Bay Area's biggest export industries -- join hands and march together sometimes.

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