I love ridiculing the Silicon Valley (meant as a structure of feeling here and in the book I’m discussing and not as a geographical term) with its hyped-up and clueless culture of startup folks who drink raw water while doing intermittent fasting and showing off their goji bowls. Of course, I’m an academic, so it’s practically in the job description to make fun of all this.
So my sister and I decided to read Dan Lyons’ Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble, because poking fun at the silly startup world is something we both love. This means we were predisposed to like the book and support the author’s point of view before we even started reading.
The actual reading experience turned out very different, though. Lyons criticizes the techie startup were he worked for a year and a half for not being filled with jaded cynical old farts whose idea of a perfect job is sharing horse dick jokes with a roomful of other jaded old farts (that’s what he says). The young workers of the startup are all wide-eyed and enthusiastic about their work, and Lyons resents this enormously.
I come from a culture where everybody is jaded and cynical beyond what any American journalist can imagine. And now I’m in a field where people practice doom and gloom like it’s their primary mission in life. So when I read about a company where everybody is enthusiastic and upbeat, I can’t blame them. Being surrounded by apocalyptically minded folks saps my energy like nothing else.
My sister and I are happy we read the book because what it really is about is self-awareness. Lyons is a very talented journalist and his writing is superb. But his insight into himself is at the level of a doorknob. He keeps criticizing others for traits he exhibits in scary abundance. He’s especially angry at clueless, sexist, white, frathouse-immature dudebros without ever noticing that he’s a prime specimen of this breed. It’s a funny phenomenon that I keep noticing. The people I know who are most likely to go on long rants against sexism and racism are widely known to make life very miserable for female, gay and non-white colleagues. It’s as if they thought that appropriately PC rants would distract everybody’s attention from their very inappropriate behaviors.
Old age – a subject that Lyons is fixated upon – begins when you become incapable of accepting anything new. You can be 15 or 95 when it happens. But when anything even a little bit different from what you are used to begins to drive you nuts, that’s your time to realize that you’ve become really old. This book is a great, if an utterly unintended, warning against this sad devolution one might experience.
I also recommend the book to the people interested in how the workplace of the liquid economy functions. The first 100 pages of the book can be used for measuring how prepared one is for this form of capitalism. Read them and ask yourself what you feel about this kind of work environment. Does it excite you, scare you, bore you? The answer will point towards your feelings about liquid economy and liquid labor relations.
Plus, the book is very funny. So I highly recommend. This was my first read of the year and it surprised but didn’t disappoint.