I recently read a very interesting article in the NY Times Magazine - Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem. “In start-up land, the young barely talk to the old (and vice versa). That makes for a lot of cool apps. But great technology? Not so much,” says its tagline. Its author, Yiren Lu, graduated from Harvard last year with a degree in math and is currently a masters student in computer science at Columbia.
I really enjoyed the article. Ms Lu is a very good writer, storyteller and ethnographer, i.e., a kind of cultural anthropologist. Her article chronicles what she calls the Smart Kids and their Sexting Apps culture of Silicon Valley, a youth bubble combined with “a frenzied bubble of app-making and an even vaguer dread that what we are making might not be that meaningful.”
“There is a sense among them of manifest destiny, of This is our time,” she writes. What do people in Silicon Valley plan to do once they hit 35 and are officially over the hill?, asks a member of Quora, a popular question-answer site. “Despite its breathtaking arrogance, the question resonates; it articulates concerns about tech being, if not ageist, then at least increasingly youth-fetishizing.”
This question brought to mind don’t trust anyone over the age of 30, a phrase that embodied the generation gap of another era, the sixties, when societal and cultural battles were fought in a number of areas, including civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the feminist movement. While the generation gap Ms Lu writes about deals with very different, less weighty issues, there are a few similarities.