Yesterday I wondered if mythology and innovation were linked in a society.
If Silicon Valley carries the mantle of being the most innovative place in the world today, it must have its mythology too. We can see it in use of mythical creatures like unicorns and dragons to denote, well, businesses. We can see how Steve Jobs was compared to Jesus. And we can see how people like Paul Graham and Peter Thiel are like prophets, with their essays and religious books.
But maybe the bigger piece of the mythology which drives Silicon Valley comes from the world of science fiction.
The VC Sarah Downey describes herself as a sci-fi fan consumed by futuristic technology.
I’ve been reading science fiction since I was a kid. I probably started around age ten and was a voracious reader of sci-fi and fantasy in high school. I’ve continued on as an adult, estimating that 25% of what I read is science fiction.
Naval Ravikant, the CEO of AngelList, and investor in Twitter does the same.
At any given time, I’m always reading some science fiction, because sci-fi is very imaginative, in terms of hypothesizing how the world’s going to work out. Usually, it has an interesting point of view.
And of course, the hero of our time, Elon Musk, loves these books too.
Science fiction sagas have good and evil, utopias and dystopias and battles on a cosmic scale. Very much like myths of the old. Most of these people had consumed fantasy and sci-fi in their formative years, and now want to make those worlds a reality through technology, and they seem to be succeeding.
So maybe there is a link between mythology and innovation. But does mythology predict innovation?
Lately Silicon Valley has been rocked by scandals (Facebook, Uber, you know the names) and its influence as the place to innovate seems to be waning. The charismatic ‘change the world’ motto has been made fun of in sitcoms.
No other geographical area seems to be shaping up to be the ‘next’ Silicon Valley though. However, we can see a new mythology appearing in a new context – cryptocurrency. With Satoshi Nakamoto as the mysterious God, and the Bitcoin paper as the holy word. Prophets have emerged, as have holy books. And the utopia does not promise flying cars, but freedom from governments (‘evil empires’).
Maybe this mythology is a good reason to be optimistic about the world of cryptocurrencies.