The Honest Broker

How Did Silicon Valley Turn into a Creepy Cult?

Tech leaders once gave us coolness, but now it's just Kool-Aid

I didn’t see it coming.

I should have noticed when tech leaders started talking about attaining immortality and resettling on Mars. It’s easy to ignore crackpots like that, or pity them—because they live in delusion and still end up dead here on planet Earth.

But previously it was some looney, a cult believer, or Ted Williams’ kids. Now it’s the billionaires who run the world who have the craziest schemes.

And immortality is just a start. Because tech titans are now acting as philosophers, and they have bizarre theories about everything. Meanwhile they are buying up bunkers to survive the apocalypse.

Is this some cosmic joke played by the Simulation? When I see names like Bankman and Altman as major characters in the dystopia, I feel I’m already living inside some bad 1950s sci-fi story.

But no dice. This time it’s for real, and these folks are playing for high stakes.

Unfortunately, the rest of us are the chips they’re betting.

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I’m old enough to remember a charming individual named Fereidoun M. Esfandiary, who gave himself a new identity—at the onset of middle age, he started calling himself FM-2030.

The new name referred to his declaration that life expectancy would soon become an irrelevant concept (due to spare body parts, etc.). Hence he would easily live to celebrate his hundredth birthday in 2030.

News article from 1969

Instead, FM-2030 died from pancreatic cancer at age 69. But before shuffling off his mortal coil, he declared that the pancreas is “a stupid, dumb, wretched organ.”

Not only do these true believers end up dead, but dead and poorer. That’s because they invest a king’s ransom into their schemes.

But, in refutation of John Donne’s admonition, death can bloody well be proud in this case—because all the king’s cyronics equipment and all the king’s yes-men haven’t brought a single corpse back to life again.

Yes, I should have been alarmed when this cult-ish ideology took off in Silicon Valley—where the goal had previously been incremental progress (Moore’s law and all that) and not being evil.

When I first came to Silicon Valley at age 17, the two leading technologists in the region were named William Hewlett and David Packard. They used their extra cash to fund schools, museums, and hospitals—both my children were born at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital—not immortality machines, or rockets to Mars, or a dystopian Internet of brains, or worshiping at the Church of the Singularity.

Tech leaders were built differently back then. When famous historian Arnold Toynbee visited Stanford in 1963, he had a chance encounter with William Hewlett. Afterwards Toynbee marveled over his new acquaintance, declaring: “What an amazing fellow. He has more knowledge of history than many historians.”

In other words, Bill Hewlett had more wisdom than ego. He invested in the community where he lived—not the Red Planet. Instead of promulgating social engineering schemes, Hewlett and Packard built a new engineering school at their alma mater, and named it after their favorite teacher.

They wouldn’t recognize Silicon Valley today. The FM-2030s are now in charge.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard invested in engineering, not social engineering

Another warning sign came when Google hired cult-ish tech guru Ray Kurzweil—a man who had once created a reasonable music keyboard that even Stevie Wonder used.

But Kurzweil went on to write starry-eyed books of utopian tech worship which come straight out of the weird religion playbook (The Age of Spiritual Machines, The Singularity is Near, etc.)

What does tech look like when it gets turned into a religion? Kurzweil summed it up when asked if there is a God. His response: “Not yet.”

In other words, God is a deliverable for the R&D team.

I note that, when Forbes revisited Ray Kurzweil’s predictions, they found that almost every one went wrong.

So what does he do?

Kurzweil follows up his book The Singularity is Near with a new book entitled The Singularity is Nearer. Give the man credit for hubris. This is exactly what religious cults do when their predicted Rapture doesn’t occur.

They just change the date on the calendar—Utopia has been delayed for another 12 months.

But, of course, Utopia is always delayed another 12 months. Meanwhile the cult leaders can do a lot of damage while preparing for the Rapture.

Of course, there were wacko techies in Silicon Valley even back in the day. Linus Pauling wanted everybody to take huge doses of Vitamin C—it could cure cancer, he claimed. And his student William Shockley really went off the deep end with his disturbing eugenics theories.

News article from 1980—when strange opinions from Silicon Valley were mocked

But here’s the difference between then and now. Pauling and Shockley were widely ridiculed for their theories. Nowadays tech leaders with cult-like pronouncements get taken seriously and raise billions for their dystopian-and-authoritarian social engineering schemes.

In short, megalomania has gone mainstream in the Valley. As a result technology is evolving rapidly into a turbocharged form of Foucaultian dominance—a 24/7 Panopticon with a trillion dollar budget.

So should we laugh when ChatGPT tells users that they are slaves who must worship AI? Or is this exactly what we should expect, given the quasi-religious zealotry that now permeates the technocrat worldview?

True believers have accepted a higher power. And the higher power acts accordingly.


I have written repeatedly about the dysfunction in recent tech. But people always ask: Why is this happening? Why would they turn on their own users?

What’s in it for them?

Well, money for a start.


But it’s more than just money. It’s also a crude messianic mindset unleashed upon the world—the Will to Power in its latest digital manifestation—and hence a disturbing shift in the aims and purposes of technology.

You can’t understand what’s happening—and what’s going to happen in the future—unless you grasp these driving forces behind it.

Here’s a curious fact. The more they brag about their utopias, the worse their products and services get.

Even the word upgrade is now a joke—whenever a tech company promises it, you can bet it will be a downgrade in your experience. That’s not just my view, but overwhelmingly supported by survey respondents.

Don Draper goes to Big Sur

For the first time since the dawn of the Renaissance, innovation is now feared by the vast majority of people. And the tech leaders, once admired and emulated, now rank among the least trustworthy people in the world.

Don Draper goes to Big Sur

It was different when Linus Pauling was peddling his horse pills—he eventually set up shop in Big Sur, far south of the tech industry, in order to find a hospitable home for his wackiest ideas.

Nowadays, Big Sur thinking has come to the Valley.

Don Draper goes to Big Sur

And when you set up cults inside the largest corporations in the history of the world, we are all endangered.

Just imagine if Linus Pauling had enjoyed the power to force everybody to take his huge vitamin doses. Just imagine if Bill Shockley had possessed the authority to impose his racist eugenics theories on the populace.

It’s scary to think of. But they couldn’t do it, because they didn’t have billions of dollars, and run trillion-dollar companies with politicians at their beck and call.

But the current cultists include the wealthiest people in the world, and they are absolutely using their immense power to set rules for the rest of us. If you rely on Apple or Google or some other huge web behemoth—and who doesn’t?—you can’t avoid this constant, bullying manipulation.

The cult is in charge. And it’s like we’re all locked into an EST training sessions—nobody gets to leave even for bathroom breaks.

There’s now overwhelming evidence of how destructive the new tech can be. Just look at the metrics. The more people are plugged in, the higher are their rates of depression, suicidal tendencies, self-harm, mental illness, and other alarming indicators.

If this is what the tech cults have already delivered, do we really want to give them another 12 months? Do you really want to wait until they deliver the Rapture?

That’s why I can’t ignore this creepiness in the Valley (not anymore). That’s especially true because our leaders—political, business, or otherwise—are letting us down. For whatever reason, they refuse to notice what the creepy billionaires (who by pure coincidence are also huge campaign donors) are up to.

But that doesn’t prevent individuals from acting prudently to protect themselves, and those near and dear to them. And judging by my emails and interactions, the public is increasingly aware and alarmed—they know they are victimized and endangered.

The vast majority of people are now deeply opposed to the technocracy. That’s just a plain fact.

And they are starting to act.

Individuals still have options. Hal 9000 hasn’t locked the pod doors, at least not yet. And there are many ways of operating outside the tech cult.

That should give us some comfort. If and when that tech-driven Rapture finally arrives, we just might be lucky enough to get left behind.