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Paulina Borsook: "The Culture of Flip & Flee" -
commentary for KQED-TV's "Digital West", March 31, 2000

It's a truth universally acknowledged that it's dangerous in high-tech to not be workaholic. From this stems the notorious difficulty people in high-tech have with finding topics of conversation other than work. It's a phenomenon different say, from the social boorishness that can happen when trial lawyers or emergency-room doctors or screenwriters run into each other at parties. These folks know about other stuff, but are simply overjoyed at the occasion to talk shop. People in high-tech often -can't- talk about anything else because their lives depend on maintaining singularity of focus in the constantly-changing technology world. They rule out paying attention to anything other than say, what might show up the real-time technology-business news service they have on continuous feed in a window on their monitors..

The wondrous old joke about the Valley is that people can change jobs without changing parking spaces: that is, the technology and the company name might change but you can stay working with the same happy, over-focussed team.

But this truism has, in recent years, hyper-accelerated to the current ideal, which says that the object of the game is -solely- to get in and cash out, who cares if the company tanks six months after it goes public. If building to last no longer flies, and people only want to do that which will enable them to flip their options and move on as quickly as possible, even creating a work-related culture seems laughable. Once the institutional investors and those with founders stock have gotten their money out, doing the work itself can matter little --- so why stick around?

In other words, it's becoming a tenet of high-tech that there can't be any lasting workplace culture --- yet work is all there is.

What's more, high-tech's free-agent nation madly attracts folks from all over the world. Everyone comes from everywhere else and the last time people had a cultural identity/sense of place was back from where they came from. The Community Foundation of Silicon Valley says 40 percent of charitable giving in the Valley goes out of state, most often to the educational institutions that evidently made it possible for the donors to work -here-. Yet clearly folks are saying 'I am not really here', in the sense of feeling any permanent ties. Although everyone secretly knows you do have to be here, or else we wouldn't be having our problems with traffic and housing and all the rest, exceeding the Bay Area's carrying capacity.

The fact is, the sis-boom-bah success of the Valley has arisen from a unique cultural mix that no place else on earth has really successfully duplicated, we are all here together, and we should really stop pretending otherwise.

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