Easily the dumbest article I’ve read this year was one by a posh liberal columnist in a high end political journal explaining why freedom of speech wasn’t under threat in the West. Anyone who argued otherwise, he claimed, was a “grade A chocolate-coated plonker.”
It was, of course, the kind of glib nonsense you could only spout if you were on the squishy left/bien-pensant/progressive side of the political argument.
Everyone on the right knows better because they have all experienced at first hand what it’s like to live in a culture where you cannot speak your mind without being punished for it.
Sometimes – speaking up for Brexit or Donald Trump at a London dinner party, say – it merely leads to social ostracism; or losing friends who probably never deserved to have you as a friend anyway.
There is now more freedom of speech in Beijing than in the San Francisco Bay area — and this could kill the Silicon Valley tech industry.
While right-wing commentators have been saying this for years, it’s extremely unusual to hear it from the lips of a Silicon Valley tech guru as impeccably liberal as Sam Altman.
Altman, influential and respected CEO of Y Combinator — an accelerator program for Silicon Valley start-ups — has triggered outrage in the tech community for having dared to suggest that political correctness has gotten so bad that it threatens to destroy their business model.
Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me. I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco. I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home.
That showed me just how bad things have become, and how much things have changed since I first got started here in 2005.
It seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year. Debating a controversial idea, even if you 95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.
This will be very bad for startups in the Bay Area.
You can have freedom to think and innovate or you can have political correctness, but you can’t have both, he warns:
To get the really good ideas, we need to tolerate really bad and wacky ideas too. In addition to the work Newton is best known for, he also studied alchemy (the British authorities banned work on this because they feared the devaluation of gold) and considered himself to be someone specially chosen by the almighty for the task of decoding Biblical scripture.
You can’t tell which seemingly wacky ideas are going to turn out to be right, and nearly all ideas that turn out to be great breakthroughs start out sounding like terrible ideas. So if you want a culture that innovates, you can’t have a culture where you allow the concept of heresy—if you allow the concept at all, it tends to spread. When we move from strenuous debate about ideas to casting the people behind the ideas as heretics, we gradually stop debate on all controversial ideas.
In today’s climate, some of the most innovative ideas in tech — such as Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin or Elon Musk’s SpaceX — would have probably have been killed at birth: