I don't think I am giving anything away by saying that one of the themes of the book is the risk of having people devote all of their time and problem-solving skills to imaginary worlds in the computer while the real world crumbles around them.
That theme intertwines with some things I have been thinking about recently, prompted in part by Cal Newport's recent post about how so many of Dartmouth's valedictorians became investment bankers. He argues that it is due to our shallow vocabulary around career aspirations, but I wonder if it might be something more, similar to the issue raised in Ready Player One, in which people have disengaged from trying to solve important problems to chase something else- in this case, money.
I think we have lost sight of the purpose of money. So many people seem to use money as a kind of score-keeping system, to track who is "winning" at life. I think that is wrong-headed, to say the least. To me, money is just a tool, a way to secure the lifestyle I want. Once I get that lifestyle, I hope I'll have the sense to realize I don't need more money. (I have a pretty nice lifestyle already- all that is missing right now is the flexibility to travel more. I'm working on that.)
|It is not all about having a nice car|
This is not intended to criticize everyone who has made a bucket of money and chosen to do differently. Who knows? Perhaps they haven't reached the lifestyle they want, or perhaps they just haven't made the time to use their riches for good yet. But I do wish we'd stop lionizing the super wealthy as the people whose lives we should most want to emulate. Getting rich should not be the sole goal in life.
While we're at it, I wish we'd stop holding up tech entrepreneurs who created a company on their own as embodying the one true way to start a company (and get rich, of course, it is always about getting rich). It is just one way to do it.
I am not criticizing the lone techie entrepreneur, either. I am in fact considering trying to start a company that way! But it is not the only way, and it creates serious limitations in the types of problems the company can tackle. Some undertakings inherently require a large team and a lot of capital: drug discovery and energy innovations are two fields that spring to mind. Companies tackling these sorts of problems need people with technical brilliance, but they need people who know how to organize the work and make sure the team works together to get it done, too. No single technical genius is going to bring a drug to market or fix our dependence on fossil fuels. This realization is one of the things keeping me from abandoning my current career. In some ways, I can work on more important problems as an employee in a company than I can as an entrepreneur out on my own.
Since not all companies can be started by a lone techie in his or her garage, the world definitely does need investment bankers. But maybe we don't need quite so many- and we definitely don't need the attitude that the most important thing you can do with your life is make more and more money. If that's the goal we're all chasing, I can almost guarantee that we're not solving the right problems.