Sam Altman: I should have the freedom to say stupid shit, you should have the freedom to applaud
"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." – Galileo
“Hold my soylent” – Sam Altman
You know the old saying: Writing about Y Combinator is like wrestling with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig threatens to fabricate a smear campaign against you and your company.
Then there’s the sheer redundancy of the exercise: If by now you don’t understand the extent to which Paul Graham’s bro creche is responsible for so much that’s wrong with Silicon Valley then one more blog post ain’t gonna help you. Bro.
Earlier this week, the current head of Y Combinator, Sam “the fucking worst” Altman summoned his hoodie-wearing faithful to assemble in Saint Ayn’s square (also known as blog.SamAltman.com) to hear his latest proclamation of genius. Its title: ‘E Pur Si Muove’ or, in English, ‘can you fucking believe this douche?’
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.
For the next six hundred words, Altman expands on his theme: That geniuses like him and their bold disruptive ideas around science and technology are being driven out of San Francisco by… well… questions about the ethics of those same ideas…
[S]mart people tend to have an allergic reaction to the restriction of ideas, and I’m now seeing many of the smartest people I know move elsewhere…
I’ve seen credible people working on ideas like pharmaceuticals for intelligence augmentation, genetic engineering, and radical life extension leave San Francisco because they found the reaction to their work to be so toxic. “If people live a lot longer it will be disastrous for the environment, so people working on this must be really unethical” was a memorable quote I heard this year.
After all, what’s a genius supposed to do when a guy at a dinner party dares to bring up the downside of population growth, but to…. move to Beijing where, until recently, the government would slaughter your second born child? Not since Edward Snowden moved to Russia to protest American spying have hypocrisy and delusion been joined in such happy matrimony.
I could waste a lifetime pointing out the logical flaws and screaming hypocrisies of Sam Altman and his bro-thren – never mind the chalkboard-scratching self delusion of Altman likening himself to Galileo (as he does twice in that one blog post.) But most of his drivel can be summed up in a single sentence: Sam Altman should have the right to say or invest in any horrible thing he likes, and everyone else has the right to applaud.
The scary part, though, is the timing of Altman’s screed, coming as it does just as Silicon Valley is finally debating the way women and minorities are treated, and spoken about, in startups. The similarity between Atman’s rhetoric and that of James Damore is not a coincidence.
Just read this next quote. If you haven’t read it before, could you honestly tell me if it was written by Altman or Damore…
This is uncomfortable, but it’s possible we have to allow people to say disparaging things about gay people if we want them to be able to say novel things about physics.
Altman's post has almost nothing to do with genetic engineering or augmented intelligence or even about the First Amendment, and everything to do with Y Combinator bros finally being called to account.Witness how Altman's buddies are already furious that people - that is, women, mionorities and other non-awful human beings - are daring to exercise their own free speech to criticize his unimpeachable wisdom.
Coming soon: Sam Altman announces that – inspired by the incredible response to his post – he has decided (reluctantly! unexpectedly!) to run for mayor of San Francisco. His manifesto: To restore the city as the free-speech capital of the world. Ron Conway has already given his blessing. Palantir has offered technical assistance. Keith Rabois and Joe Lonsdale are on the advisory committee. And Beelzebub himfuckingself will be handing out campaign fliers.