In a nutshell, Mr. Srinivasan, a computer scientist and co-founder of the genomics company Counsyl, told a group of young entrepreneurs that the United States had become “the Microsoft of nations”: outdated and obsolescent. When technology companies calcify, Mr. Srinivasan said, you don’t reform them. You exit and launch your own. Why not do so with America?
Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” said the speech was part of “a resurgence of millenarian thinking in Silicon Valley.” The dream of an extra-societal utopia grows in part out of a “naïve libertarianism” ascendant in the Valley, and in part out of older American cultist traditions dating as far back as the Pilgrims, he said.
The Pilgrims analogy is apt, because Mr. Srinivasan cast entrepreneurs as a persecuted people who must flee to survive. The Valley, he argued, is taking over the rest of America’s traditional raisons d’être. Netflix and iTunes challenge Hollywood. Twitter and blogs challenge New York media. The Khan Academy and Coursera challenge Boston’s universities. Uber and Airbnb challenge the regulatory state personified by Washington.
Mr. Srinivasan is happy to let reformers stay behind. “The best part is this,” he said. “The people who think this is weird, the people who sneer at the frontier, who hate technology — they won’t follow you out there.”