The Atlantic

It’s Getting Harder to Believe in Silicon Valley

Awestruck visions of the tech industry have become less convincing than ever.
Source: Jack Hudson

In late 2010, during a fireside chat at the tech-industry conference TechCrunch Disrupt, the venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel disclosed that he would award 20 enterprising teenagers $100,000 apiece over two years to bypass college in favor of entrepreneurship. “Stopping out,” Thiel called it. Having decried student debt (not to mention universities’ inculcation of political correctness), he endeavored to make the case that college was a limiting and outdated model. The Thiel Fellowship, as it came to be known, was representative of a particular strain of anti-establishmentarianism in tech-industry culture. Who needs higher education?

In Valley of the Gods: A Silicon Valley Story, Alexandra Wolfe, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, zooms in on a handful of Thiel fellows from the 2011 inaugural class. Among them are John Burnham, an antsy teen who has his sights set on asteroid-mining robots; Laura Deming, a prodigy working on life extension; and James Proud, who founded GigLocator, an app for locating tickets to live concerts, and sold the company in 2012. As the fellows adjust to their new environs in the Bay Area, Wolfe follows them into a constellation of mentors and affiliates, subcultures and institutions—“Silicon

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