The Three Cities Problem of Modern Life

The Three Cities Problem of Modern Life
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But today is a third the city that influenced the other two. This third city, Silicon Valley, is essentially not ruled by the mind (it’s practically the mark of a great entrepreneur. notes be “reasonable”), nor with things of the spirit (predominant belief, materialism). Rather, it is a place ruled by its creation. value. And a big component of value is utility – whether something is useful or at least perceived as good or useful.

I am aware that some people in Silicon Valley think they are starting rationalist startups. There may be some. But the city’s guiding spirit is epitomized by Shane Parris, a popular investor and podcast host on the set of Silicon Valley. says: “The true test of an idea is not whether it is true, but whether it is useful.” In other words, utility outstrips truth or logic.

Our new century, which has been our world since 2000, is dominated by the technological influence of Silicon Valley. This city has produced world-changing products and services (instant search results, next-day delivery of millions of products, “constant connection with thousands of friends”) that create and shape new desires. This new city, and the new powers it unleashes, affect humanity more than Tertullian could have imagined.

And this new city is getting stronger and stronger. Never before have the problems of Athens and Jerusalem been so diverse. things it lives for our attention and desires. This third city, Silicon Valley, changed the nature of the problem Tertullian grappled with. Questions of what is right and what is good for the soul are now mostly subordinated to technological progress – or at least the questions of Athens and Jerusalem are now so connected to this progress that it creates confusion.

It’s hard to escape the utilitarian logic of Silicon Valley, and in doing so we lie to ourselves. rationalize our motivations. The most interesting thing about the cryptocurrency craze was that every new product was framed in purely rational terms, or “white papers” were ubiquitous with the need to present it as a product of Athens. And then there was Dogecoin.

We do not live in a world of pure reason or religious magicbut something completely new.

reason, religion and The technology-driven quest to create value at all costs interacts in ways we don’t quite understand now, but that have a huge impact on our daily lives. Our two decades of experience with social media has already shown how much content the mind or Athens is brimming with, that most people don’t mind. post-truth environment. Some social psychologists, such as Jonathan Haidt, it drives us crazy and undermines our democracy. Humanity is at a crossroads. We try to reconcile various needs such as rationality, worship, productivity, and the tension of this pursuit is manifested in the things we create. As the three cities interact, we now live with technology-mediated religion (online church services) and technology-mediated reason (280-character Twitter discussions); religiously adopted technology (bitcoin) and religiously observed cause (Covid-19 security cathedrals); rational religion (effective altruism) and “rational” technology (3D-printed) assisted suicide capsules).

If Tertullian was alive today, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem – and what does it have to do with Silicon Valley?” I believe you will ask. In other words, how do the realms of reason and religion relate to the realm of technological innovation and its financiers in Silicon Valley? If Enlightenment champion Steven Pinker (Athens resident) entered a bar with a Trappist monk (Jerusalem) and Elon Musk (Silicon Valley) to solve a problem, would they be able to reach a compromise?

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