Considering Silicon Valley a city in order to compare it to Jerusalem and Athens

Is Silicon Valley a city? Maybe it works in order to compare it to Jerusalem and Athens:

Photo by Pixabay on

And this new city is growing in power. Never before have the questions of Athens and the questions of Jerusalem been mediated to us by such a great variety of things that vie for our attention and our desires. Silicon Valley, this third city, has altered the nature of the problem that Tertullian was wrestling with. The questions of what is true and what is good for the soul are now mostly subordinated to technological progress—or, at the very least, the questions of Athens and Jerusalem are now so bound up with this progress that it’s creating confusion…

If Tertullian were alive today, I believe he would ask: “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem—and what do either have to do with Silicon Valley?” In other words, how do the domains of reason and religion relate to the domain of technological innovation and its financiers in Silicon Valley? If the Enlightenment champion Steven Pinker (a resident of Athens) walked into a bar with a Trappist monk (Jerusalem) and Elon Musk (Silicon Valley) with the goal of solving a problem, would they ever be able to arrive at a consensus?…

The extent to which people begin clustering in one of the three cities—the extent to which they isolate, fortify the walls, and close the gates—is the extent to which our culture suffers. Nobody can remain isolated in one city for long without losing perspective. Self-styled rationalists hostile to religion close themselves off from millennia of embedded wisdom (or they merely invent their own form of cult or religion, based on reason). Religion that doesn’t respect reason is dangerous because it denies a fundamental part of our humanity, and the detachment can result in extremism that, at its worst, can justify unreasonable or even violent practices in the name of God. And Silicon Valley’s excesses—like the now defunct company Theranos, the cult-building of Adam Neumann, or the technology bubble of the late ’90s—are characterized by a detachment from reason and a failure to recognize the secular forms of religiosity that led to those things happening in the first place…

The most important innovations of the coming decades will happen at the intersection of the three cities—and they will be created by the people who live there.

What makes a city? A denser population center with economic, political, and social activity.

In the discussion excerpted above, Silicon Valley sounds less like a population center and more like the locus of a particular idea or culture revolving around technology and utilitarianism. Can a sprawling area outside a major city truly be a city? Is there a geographic center to Silicon Valley? Are there public spaces used by many? Is there a unified government or social structure?

As hinted at above, for much of human history and still in some places today, cities are religious centers. This is less the case in the United States where downtowns are dominated by commerce and finance, not religious congregations and practices. But, providing religiosity or meaning at work in a deconcentrated Silicon Valley may not work out as well as hoped.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s