To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest. Since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed just 17 people on American soil, all but four of them victims of an army major turned fanatic who shot fellow soldiers in a rampage at Fort Hood. (The other four were killed by lone-wolf assassins.) During that same period, 200 times as many Americans drowned in their bathtubs. Still more were killed by driving their cars into deer.
The best memorial to the victims of 9/11, in Schneier’s view, would be to forget most of the “lessons” of 9/11. “It’s infuriating,” he said, waving my fraudulent boarding pass to indicate the mass of waiting passengers, the humming X-ray machines, the piles of unloaded computers and cell phones on the conveyor belts, the uniformed T.S.A. officers instructing people to remove their shoes and take loose change from their pockets. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this—and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”
It was never clearer than in 2011 that Silicon Valley exists in an alternate reality—a bubble of prosperity. Restaurants are booked, freeways are packed, and companies are flush with cash. The prosperity bubble isn’t just a state of mind: Times are as good as they’ve been in recent memory. The region gets 40 percent of the country’s venture capital haul, up from 31 percent a decade ago, according to the National Venture Capital Assn. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that growth of the area’s job market led the nation, jumping 3.2 percent, triple the national rate. Even real estate, a cesspool of despair in the rest of the country, is humming along. It’s next to impossible to get a table on a weekend night at the Rosewood in Menlo Park, a watering hole for Sand Hill Road’s technology financiers where the olive-oil-poached steelhead goes for $36. The closest we got to “Occupy: Cupertino” was the line outside Apple stores in October for the iPhone 4S.
Gabe Zichermann, a gamification expert, also dismisses Bogost’s critique of Zynga’s games. “Other gamers may think FarmVille is shallow, but the average player is happy to play it,” he says. “Two and a Half Men is the most popular show on television. Very few people would argue that it’s as good as Mad Men, but do the people watching Two and a Half Men sit around saying, oh, woe is me? At some point, you’re just an elitist fuck.”