Techies at Burning Man: Yay or Nay?
A Line Is Drawn in the Desert
At Burning Man, the Tech Elite One-Up One Another
New York Times Aug 20, 2014
If you have never been to Burning Man, your perception is likely this: a white-hot desert filled with 50,000 stoned, half-naked hippies doing sun salutations while techno music thumps through the air.
A few years ago, this assumption would have been mostly correct. But now things are a little different. Over the last two years, Burning Man, which this year runs from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1, has been the annual getaway for anew crop of millionaire and billionaire technology moguls, many of whom are one-upping one another in a secret game of I-can-spend-more-money-than-you-can and, some say, ruining it for everyone else.
Some of the biggest names in technology have been making the pilgrimage to the desert for years, happily blending in unnoticed. These include Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Google founders, and Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon. But now a new set of younger rich techies are heading east, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, employees from Twitter, Zynga and Uber, and a slew of khaki-wearing venture capitalists.
Read the rest at http://nyti.ms/1tiEGoq
Some of the technology elite who have attended Burning Man, include from left, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin
Tech Elites Aren’t Ruining Burning Man. They Get Their Hands Dirty, Too.
TechCrunch.com August 22, 2014
Don’t believe the hate. While it’s a juicy narrative that rich people spoil everything the common folk hold dear, there are plenty of tech bigwigs at Burning Man that work hard to contribute and embody the event’s ideals of inclusion. And the thing is, what they do has little impact on Burning Man as a whole. Whether they’re secluded in forts of cushy tour buses like The New York Times’ Nick Bilton rails, or they’re cooking food and giving it away to total strangers as I’ve seen in my six trips to the desert, you probably won’t notice. It’s a massive ad hoc city where your experience is what you make of it, so there’s no need to worry about how the upper crust burns.
Are more super-wealthy people coming to Burning Man? Sure. Because more people are coming to Burning Man. It’s grown from a few dozen people in 1986 to 30,000 in 2004 to 70,000 last year, so it’s naturally going to include more financial outliers.
Yet pouring money into Burning Man won’t even get you that far, since most everything outside your camp is free. And moneyed burners aren’t all from tech. One widely criticized luxury camp that housed venture capitalists and likely inspired Bilton’s piece was actually started by a C-level executive of a giant hotel chain. Some of those VCs have ditched that camp because it felt at odds with the spirit of self-reliance.
Arguably a bigger threat to Burning Man’s culture are techie spectators. They come with little forethought, buy what they need to fit in, glom onto a friend’s camp, but then don’t actively contribute much. While it can be tough to know how to add to others’ experience the first year, everyone should try — no exceptions. Those that only take and don’t give dilute the atmosphere.
Luckily, one of the great things about Burning Man being a decentralized event set across seven square miles is that there are near-infinite ways to experience it. A temporary city the size of downtown San Francisco is tough for a couple of people to wreck for everyone else.
As Caleb Garling wrote for SFGate last year, “if you try to cherry pick a few of them to build a story, you’re left with a basket of disingenuous anecdotes.”