There’s Something Holding Opposites Together: The Tie That Doesn’t Bind

George Packer explains the uncanny link between a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur and a middle-aged, homeless New Yorker:

“Half a century ago, Thiel would have been a Goldwater Republican, a churchgoer, and a paid-up member of a local business group. It wouldn’t have occurred to him to launch a fellowship program in order to induce young entrepreneurs to leave college. Education wasn’t one more “bubble” back then. Kachel would have been a Kennedy Democrat and perhaps, like his late father, an employee of the city of Seattle, living on a salary that could support a family of four. Neither would likely have felt a strong urge to escape from politics, like Thiel, or to join in the creation of a new community, like Kachel.

But the past few decades have destabilized and eroded the institutional identities that used to bind Americans. The information economy is atomizing; so is the age of cable news and social media. Kachel was so isolated that he turned to Twitter in order to enrich his social life. Last year, I got myself in trouble by questioning the ultimate value of the data flood that pours through our phones. I’m no closer to going on Twitter and Facebook myself, but I have gotten a little soft on social media now that I’ve followed Kachel around for a few weeks, and seen how sending and downloading tweets keeps him connected to the world. Twitter, Zuccotti Park, Seasteads: some of the improvised communities that have risen up in the rubble of failed institutions.”

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