Too big for their planet

I am lucky enough to get a weekly delivery from Riverford. Each order is accompanied by a letter from Guy Singh-Watson, who is at the helm of the organic farm in Devon. The letters are always a joy to read, but the one that arrived on the 7th of December really struck a cord. Brave and bold and saying exactly what I have always thought of the Silicon Valley bro culture. Certainly worthy of a reprint here for all those who haven’t seen it…

“As a reluctant capitalist, it sometimes disturbs me that I have been quite so good at it. I even begrudgingly admire many of the entrepreneurs who have gone further – but question what drives them, and some of their outcomes. Like Peter Pan, most are inspiring brats, refusing to accept the limits that most people acknowledge as they mature. Branson, Bezos, Jobs, Musk, Zuckerberg; I would wager that most are insatiable, damaged men, seeking to fill an intangible inner hole with tangible outer success. That never works, so on they go, with a gnawing dissatisfaction that nothing on Earth can fulfil – perhaps why most of them want to colonise space.

BBC Radio Four’s ‘Inside the Brain of Jeff Bezos’ gives a fascinating insight into the world’s richest man; his obsession with meeting customer demands, and his willingness to take risks. Perhaps most interesting is his insistence that Amazon will always stay at ‘day one’ in its cultural development, because ‘day two’ implies “stasis, followed by irrelevance, agonising and painful decline, and death.” A Peter Pan if ever there was one. On the day that Riverford became employee owned, I said that my biggest fear was not that we would now do something stupid, but that we would stop being (occasionally) stupid; that we would grow up and become boring. So I recognise Bezos’ resistance to organisational aging.

But we must all grow up if we are to successfully share this planet. Having created the idea that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, Amazon might be the world’s most environmentally damaging company. Even Bezos has acknowledged that “when unlimited demand meets finite resources, the inevitable result is rationing.” His answer is a highway to space; always looking up and out. What we really need is for those powerful, inadequate men to look within. Until they attain a human perspective, their rockets create more issues than they solve.”