Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Poor Little Rich Kids

I found this article from the New York Times by a link at Infoworld. The gist of the article is that a lot of the millionaires in Silicon Valley (and there are a lot of them) don't feel rich enough. Here's one of the people quoted:
“I know people looking in from the outside will ask why someone like me keeps working so hard,” Mr. Steger says. “But a few million doesn’t go as far as it used to. Maybe in the ’70s, a few million bucks meant ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ or Richie Rich living in a big house with a butler. But not anymore.”
Now, look. I know it's expensive to live in the Valley. But really. It's hard to get worked up about this when there are plenty of people living in (absolute or relative) poverty in the same area. The people who clean their offices and collect their trash and such have it a lot harder.

I did find some interesting discussion at Infoworld, too. It goes in a couple of different directions. On one hand there's some feeling that the attitudes of the subjects of the article are misrepresented (which is, in my experience, quite possible), and on another that a lot of these folks are supported by programmers who make nothing off their efforts (open source projects).

In a sense, those both hit the same ethic: some people work because they like to, or at least work on some projects because they like to. I certainly know a lot of programmers who program for money, but also do projects for fun, and often make those available freely. [For a discussion of that phenomenon, the best book I recall is Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, by Steven Levy. It's a bit dated, though I see there's been an updated edition. Another terrific book that touches on the motivations of engineers is Tracy Kidder's wonderful The Soul of a New Machine.]

[Grrr. Blogger posted this before I was ready!] Update:

The point I mean to make here is that the Times article hits some nerves around here (the greater Silicon Valley). There are clearly a lot of folks who don't know what "enough" is, but there are also plenty of people who are driven by desires other than wealth (and who consequently have plenty of it). It ain't all cut and dried.

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