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Viewing single post of blog In Search of Silicon Valley

My final day of this adventure, and I went to the heart of everything – The Googleplex, Google HQ. And for good measure I also went to Infinty Loop, the Apple HQ.

The Googleplex is too perfect, which makes me suspicious. Fun, bright colours, Googlers bicycling around the site on Google bikes, amazing architecture, a volleyball court. It gives off a warm, welcoming vibe (visitors are allowed to wander around), but the offices are impenetrable. What future is being plotted for us behind those glass exteriors?

I caught a fragment of conversation between two Googlers: “… something that sits by your bed and wakes you up at the perfect time…”. I don’t think they were meaning a simple alarm clock here. Note how agency is being transferred from slumberer to that-which-never-sleeps. Is this a good thing? Who knows, but apparently, according to this conversation “… in about 8 years’ time …” our agency for our own awakening will be removed.

The Apple HQ is inaccessible, but the Visitor Centre (sorry Center, aka Shop) opposite, is very definitely accessible, and that, I have to say, is perfect. The architecture is spacious, clean, comfortable, inviting. This is how billionaires must live, I thought. The staff, however, were possibly too perfect. They are surely part automata, as their devotion to the cause and infectious enthusiasm never wavers. Even when I confessed that I had a Samsung phone they smiled sympathetically. If I had stayed there any longer I would have been converted to the cult.

By contrast, Infinity Loop is sinister and foreboding, like a Bond villain hideaway. Enormous portals are monitored by security staff, high trees deny any real view, and it feels like a giant UFO has just landed in our midst. Which in some ways it has.

My brain is too overfull to give any deep and meaningful conclusions at this stage. That will have to wait for Phase 2 of my project, in which I use this amazing journey as a starting point for some new work. But I am left with innumerable paradoxes and seemingly unresolvable opposites. Have I been to the Magic Mountain or to Uncanny Valley? I should know by now: things are never either/or, but always both/and.

The final word, however, goes to the anonymous resident of San Jose who posted this sticker near my motel. A reminder (if one were needed) that there is more to life than bright and shiny tech.

Many thanks to Arts Council England for the DYCP grant that made this journey possible.