Review: Paul Carr, The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of Life Without Reservations

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

In some circles it’s considered bad form to review books in which you appear. Fortunately for you, I don’t move in those circles. Because as one of this volume’s (admittedly minor) characters, I’m better placed than most to verify what might otherwise appear a wildly implausible series of ludicrous drunken adventures.

The Icelandic rock stars. The near-death experience with Spanish drug dealers. The hairdressers’ convention. The 6,000 mile booty call. In short: yes, it’s all true.

Paul Carr has forged a surprisingly stable career out of his alcohol-fuelled antics, failed relationships, friendship with infamous London entrepreneur, networker and mischief-maker Robert Loch and his opinions about the latest internet technology. But despite weighing in provocatively on privacy, copyright and media issues in his TechCrunch column, his forte has always been writing about himself, which is the singular subject of both of his books to date. Even more surprisingly, he manages to be fresh and entertaining without slipping into limp Hunter S. Thompson burlesque.

 

No wonder the UK lags behind America: we’re a bitter and broken nation

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

This column recently praised Silicon Valley for its ebullience and optimism, noting that the attitude of Californian tech entrepreneurs was a major factor in the region’s success. But it wasn’t until returning to the UK that I realised just how vast a gulf it is between the land of the free and this bitter, divided Isle. Because an enterprise-unfriendly Government is only 30 per cent of the problem when you live in such a profoundly enterprise-unfriendly society.

Over the past decade and a half, Britain has sunk into a dependency culture that is suffocating free enterprise. We do not praise the merits or teach the tools of entrepreneurship in our schools and universities. We scoff at the self-employed, telling them to “get a proper job”. Entrepreneurs are little better regarded in the popular consciousness than wastrels on benefits, because we fail to recognise imagination and audacity as the prime movers behind the advancement of technology, society and culture.

Meanwhile, the clunking, anodyne, eternally finger-wagging and nauseatingly hand-wringing face of the public sector, a cancer that has been allowed to engorge itself on the productive portion of the economy, continues to bear down upon us. Meaningless but eye-wateringly expensive regulations, enforced by a vast army of busybodies, have taken the place of ambition and enterprise.

 

Silicon Valley: an apology

Monday, 14 February 2011

Previous editions of this column may have given the impression that Silicon Valley was a smug, self-absorbed, humourless, xenophobic white middle-class hellhole populated by cliquey trendies who scoff at the mere mention of Europe.

Headlines such as “Christ, this is worse than Hoxton”, “Ever heard of Skype, bozos?”, and “Shut the hell up Paul Carr!” may have led readers to conclude that we were exasperated by the snobbishness, introversion and high-handedness of the Bay Area.

“Why do so many people and companies in Europe suck up to this festering cesspit of self-satisfaction?” one commenter wrote recently, apparently in response to our coverage.

So it’s time to set the record straight. We now accept, having spent the last week frantically racing around San Francisco, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino meeting start-ups, investors, public relations executives and journalists, that our appalling over-simplifications and churlish caricatures are… well, pretty spot on actually.

I mean, Jesus, these people are pleased with themselves. On the spectrum of smug, your average San Francisco start-up CEO leaves Jeff Jarvis looking like Mahatma Gandhi. And yet, and yet (as the gentleman above might say)… here’s the thing. They’re smug because they’re right.