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Silicon Valley Pours One Out

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Hi, welcome to your Weekend!

After everything that transpired this week—from the midterms, to the Elon–Twitter debacle to the FTX implosion—much of tech could probably use a stiff martini right now. But as Annie reports in this weekend’s extremely well-timed cover story, much of tech will politely abstain.

Sobriety—as it pertains to alcohol, if not to crypto investing—is the order of the day in Silicon Valley. Everywhere you look, someone is saying, “Not for me, thanks” when offered an adult beverage. The reasons for these acts of restraint are many and varied, which I’ll leave to Annie to explain.

But what’s interesting and applaudable about this trend is that it’s being practiced (mostly) without moralization. We’re not entering a New Prohibition or practicing California Calvinism—not even close. People here seem to be laying off the booze for strictly personal and health-driven reasons, while at the same time often indulging in other substances. 

Annie calls this phenomenon Silicon Valley Sober. It’s a movement that Michael Pollan would probably get behind, one that gives science and data its due, while still encouraging plenty of uninhibited fun. Also, sleep—sleep is the keystone of Silicon Valley Sober. And after the week we just had, we could all use a little more of that.  


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 For a whole host of reasons, the once party-hardy tech elite is dumping out the booze. In this week’s cover story, Annie delves into the latest Silicon Valley craze: sobriety, a trend characterized by Whoop watches and Oura rings, pandemic recuperation, quality sleep and plenty of hallucinogens. Indeed, when Annie asked investor Sarah Cone for the names of other people in tech reducing their alcohol consumption, Cone replied succinctly: “Almost everyone, I think!”


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Abe ventures to Westchester for a leafy stroll with Levine, the former Latin teacher turned corporate attorney turned Goldman Sachs banker turned blogger best known for his Bloomberg column “Money Stuff.” Over the past two years, Levine’s long, densely footnoted, peerlessly funny demystifications of finance, economics and corporate law have been reaching a larger, more passionate audience. Levine chats about his newfound notoriety and why he’s not ready to be a television talking head. 


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Elon Musk’s decision to give Twitter a massive haircut was horrible news for those affected. But it’s been manna from heaven for industry recruiters, who are eagerly maneuvering to snap up top talent from the world’s most prominent social media companies. Chris Stokel-Walker discovers current and former employees swatting away job offers like flies. 


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At 12, George Sivulka was building lasers that could light fires. At 16, he landed an internship at NASA. By 22, he was hanging out with Peter Thiel. And his story only gets wilder from there. Margaux chats with Sivulka, who has since raised $30 million for his AI-powered search engine, Hebbia, about his stunningly swift ascent. 


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Another day, another fallen crypto titan. But this one shocked the system more than most. This week, all of Silicon Valley watched with mouths agape as blockchain golden boy Sam Bankman-Fried tumbled from his very high pedestal. Many are now asking the same question: What signs did we miss? Margaux lists the top five.


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Listening: The rise and fall of hype houses
“This Blew Up,” a new narrative podcast from Spotify’s The Ringer, takes us back to 2020, when we were all in the house bored and TikTok was minting new social media stars by the hour. As the pod’s title suggests, host Alyssa Bereznak is interested not only in the rapid ascent of the era’s “hype houses,” but in how many of these L.A. mansion-based content mills inevitably, well, blew up. So many have devolved into nasty personal feuds and allegations of misconduct and abuse that you need a longform podcast to track them all. (Full disclosure, if you listen to Episode 2, you’ll hear me talking to Bereznak about one particularly vicious feud I previously covered for Forbes.) As Bereznak puts it at the end of Episode 1: “Everything that goes up, must come down.” —Abe 


Reading: A convincing case against plastic 
It’s been a rough week, and we don’t mean to stress you out further. But you may want to know that tiny shards of plastic are falling out of the sky right now. This is just one of the alarming details presented in the new book “A Poison Like No Other: How Microplastics Corrupted Our Planet and Our Bodies,” by science writer Matt Simon, a former colleague of mine at Wired. Simon chronicles the epidemic of microplastics—tiny particles shed from water bottles, polyester clothing, exfoliating face wash and a million other product—that now cover our planet like cling wrap. The toxic detritus is turning up everywhere from the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the blood of newborn babies, who are exposed to the stuff in utero. Be warned: this is not an optimistic book. But it will distract you from the tech drama du jour, and by the end, convince you to stop using plastic whenever possible. —Arielle


Noticing: “Facebook events for hot people”
Not to say I’m more popular than the venture capitalists of Andreessen Horowitz, but way back in December 2021 (an eon ago in tech time), I wrote about Partiful, the go-to invitation app for Gen-Z that was beating out (lame, unusable) Facebook Events and (boring, basic) Paperless Posts. So imagine my non-surprise this week, when Insider reported that Andreessen Horowitz had led a $20 million Series A in the party starter, valuing it at more than $100 million. Coincidence, or is a16z aping my feed? Either way, my iMessage app is now filled with a flutter of Partiful invites, each funky and flier-like—no email addresses required. —Annie 


Makes You Think

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People who know Sam Bankman-Fried, Chamath Palihapitiya, Cathie Wood and Jim Cramer: We feel your pain.


Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.

—Jon

Weekend Editor, The Information

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