The awkward silences of digital elites

The fascination with the propensity of tech founders to go silent reminds me of how the earliest philosophers were framed as unworldly due to their capacity to go into thought trances. From Roger McNamee’s Zucked, loc 269-284.

This little speech took about two minutes to deliver. What followed was the longest silence I have ever endured in a one-on-one meeting. It probably lasted four or five minutes, but it seemed like forever. Zuck was lost in thought, pantomiming a range of Thinker poses. I have never seen anything like it before or since. It was painful. I felt my fingers involuntarily digging into the upholstered arms of my chair, knuckles white, tension rising to a boiling point. At the three-minute mark, I was ready to scream. Zuck paid me no mind. I imagined thought bubbles over his head, with reams of text rolling past. How long would he go on like this? He was obviously trying to decide if he could trust me. How long would it take? How long could I sit there?

I’ve read similar observations about Musk and Tiel. Even if there might be differences drawn between the reasons for silence, these stories seem to share an interest in that silence as a sign of how the founders are different from others.

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