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Silicon Valley Let Its Freak Flag Fly at the Code Conference


If you missed this week’s Code Conference, you missed a lot. The tech and media event brings some of the most brilliant, warped minds together, giving them a platform to talk about everything from Facebook Trending Topics to UFOs. This year, it felt like no one was holding back, so enjoy this sampling of Silicon Valley out-Silicon-Valleying itself.

Jack Dorsey wore a shirt.

Yes, the CEO and co-founder of not one but two Very Important Tech Companies wore a shirt that says #StayWoke. It also featured the Twitter bird. Dorsey donned the shirt for a discussion with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, so it would appear he was trying to dress the part of CEO who does indeed care about diversity. Dorsey and McKesson talked about Twitter’s safety features a bit — McKesson revealing how many people he’s had to block (a lot) and Dorsey identifying safety as a top priority for Twitter. He also said Twitter is "best when it carries every voice," though, how much safer it will get remains to be seen. Either way, this is a bad shirt, and a bad choice.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is a Peter Thiel apologist.

You knew the second Sandberg took the stage there would be a question about Peter Thiel. Thiel, who sits on Facebook’s board and was one of the earliest big investors in the company, was recently revealed to also be an investor in Hulk Hogan’s legal fight against Gawker. The story has all sorts of implications for freedom of the press as well as for Gawker’s future, and it comes at a time when Facebook itself has been criticized for its role in media. So it’s a fair and good question to ask of the Facebook executive! Her answer? Thiel will stay on the board and you should go ask him about all this mess. TL;DR: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The empty chair for Peter Thiel.

Peter Thiel hasn’t responded to Gawker founder Nick Denton’s challenge to a debate. So, taking a page from, uh, Clint Eastwood at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Recode’s Kara Swisher and Denton deliberately left an empty chair on stage to represent the litigious libertarian. I would’ve preferred a hologram of Thiel, but maybe Recode blew its budget on a failed attempt to bribe Jack Dorsey not to wear that #StayWoke shirt.

Elon Musk thinks that maybe we’re all living in a video game.

Powerful tech moguls say the darndest things! The Tesla Motors/SpaceX CEO continued his streak of making dystopian predictions about the future when he admitted, like, super casually, that he thinks it’s possible we’re all characters in some other advanced civilization’s "simulation." "Given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions," he said, doing an excellent impression of the always-stoned guy I knew in college who watched The Matrix too many times. Bless this wonderful, crazy genius.

Facebook holds meetings in VR.

Every Friday! The best part of this moment came right at the beginning with this exchange between Kara Swisher and Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer:

Swisher is not here for your generalizations, Facebook.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair is really into UFO sightings.

If you weren’t already a little worried about the upcoming election, John Podesta’s interest in alien-related government investigations is reason for pause. Our Democratic front-runner’s campaign is apparently in the hands of a passionate science-fiction fan. After Podesta served as chief of staff during Bill Clinton’s presidency, he says he got really into pursuing a Freedom of Information Act request to declassify some top-secret government documents relating to a mysterious 1965 plane crash in Pennsylvania. Pressed on whether aliens exist, however, he declined to say. "I meet a lot of politicians, people in Washington and others, who say, ‘I’m with you, but I can’t say so,’" Podesta told the moderators. Glad Team Hillary has someone out there championing the important stuff.

Jeff Bezos is Captain Planet.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos proclaimed himself #TeamEarth as he discussed his aspirations for Blue Origin, his space exploration start-up. "I think you go to space to save Earth," he said. "Let me assure you, this is the best planet." His plan? Build giant, solar-powered factories in outer space, where they’ll be able to absorb more sunlight, and send the useful goods back down to Earthlings, who will all henceforth be known as suburbanites (Elon Musk, whose brilliant ideas all track suspiciously close to famous movie plots, of course wants to colonize Mars). This is a centuries-long roadmap, according to Bezos, but he believes his start-up’s work (Blue Origin will launch its first human into space in 2017) will make the solar system yet another emerging market for tech visionaries to disrupt. "I want thousands of entrepreneurs doing amazing things in space," he said. Silicon Valley, now making the universe a better place.