Investigative reporter and Baffler contributor Pein’s first book should terrify you ... Pein dedicates a good chunk of the book to a small but vocal faction bent on government destruction and dabbling in alt-right politics and even eugenics. Even scarier, they face little resistance from the larger tech world. Like Jon Ronson, Pein combines serious journalism with humor and his own antics for an entertaining and caustic mix. If Silicon Valley and Black Mirror had a book baby, it would be Live Work Work Work Die.
Given Pein’s fluent, entertaining sarcasm, many readers won’t know how seriously to take his self-proclaimed quest to get rich and transform the world. But as he is tepidly welcomed into the first of several deceptively advertised Airbnb rentals by a couple of other recent arrivals from Bangalore and Norway, we’re reminded of how many do buy into the Silicon Valley fantasy ... Laborize is funny, but the last third of Live Work Work Work Die simply frightens. Pein steps away from his experiences among the grubs of the Valley to expose the astonishing views of many of its titans: their flirtation with (or outright embrace of) an updated eugenicist worldview that favors the tech industry’s white and East Asian composition; their intellectual admiration for certain 'neoreactionary' thinkers’ call for the abolition of universities, nonprofits, and the federal government. I won’t name these thinkers, even if the author does; suffice it to say that one recurrent fantasy of Silicon Valley is replacing democracy with a technocracy of its own brightest minds. But in so many ways this has already begun.
Still, despite and perhaps a little because of its lackadaisical approach to its subject, “Live Work Work Work Die” manages to capture something essential about Silicon Valley that has eluded other authors. This is because Pein starts from the grimy underbelly of tech and never makes it out, which accurately reflects the experience of many tech workers. We only learn of those who make it big — Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. We rarely hear of the people who fail, or work uselessly and endlessly hard, without much in the way of reward ... This is an exhausting, one-note book, but the tinny, grating note Pein repeatedly strikes may nonetheless be one the world needs to hear more often ... His failed journey around the depressing periphery of the tech industry, its warrens suffused with the distinct scent of unadulterated bull, is a preview of the bleak, airless future it aims to deliver, by driverless car or drone, to all of us.