Antonio García Martínez’s pointed memoir, Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley, highlights the authors journey from east coast to west, starting in Goldman Sachs, moving through 2 ad start-ups (the second one sold to Twitter) and then working at Facebook, before the initial public offering.
There are many memoirs and stories coming from the tech companies in Silicon Valley. Chaos Monkeys differs in tone. From panicked pivots to naked butt-kissing, the day-to-day realities of working within a cult of personality are extreme. But the monkeys in the title aren’t the people. The monkeys are software programs designed to test the resilience of systems, wreaking havoc in effort to discover weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
A chaos monkey, as Martínez explains, is the digital equivalent of a “chimpanzee rampaging through a data center,” destroying the place by randomly yanking cables or smashing boxes. Symbolically, he writes, “technology entrepreneurs are society’s chaos monkeys, pulling the plug on everything from taxi medallions (Uber) to traditional hotels (Airbnb) to dating (Tinder)… Silicon Valley is the zoo where the chaos monkeys are kept, and their numbers only grow in time… The question for society is whether it can survive these entrepreneurial chaos monkeys intact, and at what human cost.”
Readers come to Chaos Monkeys for the spectacle, the behind the headlines view of top names in technology. But behind Garcia’s braggadocio and misogyny lies some truly insightful thoughts on how companies are valued, the role of advertising in the digital world, and how far public policy discussions are from the technological realities of Silicon Valley.