After five years in the Silicon Valley I posit that:
a) business and technology folks are deprived of intellectual stimulation outside their narrow specialty;
b) not exercising those liberal arts mental muscles (maybe since college?) will hurt them competitively in a world increasingly emphasizing the intersections ;
c) there are many smart business and technology people who would like to explore new intellectual domains but do not have an easy way to take the risk of venturing outside their mental comfort zone.
There is one category of people who say to themselves, "If I’m a business entrepreneur, why waste time thinking about philosophy (or political science, or any other intellectual topic) when I could read more business books and try to learn about the latest and greatest management strategy?" These people are usually not very interesting.
Then there are those people who realize that executives should read more non-business books and living at the intersections is more important than total specialization in one domain (be in software, venture capital, what have you). These are people who – through their blog or otherwise – want to explore the life of the mind and have intelligent conversations about psychology, philosophy, history, sociology, science, and so forth.
Chris Phillips started a revolution a few years ago with his book Socrates Cafe and his Society of Philosophical Inquiry organization, which tries to set up informal Socratic dialogues in coffee shops around the country. I’d like to do something similar for folks in the high tech/start up scene to perhaps read a common book and then gather in-person to discuss and have a lively dialogue. A common bond among everyone grow from the similar background, but I suspect people will bring different perspectives to issues we don’t usually talk about.
I’ve traded emails with my friend Chris Yeh about this (he says his blog is the one thing he can do to get closer to his Stanford days of pure intellectual stimulation). Thoughts? Feedback? Reactions? Will an explicit focus away from business turn off or turn on? Thanks.