Building a design and tech community in the desert
Issue 25: Can we build a Silicon Desert that doesn't ruin the land and people?
Before Gen Z started manifesting, there was alchemy. The medieval forerunner to chemistry is a word that I use a lot pertaining to creativity and design. I believe design is a form of alchemy—in a lot of ways, turning ideas into something of tangible value.
I was on the brink of missing my writing streak of Proof of Concept due to spending the weekend in Palm Springs; a city where we recently bought a house. My dream is this will eventually be a retirement home for my parents. Until then, we're splitting our time between Los Angeles and Palm Springs until COVID-19 is fully over (hoping in 2021). Most of our time thus far has been cleaning, bringing key items over, and of course, getting the internet set up. Thankfully traffic wasn’t bad and after some inspiring thoughts and conversations, there is a pocket of time to keep the newsletter streak going—sharing some thoughts and ideas of innovating in the Coachella Valley.
The native land of the Cahuilla people is known as a desert oasis for vacation, retirement, and a thriving gay community with amazing taste. In my younger years when I lived in New York, my experience of the desert was purely for the Coachella Music Festival.
My best friend and I would rent a house in Palm Springs during the week of the infamous music festival. In many ways, renting the home and hanging out with good friends was just as fun (if not more) than attending the music festival itself. It wouldn’t be until I moved to California that the frequent trips to Palm Springs would resume. Every time I would turn off State Route 111, I’d feel the stress on my shoulders completely melt. The city known as a desert oasis became one of my favorite destinations to have retreats, personal vacations, and outdoor activities.
The city of Palm Springs has a rich history. In the 1930s it was a hot spot for Hollywood to get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Many film actors were contractually obligated to be within a certain range of Hollywood, and Palm Springs was at the cusp of that distance. The city is also known for its midcentury modern architecture invoked by the building boom post-World War II. Side note, I like midcentury modern but the brutalist architecture in Palm Springs is underrated!
In addition to hanging out poolside at the Ace Hotel, delicious restaurants, and relaxing at home, Palm Springs is close to beautiful nature, including the infamous Joshua Tree National Park; one of my favorite places in the world to visit.
Thinking of building a design and tech community in the desert
To be honest, I never thought the desert would be appealing to me. Throughout my life, I envisioned living by the ocean, with cities like Santa Barbara, Barcelona, and Lisbon are what appear on the mood board. For some reason, as I grow older, the desert is beautiful to me and is more appealing. It's interesting that both the ocean and desert are types of infinite landscapes where humans get lost but also find themselves. In addition to the dream of living by the ocean, I want to live in the desert (I am pretty uncompromising as you can tell).
Jon Gold (one of my Twitter friends and inspiration) tweeted about The Alchemy Center by Olivia Guethling. I really love the idea of a design and tech community out in the desert due to the size and opportunity out there. Back in college, I’d apply to art residencies in the desert (such as Santa Fe) dreaming of abundant sunlight to create. Of course, the first reaction someone understandable has with Silicon Desert is people coming in to ruin a community. Given what tech can do when not thinking about the unintended consequences, why wouldn’t people think that?
Vision Statement [draft]: Build a design and technology community in the desert that fosters sustainability and respecting what came before it.
Can one build a Silicon Desert in a way that adds to the community without ruining it? I hope so. My friend @gurupanguji suggested calling it "Project Finite" which is derived from the sustainable alternative to concrete made from desert sand.
Interested or in the Palm Springs area? Let’s connect.
Seeing that we’ll be between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, much time will be spent on Interstate 10 as we find socially distant and safe activities until COVID-19 is completely over (hoping 2021 will be different). My idea is to start simple, which is spending more time out there to create.
Whether you’re interested in the idea and want to brainstorm or serious about moving out there, I’d love to connect with people on this topic. The ultimate plan is to invest in building a physical community where people can safely gather to create. Until then, we’ll take it a few weekends at a time.
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.“ —The Alchemist