Dos Muchachos

The most exciting book to me is always the current book. Here’s an excerpt from a work in progress, titled Dos Muchachos, in which the tech guru Chadwick Tangore is introduced.

For a long time Tangore had been a silicon valley nobody, trolling the executive waters of venture capital firms. He took investor dollars and sank them in A.I., driverless cars, data mining, crypto currency, face recognition and whatever he heard talked about at trade conventions. He read the requisite glossies and kept up on trends.

Then, after years of undistinguished professional performance, in a side project he devised himself, he launched FROOT. First Really Useful Instruction Time, which of course made FRUIT, but in the app world, misspellings are de rigueur. Froot took all those helpful how-to videos, aggregated them, and sent users straight past the long-winded preambles and nervous introductions, leapfrogging the painfully nerdish remarks, soaring right over the cheese-dick intro music, the failed jokes, the mouth-breathing apologies, the arcane out-of-order caveats that are all inveterate features of amateur videos. Mercifully, Froot took you to the first useful instruction—the ding-dang point.

Trim each dead branch of your rose bush at the base.

First, close the gas line.

Start by opening the registry editor.

Without creating a single second of original content, Froot saved users millions of collective hours (it boasted), and Tangore generated tens of millions of clicks. Thus, you guessed it, the app made Tongore a multi-multi-millionaire. Much of this wealth was “on paper” but that was academic; the way these things work is that Froot’s assessed value could be—and promptly was—harness into real dollars through the machinations of corporate banking.

Yes, there were copyright claims against Froot—but all the app provided were URLs at specific starting times as well as indexing of existing keyword data. Froot didn’t republish, co-opt, steal or make derivative works. And it charged no fees. The copyright infringement class action suit was dismissed.

Throughout his Connecticut prep school years and his 6-year stint at Stanford, no one had dared challenge Tangore’s authority. This kind of entitlement, Tangore’s brash assertions that he’d done nothing wrong in appropriating and redelivering content, was part of the consumer appeal of Froot. People really latched on to Tangore’s attitude that the right to efficiency was a human right; their use of Froot was an assertion of the American freedoms they already exercised in nearly everything else (right down to their right to hatred).

No, Tangore wasn’t a white man. And he wasn’t a conservative. However, he was Japanese-American and fluent in the subterfuge, innuendo, and suppression of clarity that are hallmarks of American English corporate and political speech. In that sense, he was indistinguishable from many white men. People like Gates and Zuckerburg and Musk quickly became his peers; they spoke of their admiration of Tangore. In the abundant media attention on the nerdish, boyish Stanford grad who had never done that well in VC, his cold black eyes beamed the brash confidence—the cockiness—of a good ol’ boy quarterback from a horse ranching family. This in a Japanese man. Equally uncharacteristic was the blunt, demanding tone that bore no trace of colonial Japanese servitude, or the respect for elders that is traditional in Japanese culture, or even the formal rigors of martial arts. He’d never been seen and there were no photographs of his bowing. In fact, he tended to puff out his chest and was notorious for yelling and cussing in business meetings. He wore Dior suits, Italian loafers and Bluetooth earpieces.

Though he was in many ways utterly tasteless, he didn’t mount katana swords on the wall or have a Great Wave of Kanagawa mural painted in the office.

After the IPO, he bought a penthouse in Manhattan and crossed over from CEO to media darling, techno-ideological scion, and oracle of civilization’s future (or demise). Because he’d made grotesque sums of money, his opinions were sought and then reverently echoed by the press to audiences everywhere. Some later critics said that it was this deification that led to Tangore’s next move, the establishment of the religion called Paradoxism.