The secret to Silicon Valley’s success is mass delusion, says ‘Chaos Monkeys’ author

Antonio García-Martinez knows that his new book about Silicon Valley, "Chaos Monkeys," is making some people mad. The tell-all tale about his stab at the startup world, including a $10 million acquisition by Twitter and high drama inside the walls of Facebook, was conceived and written to be meaner than most books by techies.

"The book isn’t nice because Silicon Valley isn’t a nice place," García-Martinez said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. "That’s the reality."

In "Chaos Monkeys," he writes that Silicon Valley loves to lie to itself about everything from what politics it believes in to how employees fare when founders and investors score a big exit. García-Martinez called out critics such as investor Brad Feld who have dinged his book for lacking optimism.

"It’s kind of like criticizing a war novel for not having enough patriotism," he said. "I wonder what they’d say if they read ‘All Quiet on the Western Front.’"

He acknowledged, however, that Silicon Valley’s cult of optimism works. The bubble has not popped (at least not yet) and there’s good reason to credit today’s tech industry with having a profound impact on the world, even if it’s not always honest with itself about the harm it might do as well, he added.

"To be a success, you have to seem a success," García-Martinez said. "Everyone is always killing it, every graph is up and to the right. The Silicon Valley vibe is like democracy, or religion: If everyone believes in it, it sort of becomes true."

He was careful to contrast "Chaos Monkeys" with another juicy tech tell-all — Dan Lyons’s account of working at HubSpot, "Disrupted." García Martinez said Lyons was a "universal troll," slamming everything about Silicon Valley, whereas he wound up having nice things to say about a handful of folks, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Y Combinator’s Paul Graham and Sam Altman.

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