Just days after the Man burned, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey was talking to Silicon Valley blog Tech Crunch, who asked “what does an art and music festival –- made famous for its drug-fueled, 24-hour mobile dance clubs and its elaborately dressed half-naked artists — want with millions of dollars and the tech elite?”.
Larry tells it like it is.
“We’re not building a Marxist society,” jokes Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey in response to a series of recent stories detailing the annual festival’s multi-million-dollar balance sheet and its buddy-buddy relationship with Silicon Valley billionaires. More seriously, he says, “you can make a lot of money and do good with it. Elon Musk has made a lot of money.”
So, what are they building? A worldwide, capitalist adventure?
“The opportunities of all these folks coming out who have command of wealth is to help us in extending our culture throughout the world,” explains Harvey. “A typical pattern is that they might stay for a day or two, and then it dawns on them that there’s a manifold of profound things to be gained.” Harvey and Google execs are known to wax philosophical over dinner at his personal camp.
Tech Crunch notes that “satellite Burning Mans” are being set up over the country, not necessarily with official sanction:
As sappy as Harvey’s perception sounds, the experience evidently inspires tech founders’ affinity for radical experimentation. “Maybe we can set aside part of the world,” Google CEO Larry Page recently mused. “I like going to Burning Man. As a technologist maybe we need some safe places where we can try things and not have to deploy to the entire world.”
To that end, Harvey’s friends in the tech community are heeding his call to expand Burning Man-like villages around the world. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is setting up a satellite burner installation within his project in Downtown Las Vegas, aimed at creating a model for city innovation.
Hsieh has spent a portion of his personal $350 million investment on a tight-knit community of startups that feed off of one another’s idealism and experimental creativity. The otherwise run-down outskirt for low-budget Las Vegas tourism is starting to resemble the Burning Man campus, with monster-size art sculptures and retail shops in shipping containers.
The Summit Series founders also recently bought Powder Mountain, a skifield in Utah, which is also being pitched as a satellite Burning Man community.
These are different from Regionals, in that the 10 Principles are not a feature. VIP wristbands, over Radical Inclusion.
Some last words from Larry:
“I’d like them to have a soulful experience. I’d like them to feel connected to the great human experience in ways that will constructively influence the course of world affairs.”
“Anything much more ambitious than a family picnic would require that you responsibly deal with money.” Instead, the millions in revenue that goes to infrastructure and payouts to the local authorities are meant to conceal the complexities of money from participants, so they can concentrate on uninhibited experimentation.
“We just create things and give people time to pursue their own projects, and we don’t ever think about monetization.”