It’s worth reading Nicolas’s piece in the context of this new essay
, if you prefer) by Venkatesh Rao on the history and future of elites. It’s packed full of fascinating provocations: the idea that what defines elites is their relationship to the law; the idea that the definition of elites changes only when the “technology of trust” (e.g. noble blood, land, money, etc) changes; and the idea that each era’s elite needs its own “noble lie” to create social stability and underpin its position.
The most important idea, though, is Rao’s contention that an elite is stable and sustainable (and, indeed, a net positive for the world) as long as it defines itself by its outward-looking relationship to the rest of the world. But once an elite becomes obsessed with itself - “court intrigues, scholarly debates in journals, boardroom battles” - it sows the seeds of its own destruction. That’s perhaps the most worrying take on the Silicon Valley brouhaha discussed above: too many of the world’s elite technologists are distracted by the Twitter outrage of the day, when they should be building the future.