Places can curse you like people. It doesn’t matter where I go, California is gonna catch me again. Here I am, in Paris, skateboarding with a friend. And here it comes, “the force”, with the face of a middle-aged white man, blond hair brushed back, sleeveless jacket. The man exhales self-confidence.
“You know where it comes from, skateboarding ? He asks in French.
– Yes I know, I say.
– It comes from California, San Francisco”, he continues.
San Francisco, like Cisco Systems. The San Jose computer networks titan to which he sold his company – a firm specialized in cyberdefense programs and weapons, according to his not-so-fairy tale – and which made him “a multi-millionaire”, he says. For his defense, if the guy didn’t pay attention to my answer, it’s because he’s a genius. To evacuate any doubt, that’s what he tells us immediately. At this point, I wonder if he’s just a random megalomaniac, but let’s see. The man has a lot to say, with the condition of staying anonymous. And after all, I’ve met a certain number of these individuals – megalomaniacs self-proclaimed geniuses – and hanged out next to Sergueï Brin and Elon Musk : this kind of talk and attitude is not unknown territory.
After the genius introduction, whether he gets that I’m questionning his mental health or he likes being provocative, he hits harder :
-“You’re going to die before you turn 50, you know that ?
OK. That would take my friend and I to the cemetery by 2033, in forteen years. That sounds a little early, but that’s because he believes we are 25 year-old students.
– You sure you’re a genius ? I ask.
– Come on, maybe 28, alright…”
Still quite under. But he swears he doesn’t want to be nice.
“I’m not nice, I’m only nice to my kids and family. If I want to tell you something, I’ll tell you. We shouldn’t be hypocritical”. Fair enough. Let’s go with 28, then, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that “scientists predict the end of humankind by 2050, and now they’re taking a year off every year, so it’s more around 2045”, says the king of mathematics. It’s no news that in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere, some well-informed guys have turned paranoid and are getting ready for the worst in a survivalist mode.
So, with that dark forecast in mind, what is our French-Italian millionaire doing carelessly walking around midnight in Paris ? Enjoying every last bit of la dolce vita as he knew it ? Hoping to catch a car towards a past golden era where you could randomly encounter Hemingway and Picasso, like Owen Wilson in the eponymous movie (Midnight in Paris, 2011) ? Well, too bad, it’s 2019, and what he got was two female average skateboarders.
At least, “that’s something courageous”, he concedes. And probably way more fun that spending time in the predatory fauna of the City’s financial district, in London, where he works now. Walking alone in the streets of Paris, he’s here for the weekend, to see his mum… “Poor thing”, is what comes to my mind. A figurative expression opposite to the truth.
“I’m obscenely rich, and I’m bored. I’ve had the life in palaces, in Gstaad, at the Henley regatta… Now I want to do something, it’s urgent. If we don’t produce the movement to offset what we consume, we head towards a disaster.”
He’s not alone to feel that way, he says. “We’re more and more thinking (getting so rich) is ridiculous, and getting bored, and when you’re bored, you can do something”.
His focus goes to solar energy, “the only thing that can take us out of this mess”, he believes.
The tech millionaire, who protects his real identity at all cost, seems sincere, yet definitely “not nice”. He threatens to hack us and make our life a nightmare if we say something he doesn’t like. But he also wants us to “wake up” and get the measure of what’s going on (to his eyes, we’re still those two naive students “following the movement”, not a journalist and a computer engineer pretty much aware that guys like him led us all to this).
So, that’s where the conversation gets trickier. Considering the fact that most people are naive followers and that “politicians are rotten, most of the time” – in his mind – doing something to save ourselves doesn’t mean activating these circles, but on the contrary, the few people “above”. Or “under”, according to the perspective. He mentions the freemasons and other secret organizations.
“With a few Chinese and Japanese, we’re trying to create a world order a little under, to eliminate the harmful ones”, he says, before citing the brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro as an example. “Look at him well, because we’re going after him”. To him, the Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the American Twitter-in-chief Donald Trump are also on the list. “It might be harder”, though.
His weapon ? The cyber force. “We might do dirty things, but it’s for the wellness of humankind”.
I had the image of the Jedis being much nicer, and as for the one who was borderline, he fell into the dark side, in Hollywood’s Star Wars mythology. And here comes the curse again.