In an age where seemingly everyone in the startup community now blogs, tweets and leaks his or her news, stretching the truth has become de rigueur. But I’d argue that it’s creating distrust; it’s also distorting the way that founders, the real engine of Silicon Valley, see the world.
What can be done about it, if anything? Recently, I asked neuroscientist and best-selling author Sam Harris, whose new Kindle essay, “Lying,” explores our fundamental inclination to lie and self-promote. Our conversation has been edited for length.
Q: In your essay, you say your interest in lying was piqued as a Stanford freshman in a popular ethics course. What was so life-changing about it?
A: The course is surprisingly simple in its format and content. Basically, 10 people sit around giving (professor) Ron Howard — a pioneer in management science — examples of lies they think worth telling, and he just shoots them down. You learn the really poisonous role that lying plays, and that the lies you think people are justified in telling have hidden costs that most people find quite unacceptable at the end of the day. He teaches the course every year and I know many Stanford graduates in tech have been influenced by it.