Don Rogers: Key to a better world |

Don Rogers: Key to a better world

The secret to a place, any place, is the people.

I had this less than profound insight talking with one among our pantheon of tech demigods over coffee at the South Pine Cafe in Nevada City.

I also was thinking about sci fi classic author Arthur C. Clarke’s observation that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

My coffee date’s work, in particular a mission impossible quest to right the good ship news from the swampy seas of fakery worldwide, certainly struck me this way.

But my interest in sitting down with him was thoroughly provincial: What is it about Nevada County that attracts these lords of code to live here? I hear stories of’s top developer, a Slack founder, others like them, these world-class performers. We know it ain’t the fabulous internet connections.

He was fresh from checking in on his team all over, one in France, busy changing the world, an ambition he finds overplayed and misdirected. Genuine wisdom is lacking in tech forays that wind up ruining news reporting, for instance, he said.

Half the journalists in America have vanished over the past dozen years. This is the far greater problem than people in power trying to discredit reports they don’t like, common enough in small towns as well as the highest office in the land.

As sure as Moore’s law is the axiom that the more they discredit, the more substance there turns out to be in the end. We’ll see soon enough if the law applies this time.

The best tech answer for news does not appear to lie in destroying the means of funding journalism, although I imagine something reasonable will someday emerge from the shards.

A slight tweak from “change” to the wiser “improve” seems more like the key to progress through technology. “Improve the world” gets half the Google responses as “change the world.” So maybe there is something to this observation.

I told him about my quest to attend Sunday service at each church in our community, which should keep me occupied for at least the next year. Probably the coolest part of my job is the chance to get to know such a wide variety of people and views on life in a community. Grass Valley, Nevada City and Penn Valley provide quite a range, if not in ethnicity. We’re among the whitest demographics in the land, as well as oldest.

I also talked about living mostly in rural places throughout my career, how I prefer them to metropolis, and most of all appreciate communities like the ski towns and here. Here even more than the ski towns, I can sit down with “normal” folks as well as recognized geniuses, I said.

He told me a story about one of too many self-important people in his world who might fashion themselves geniuses, but they’re really just completely out of touch jerks. However clever.

He triggered memories as he spoke — isn’t the mind remarkable, able to be enthralled with a story while vividly reliving memories at the same time? Honolulu and Santa Barbara floated up out of the mists, along with Vail and my short time here.

This is only anecdotal, but aha! A notion long roosted in the back of my head finally rang clear: The rich genius jerk is far more common in the urban environment than places like Grass Valley/Nevada City and ski towns. I think this is true. I mean residents, not visitors.

Here’s my leap: We don’t attract the merely gifted. Our community is not so convenient, not so easy. And ski towns especially require a certain hardiness. The gifts from thrills come with plenty of pain. Snow’s cold, for starters.

Foothills Nevada County might be more subtle, but similar forces work both their charm and their culling. You have to want to be here for lifestyle reasons, willing to give up certain luxuries for the unique blend of arts, outdoors, rural nature.

And for the people. I believe there’s a lot of wisdom in the provincial. Enough so, someone could improve the world from right here.

Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at or 530-477-4299.

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