Idea Farm
Originally uploaded by cjanebuy

I see this truck almost everyday, parked in various locations along El Camino as I drive from Palo Alto to Mountain View. (I’ve always wanted to take a picture of it, but have never had the chance to, so, even though I have no idea who you are, thanks cjanebuy for posting a pic onto Flickr.) The combination of the self-lettering, the accusatory nature of the phrase/motto of “THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM IS THAT YOU HAVE BECOME A SELFISH PEOPLE, and the strategy here for marketing their message by parking these trucks all over the area and inviting passersby to “come and eat with us” to find out more has all the trappings of a cult, of some type of weird group of fanatics of something. (Not to mention that all interactions are done “anonymously,” participants using only first names.)

I finally bothered to visit the website–— and while I don’t think it’s a cult like The Family International— but it’s definitely an enigma (they also depict IdeaFarm as “IdeaFarm City,” trademarked, of course, and a federal constitutional protectorate of the US.) It’s very Silicon Valley– the “civil and political project funded by the sale of software products and services,” such as the IdeaFarm ™ Piggyback Distributed Operating System (I, like you probably, have never head of this and have no idea of the pros/cons of this OS).

The mission of the project is to “[P]romote unselfish living by creating a compelling economic incentive to live wholesomely connected to other people, to the Earth, and to one’s Higher Power.” The main way to do this is through a yet-to-be-released “zero spam, zero advertisement, zero thought steering, secure email service.” Participants in this project are divided into two groups– the first, composed of non-members, agrees to a) “sign a public declaration of intent to live unselfishly” and b) participate anonymously in weekly community dinners. If you decide to become an actual member, you move up and become part of the second group who agrees to a) “participate regularly in the weekly community dinners,” b) “loan $8 to the organizer for 64 days, and c) pay 1 cent per day.” In turn, you apparently get “nifty” IdeaFarm software products and services plus richer access to the website.

In any case, reviewing the website and information, a few things to note that might raise red flags for you:

  • For an organization with unselfish living at its core, it is still a “private, for profit entity” and the “owner can dispose of revenue as he sees fit.”
  • The “owner” or “leader” of the organization is never mentioned or known by his name (not even his first name)– he is only referred to as the “Governing Propietor.” While anonymity is central to their interactions, disclosing the leader’s name (at least first name) seems like an acceptable exception, especially to lend credibility to the whole thing since they claim he is a “libertarian student of political economy, a product of the Ph.D. program in economics at the University of Chicago.”
  • A stratified system of participation and membership, largely based on financial contributions– Scientology anyone?* To be fair, they do assert that they are not asking for nor will they accept donations– financial contributions are considered “loans.”
  • Discussion of IdeaFarm and the website will only be done via email.
  • They’re using a yahoo email address. Weak.

Anyway, so if you see this truck around the Bay Area, now you know a little bit more. Judge for yourself!

* PS to the Scientology folks: please don’t sue me.