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Some Articles on the Turn Against Silicon Valley

Fear of Tech

It's starting: people are starting to turn against the tech companies, just like they turned against Wall Street. And we are just in the early stages.

It began with Dear Silicon Valley: American's Fallen Out of Love With You by Ross Baird in TechCrunch on October 8, 2017.

Then Silicon Valley is Not Your Friend by Noam Cohen came out on New York Times on October 13, 2017.

The incredible wealth and power that they have attained, all held by a few white men, is starting to worry people. The fact that Russia used Facebook, Google and Twitter to sow division in the US causes concern. The misogyny that was displayed by Gamer Gate and James Damore is fueling tech's image of discrimination. Venture capitalist are held in the same regard in regards to discrimination. The massive amount of data they hold and probably use to attain advantage over people is creating angst amongst governments

And the great inequality arose during the time the tech industry grew rich and powerful. I can't help connecting the inequality with the tech industry's growth. 

Facebook and Google started out trying to do good but once they became public companies beholden to shareholders, the shareholder's creed took over. There is just no way that Wall Street does not co-opt the companies' good efforts.

"Ultimately, however, the founders of Google and Facebook faced a day of reckoning. Investors hadn’t signed on for a charity, and they demanded accountability" Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend, NYT, Noam Cohen, October 13, 2017.

Here's Zuckerberg's assessment of the Silicon Valley/Wall Street ethos:

"Seven years later, Mr. Zuckerberg, too, had succumbed to Silicon Valley venture capital, but he seemed to regret it. “If I were starting now,” he told an interviewer in 2011, “I just would have stayed in Boston, I think,” before adding: “There are aspects of the culture out here where I think it still is a little bit short-term focused in a way that bothers me." Ibid.

The other problem is that the tech industry is full of male engineers whose social skills may be subpar. Think teenage boys sitting in their bedrooms, eating Doritos, drinking Coke and hacking into systems, just because they can and with no remorse over their actions. At least that was the image that came to mind when the tech industry was young, and it still does come to my mind. This was a figurative image, not a literal image, but it does suggest shortcomings with social awareness.

Gamer Gate was an appalling display of subpar social awareness.

"John McCarthy, the computer-science pioneer who nurtured the first hackers at M.I.T. and later ran Stanford’s artificial intelligence lab, worried that programmers didn’t understand their responsibilities. “Computers will end up with the psychology that is convenient to their designers (and they’ll be fascist bastards if those designers don’t think twice),” he wrote in 1983. “Program designers have a tendency to think of the users as idiots who need to be controlled. They should rather think of their program as a servant, whose master, the user, should be able to control it.

He was concerned about them as young students lacking perspective about life and was worried that these troubled souls could be our new leaders. Neither Mr. Weizenbaum nor Mr. McCarthy mentioned, though it was hard to miss, that this ascendant generation were nearly all white men with a strong preference for people just like themselves. In a word, they were incorrigible, accustomed to total control of what appeared on their screens." Ibid.

Here's another quote that suggests a certain kind of worrisome mindset from one of the biggest names:

Peter Thiel writes, “Competition is for losers. Be a monopoly.” And that philosophy has come to prevail—the average venture capitalist would say that in a portfolio of 20, they are OK with 19 losers and one grand slam. Follow that to its logical conclusion: for every billionaire Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley, you’re OK with 19 broke people. It’s no wonder that inequality is at a 100-year high, entrepreneurial activity is at a 40-year low, and eight men control half the world’s wealth.

So these boys are coming across arrogant and out of touch with the average Americans. And they are embarking on the AI race which will most likely upend capitalism. They know this and so they suggest universal basic income. But the author sees a problem with this:

And because of the first problem -- the lack of new ideas in the room -- you don’t know how to solve this. Your best idea for social inequality: universal basic income, where the wealth of the billionaires will continue to grow, but don’t worry, the rest of the serfs (who are otherwise unable to do any work!) will receive a daily stipend.

To you, in the words of one Silicon Valley investor, this seems like “the only logical conclusion.” To the average person, this seems like the height of arrogance. People are uncomfortable with universal basic income because you’re essentially saying their labor isn’t worth anything -- but you don’t see it!

Yes, there are quite a few articles coming out against the power and wealth of Silicon Valley. And just this week, more came out.

Video Games are Destroying the People Who Make Them describes the stupid idea of crunch time where coders work as much as 20 hours a day, 7 days a week for weeks or months at a time. Sometimes they sleep at work, limit their bathroom time and cut out family and food. There is no other way to describe this: this is stupid as stupid can be. This is emblematic of the macho attitude that prevails in the business world that works people extreme hours, to the detriment of their health.

The other article You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot - And Sooner Than You Think describes a dystopian future that could happen within 10 years. And in 60 years there may be no jobs left. According to the article, the job losses will extend into the highly complex thinking...well, just basically everything we do because the AI will learn to be humans without the emotions. Of course, capitalism will have to crack way before then because no jobs means no money means no paying customers means failing companies and the circle of surviving companies shrinks. I don't know at what point capitalism will crack but it has to be way long before the majority is jobless.

So, yes, the tech industry will be in for some rough times as the people start to push against them. I just don't know when or how.