The Sociopaths of Silicon Valley


If you are as sick of reading about the brilliance of the young hotshots of Silicon Valley as I am, you will enjoy this article. 

It appeared in “Wired,” the journal of the tech world. Summary: The bloom is off the rose.

“As headlines have exposed the troubling inner workings of company after company, startup culture no longer feels like fodder for gentle parodies about ping pong and hoodies. It feels ugly and rotten. Facebook, the greatest startup success story of this era, isn’t a merry band of hackers building cutesy tools that allow you to digitally Poke your friends. It’s a powerful and potentially sinister collector of personal data, a propaganda partner to government censors, and an enabler of discriminatory advertising…

”When Bodega, a startup making “smart” vending machines, announced its launch in September, it encountered an angry mob on Twitter. Bodega’s co-opted name, along with its founders’ stated plan to make corner stores obsolete, fit perfectly with the stereotype—arrogant, elite tech bros trying to get rich by disrupting a lovable local icon. “Let’s see your shitty glass box make me a bacon, egg and cheese with jalepenos on a roll you sick, capitalist scum,” the rapper El-P tweeted. The company’s founder issued an apology, which was subsequently mocked.

“Bro-dega,” as it’s since been named, was just one catalyst of the anti-tech sentiment rippling beneath our collective surface. After Skedaddle, an “Uber for Buses” startup, was featured on Business Insider, a screenshot of the four young male cofounders, smiling atop an article describing an unsavory-sounding mission, ricocheted across Twitter. “What a nightmare,” the writer Lisa McIntire tweeted, adding, “Silicon Valley is run by complete sociopaths.”

“A trend story about startups riding the trend of “co-living” emerged; Twitter screamed, “YOU INVENTED ROOMMATES!” When Bloomberg revealed that fruit packs made by Juicero, a well-funded startup selling expensive juicing appliances, could be squeezed with bare hands, commentators howled with schadenfreude. Juicero wasn’t just a preposterous company: It was “a symbol of the Silicon Valley class designing for its own, insular problems,” and “an absurd avatar of Silicon Valley hubris.” When a study showed that a “brain-hacking” supplement created by a venture-backed startup called HVMN was no more effective than a cup of coffee, mockery ensued.

“This week, when Netflix tweeted a joke about some of its customers’ viewing choices—a marketing ploy that, just a few years ago, would have felt like a clever insight gleaned from the wonders of big data—the press and tweeting masses immediately attacked it as creepy and a violation of privacy. These rifts have solidified the feeling that techies and their moneymen are painfully out of touch…

”In 2008, it was Wall Street bankers. In 2017, tech workers are the world’s villain. “It’s the exact same story of too many people with too much money. That breeds arrogance, bad behavior, and jealousy, and society just loves to take it down,” the investor said. As a result, investors are avoiding anything that feels risky. Hunter Walk, a partner with venture capital firm Homebrew, which invested in Bodega, attributes the backlash to a broader response to power. Tech is now a powerful institution, he says. “We no longer get the benefit of the doubt 100 percent of the time, and that’s okay.”

But is it okay to let these spoiled, arrogant brats take control of our lives and disrupt the institutions that meet other people’s needs? I think not.


from sarah

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