Unlike 20 years ago, today’s Silicon Valley culture is elitist and authoritarian. Its leaders are part of the problem, not the solution.
The problems with Silicon Valley’s largest companies, especially the internet platforms, are not occasional or inadvertent. They are systemic and intentional. Hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories are the meticulously engineered lubricants that maximize revenue for Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. The decline of journalism has happened because Google and Facebook found a way to insert themselves between media companies and their audience, and then to siphon off advertising dollars. The explosion and influence of extremist groups on Facebook are not an accident; they are the result of conscious choices. Facebook’s internal research revealed that its own recommendations account for 64 percent of registrations to Facebook Groups focused on extremist topics. Rather than change policy, management did nothing. The convenience of Amazon Prime, Uber, and Postmates (now an Uber subsidiary) results in part from exploitative labor practices. The flaws of new products like facial recognition and AI are not inevitable; they result from a culture that ships products at the earliest possible moment, without consideration for the impact on the people who use or are affected by them. These examples just scratch the surface.
Silicon Valley reflects many of the worst aspects of American industry today. It consists of monopolies and oligopolies. Too many business models are predatory. The industry has outsourced too many jobs, and helped to eliminate jobs in other industries. The companies do not pay enough taxes. Some operate as if they have more power than any government.
It does not have to be this way. With the proper regulations, technology can once again be a driver of economic growth, while also being a force for good. This is your opportunity.
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