Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs– Selfish or Just Stupid?

Are the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs selfish, stupid or just too young and uneducated about history, culture and politics to care about the real world? So asks The New Yorker in a very important article. In, “CHANGE THE WORLD: Silicon Valley transfers its slogans—and its money—to the realm of politics”  George Packer, writes in The New Yorker, (May 27, 2013

The industry’s splendid isolation inspires cognitive dissonance, for it’s an article of faith in Silicon Valley that the technology industry represents something more utopian, and democratic, than mere special-interest groups. The information revolution (the phrase itself conveys a sense of business exceptionalism) emerged from the Bay Area counterculture of the sixties and seventies, influenced by the hobbyists who formed the Homebrew Computer Club and by idealistic engineers like Douglas Engelbart, who helped develop the concept of hypertext and argued that digital networks could boost our “collective I.Q.” From the days of Apple’s inception, the personal computer was seen as a tool for personal liberation; with the arrival of social media on the Internet, digital technology announced itself as a force for global betterment. The phrase “change the world” is tossed around Silicon Valley conversations and business plans as freely as talk of “early-stage investing” and “beta tests.”

When financiers say that they’re doing God’s work by providing cheap credit, and oilmen claim to be patriots who are making the country energy-independent, no one takes them too seriously—it’s a given that their motivation is profit. But when technology entrepreneurs describe their lofty goals there’s no smirk or wink. “Many see their social responsibility fulfilled by their businesses, not by social or political action,” one young entrepreneur said of his colleagues. “It’s remarkably convenient that they can achieve their goals just by doing their start-up.” He added, “They actually think that Facebook is going to be the panacea for many of the world’s problems. It isn’t cynicism—it’s arrogance and ignorance.”

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About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • smrnda

    Great article. I’m a software engineer, the daughter of 2 software engineers, and I couldn’t agree more.

    Most people who do my sort of work have really no understanding about what life is like for *the rest of the world* and sometimes almost take pride in that ignorance, as if the affairs of the *little people* are beneath their concern. These are people who can’t understand why poor kids in the inner city don’t just start writing code at 10 years of age – it’s a false belief that the Computing Caste’s experiences can be generalized to the rest of the population, and a refusal to acknowledge that almost all of us tech people tended to have certain advantages that pushed us into doing what we do.

    I think another problem is how ‘work’ is conceived of by people in this industry – the whole world of actual, real, physical work is kind of invisible to lots of these people. Too many tech people think the answer to poverty isn’t a living wage for low-wage workers, but upward mobility, which just skims a few low wage workers off the top and leaves the rest where they’re at.

    Perhaps its the insularity of the scene as well. If things seem to be going great for You, it’s hard to imagine that not everyone is cashing in.

    • frankschaeffer

      smmda, Thanks for the terrific comment. I’m so pleased to find you on my page. Best, Frank

      • smrnda

        Yeah, it’s just that, for all the intelligence, people in the tech field can show some pretty considerable blind spots.

        One thing I will agree with is that the market *could* absorb a lot more programmers, but given the shoddy educations most people get and the fact that struggling people are often working 2 – 3 jobs to make ends meet, they don’t have the time to “teach yourself web design in 3 weeks.”

        • frankschaeffer

          Hi smrnda, do me a favor and email me via my website frankschaeffer.com put your initials on the subject line when you hit contact. I’ve been reading your comments on other articles and want to ask you something, you have a good brain and I need some “fresh eyes” on something I’m working on, thanks! F


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