Bill Wasik wrote a February 6, 2014 opinion piece for Wired magazine titled “Silicon Valley Needs to Lose the Arrogance or Risk Destruction.” Taking off from the San Francisco Google bus brouhaha, the piece argued that the Valley can’t afford to lose its “hold on the public imagination.” In short, “The rubes must continue to believe.” We have to envision today’s tech giants not as publicly traded stock market behemoths whose primary goal is to maximize shareholder value, but the sons of the post cold war Jetsons cartoon jetpacks-for-all fantasies.
Technology’s great accomplishments in multiple areas can be boiled down to expanding opportunities for the sharing of information. Unfortunately, the majority of that information is crap. But now, those who seek the good stuff, have infinitely greater access to it.
The companies that provide these modes of information-sharing have managed to paint a halo of above-it-all saintliness about themselves. I think that had to do with their initial exoticism. Code was a mystery back in the techno Jurassic. The Internet was magic. Few knew how it worked, and those who did and worked in it, could make fortunes. We’re all suckers for mystery and money.
However, as technological literacy grows, the mystery fades, and so does the aura of do-no-wrong benevolence. These companies use our data to make money. Their wares have the potential to do great good (social media helped us learn what happened in Tahrir Square), and sometimes, significant harm (Target data breach and NSA spying anyone?).
Tech’s ascendancy has also coincided with the gutting of the middle class lifestyle and economists see a connection between the two.
The smart phone frees us and chains us simultaneously; there’s no such thing as a non-working lunch if you’re checking your email every 30 seconds.
Tech has no choice but to lose its hold on the public imagination; reality has creeped in. The industry isn’t magic anymore. It’s just another business that will rise and fall by its actions as opposed to soaring solely on the romance surrounding it.
-Leonce Gaiter, Strategist & Sr. Writer