5 Dark Sides Of The Tech Industry No One Ever Talks About
Don't get me wrong. I come here not to bury the tech industry -- particularly as large portions of my livelihood are derived from Googling things and then writing Internet articles about them and then getting ePaid for all that hard labor. I do come here to heavily criticize Silicon Valley, though. Not the valley itself, which actually seems rather pleasant, but the industry within. Fact: Many of the most highly educated among us are working in tech. Hypothesis: Sometimes, you'd never know it. Corollary: Some of the most poorly educated among us are writing Internet articles, but as this is an online Internet article on the Internet, about the Internet (available online), I've tried to show my work with a bunch of links, at least.
The research proved rather easy ...
It's As Unethical As Any Corporation You Can Name
The tech industry is of course much newer and fundamentally different from traditional industry, in that it produces synergy and opportunities instead of archaic detritus like penicillin and fire trucks. And it does so in a nontraditional work environment that's akin to a slightly off "habitat" designed by aliens for their human zoo. But this is largely a veneer of what is beneath the surface, which is as traditional as John D. Rockefeller simultaneously riding a bull and a bear across a union line while eating a baby. Meet the new boss, etcetera.
Just trying to use the language of the Internet here ...
The new boss looks younger and shinier and more casual. But often, that which is Shiny is actually deeply traditional. And thus you have things like the richest tech companies on earth paying Mr. Burns levels of taxes. Things like hatred of unions, and thus non-unionized workers getting ground down by 80-hour work weeks. Things like everything that Uber has ever done, ever. And things like the fact that, like the bloated capitalists with whom the tech industry giants clearly do not associate themselves, they too are more in it for the money than a huge Bono made of thousands of smaller Bonos. It's not wrong to be capitalistic in a capitalist economy, but don't pretend as if you're different -- especially when your industry now ironically prevents people from succeeding in the maverick way that you did.
the CIIIRRCLE of LIIIIIFE
Someone should make a movie about how the enlightened, hip tech industry secretly needs to conservatively control its creations, because it can't maintain its status without having power over what should be more freely distributed, because in the end, what it cares about is status and power, as opposed to innovation for the greater good. Oh wait, they already did.
There's An Appalling Lack Of Diversity
I know a lot of people are tired of the Diversity lecture at this point, and surely the facepalmingly irresponsible misapplication of that lecture is increasingly responsible for diluting a crucially important message. So let's approach this from a slightly different perspective as we inevitably discuss the general lack of human variety among an industry that directly affects all humans. Let's approach this from the viewpoint of another futuristic context: Star Trek.
Let's put it like this: There are members of all fandoms who seem to have missed the entire message of the thing they're a fan of. You are thinking of one right now, and they are the worst. And worst among all these are the Star Trek Fans Who Clearly Did Not Understand The Point Of Star Trek. Star Trek is a story of a better tomorrow, in which money and prejudice have been supplanted by things like friendship and exploration and deliberately hanging out with people who are different (and Dom Jot). And when the people of Trek get into a jam, they are typically delivered from it by the end of the episode, and the reason for this is always the diversity of backgrounds and abilities among the crew.
The research proved rather entertaining ...
The point here being that the tech industry is a crew consisting largely of Wesley Crushers and a few Tasha Yars who get killed off in the first year by slime monsters. And when you are a team lacking in diversity, besides the fact that you work primarily to benefit those who look like you, you are also unable to surmount the difficulties which come your way which otherwise might have been solved by having a few Klingons and Empaths and Picards kicking around.
For clarity, the ship is not actually pictured mid-explosion.
And that is why the tech industry is the worst starship ever: It actively works against its own self-interests. Someone should make a Star Trek episode about a ship that's unusually homogeneous and ruthlessly willing to do anything to meet its goals, but eventually meets disaster, while another more diverse ship travels on successfully, due to its more welcoming attitude toward other cultures. Oh wait, they already did.
They Want A Libertarian Utopia (And Those Always Fail)
When an industry comes off like it's special and different, that's generally because those running it think of themselves as special and different, and yada yada yada rampant libertarianism. Which seems to be A Thing among tech moguls, and is reflected in some of the biggest sites on the Internet. Which is an issue. As an analogy, let's picture a typical shopping mall:
Now, this is a story all about how / a website got flipped-turned upside down ...
Now, let's say you own a similar shopping mall. Most of it is just normal stores, but instead of a supermarket on one end, there's a, uh, massive Klan headquarters ...
... and I'd like to take a minute / Just sit right there ...
Odds are that you will soon deservedly be known as "that shopping mall with the Klan headquarters," and your business will gradually be less of a shopping mall and more of an irreversible clusterfuck ...
... I'll tell you how I stopped visiting Reddit because it's such a fucking disaster.
... while all the good being done by the non-Klan parts of the mall is undeservedly sullied. Eventually, word spreads, and it's "that town with the Klan mall," even though most of the town is fine. And all this because you the mall owner have chosen to define "freedom" as "all ideas are equal." They aren't equal, though, and most of the world's industrialized nations function just fine while defining freedom as "all ideas are equal, except batshit insane hate speech." And I should add that not one of those nations has a libertarian government, because nobody has a libertarian government, because people just aren't that self-oriented.
Except for a minority of racists. And if giving them a meeting place and thus amplification that they would not otherwise have is libertarian, then fuck y'all. The irony is that the tech industry was not born from anything like a libertarian society. Not even the gender disparity in tech was the result of some sort of freedom-based social Darwinism -- it was a by-product of the centralized, controlling mainstream media that tech so hates.
Or you can just look at how libertarian utopias pan out in real life compared to how experiments turn out when you simply give money away to those who need it, and can draw your own conclusions. Someone should make a libertarian film trilogy that's so bad that it undermines libertarianism itself by showing that any ideology without the sense of humor and humanity to make a decent movie is one you should run screaming from. Oh wait, they already did.
They're Too Big To Care About Customer Service
Let's assume that tech companies actually are libertarians, as opposed to them claiming they are once it's clear that their business model can't support laws and structure because their business model sucks. Did you ever have a problem with a tech company and then try to contact them for customer service, and then wait and wait and you're not reading this because you killed yourself 12 hours in? Huge tech companies are too big to care about you -- and moreover, they're huge BECAUSE they don't care about you. Because financially speaking, there are too many of you to care about.
Let's put it like this: How would it affect the bottom line if preventing abuse was built into Twitter's business model, or if actually preventing copyright infringement was built into Google's? Being responsible takes a lot of resources, and in the Internet age, you would have to be responsible for everyone worldwide. And thus does Facebook have to be actively shamed into acting in a minimally human manner, because that sure as hell isn't in the budget otherwise. And it's often a tight budget, so if you crack down on trolls, you're also cracking down on customers ...
something something Internet something trojans something disaster something
Moreover, these companies were often started by literal teenagers who were thinking solely in terms of lofty ideals and/or relieving boredom and/or goddammit the normals won't laugh at me once I'm a billionaire (wrong). The industry grew exponentially from there, like that huge fungus in that one X-Files episode where the people caught in it don't know if they're awake or asleep. Someone should make a movie about how huge upheavals in the tech world (and thus society in general) are simply the result of antisocial or bored young guys who felt emasculated, their social networks being ironically reliant on an completely antisocial business model, and thus the world is shaped. Oh wait, they already did.
They're Just Making Dishwashers (I'll Explain)
The tech industry is right to be self-satisfied. The advances of the past few decades have dramatically changed the world, in often subtly huge ways. And while we've lost old-timey things like phone booths and rock stars and privacy, the tradeoff has probably been worth it.
Ah, memories of my childhood in S.N.A.C.
If tech can build hyperloops and reinvigorate the space program too, then all the better, because unlike traditional industry, tech at least seems to move forward (as do its employees). But therein lies its greatest problem, as well: Like a disappointing Pearl Jam concert, it has no rear-view mirror. In San Francisco, highly-paid tech workers have changed the city forever by causing rent prices to leave behind anyone who isn't a highly-paid tech worker; the microcosm du jour of why the most educated and forward-looking people in the world are so backward at times.
Magellan didn't need no bus.
I personally can't wait for self-driving cars, because the number of lives saved would be colossal if all the cars on the road were driven by something other than people. But that will never happen, because most people can't even afford a conventional car, let alone an advanced one -- let alone rent. When you're constantly trying to improve and refine, you get caught up in the fetishization of easily-quantifiable technological advances with zany results, rather than more nuanced and tricky societal advances that would unglamorously make things better for everyone. So to finish where we started: Nothing is more in the tradition of Old Industry than the production of something objectively better that nobody can afford, literally not even the US military. In other words, it's this:
i THINK this is what they look like ...
It's a dishwasher -- the objectively superior way to clean dishes that has existed since the '50s, which I don't have, because even if I could afford it, there'd be nowhere to install it in the 2-foot-by-6-foot nanoapartment that I live in, because like a lot of people who aren't in the tech industry, I don't have any fucking money. Tons of people don't have dishwashers, and hell, some people don't even want them. Technology CAN make life better, but it has to fit into society first.
The real Tech Bubble is the self-imposed one around the industry that separates it from the society it has ironically helped to connect. Anyone who wants to enter is grilled relentlessly by people who don't pay taxes and then complain about the state of the schools that are sending them kids to interview for companies founded by the kind of people who didn't (and couldn't) pass an interview. I'd say that someone should make a movie about it, but it's such an old story that I'm sure they already have.
Winston Rowntree is also available in webcomic form. Like me on Facebook too or i'll get you ...
Get yourself together, Tech Industry. Your price points aren't feasible for most of the populace, and you make insane promises that you yourselves can't even keep up with. See what we mean in 5 Ways Tech Companies Let You Know They Think You're Dumb. And, look, when you do make something we can afford it never was meant for us to use anyway: 5 Reasons Tech Companies Make Bad Gadgets (An Inside Look).
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