The Rise Of The Tech Villain?

Sep 11 2013 @ 9:59am

Noreen Malone wonders if Silicon Valley is inheriting Wall Street’s image of flagrant wealth:

Tech world conspicuous consumption isn’t quite the same as Wall Street conspicuous consumption. A Silicon Valley executive isn’t likely to spend his cash on bottle service and a Porsche; a trip up Kilimanjaro and a Tesla is far more the norm. Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, who lives in San Francisco and is hardly a kneejerk critic of wealth, told me he plays a little game with himself where he counts the number of Teslas he sees in any given day. It used to be one a day, now it’s up to five or ten. That kind of lifestyle is certainly expensive (Teslas start at $62,000 or so, without any of the add-ons), but there’s also an element of virtuousness to it—which to some can be more grating than the unapologetic materialism of a stereotypical banker: I spend a lot of money, but it’s to save the earth, not to burnish my own image. And then there’s Google Glass: an unsettling-to-the-rest-of-us status symbol that only a tech-head could love.

Alexis Tsotsis recently sized up the reason for the increasingly hostile perception of the tech industry:

Many argue that our corporate shuttles, inflated housing prices, social bubble, iPhones for day and for night, and enthusiasm in replacing labor with capital, are worthy targets of mass resentment. The creation of a “resentocracy.” In 2010, The Social Network topped the box office. In 2013, The Internship barely cracks the top four because of general Silicon Valley weariness and fatigue. And then there’s that whole “aiding-the-government-in-aggregating-the-world’s-private-data-without-our-knowledge” thing. “Trust us.” Remember Enron? That’s now us.

The fallacy of the tech industry is that we think our “change the world/connect the world” intentions are enough, or at least that they should shield us from reproach, much like our gated communities of Ubers, Airbnbs, and TaskRabbits. We revel in our massive concentration of wealth, private-public transportation, private tech-heavy schools, and the underlying ideology that the government is stupid. We are exempt.