Sunday, August 05, 2018

"The Robespierrean social justice terror blowing through Silicon Valley"

La nostalgie de l'Ancien Régime

"The Robespierrean social justice terror blowing through Silicon Valley ...".

Nice phrase (ugly reality). Marginal Revolution has some notes on US tech management.

Here are the top nine (of seventeen).

  1. "Most tech leaders aren’t especially personable. Instead, they’re quirky introverts. Or worse.

  2. Most tech leaders don’t care much about the usual policy issues. They care about AI, self-driving cars, and space travel, none of which translate into positive political influence.

  3. Tech leaders are idealistic and don’t intuitively understand the grubby workings of WDC [Washington DC].

  4. People who could be “managers” in tech policy areas (for instance, they understand tech, are good at coalition building, etc.) will probably be pulled into a more lucrative area of tech. Therefore there is an acute talent shortage in tech policy areas.

  5. The Robespierrean social justice terror blowing through Silicon Valley occupies most of tech leaders’ “political” mental energy. It is hard to find time to focus on more concrete policy issues.

  6. Of the policy issues that people in tech do care about—climate, gay/trans rights, abortion, Trump—they’re misaligned with Republican Party, to say the least. This same Republican party currently rules.

  7. While accusations of deliberate bias against Republicans are overstated, the tech rank-and-file is quite anti-Republican, and increasingly so. This limits the political degrees of freedom of tech leaders. (See the responses to Elon Musk’s Republican donation.)

  8. Several of the big tech companies are de facto monopolies or semi-monopolies. They must spend a lot of their political capital denying this or otherwise minimizing its import.

  9. The media increasingly hates tech. (In part because tech is such a threat, in part because of a deeper C.P. Snow-style cultural mismatch.)

There's a scenario in which a perfect storm is brewing. The Googles and Facebooks of the world are economically and ideologically aligned with a declining neoliberal project which only gets the more shrill as it loses out to the inchoate populism of the increasingly disaffected masses.

As popular discontent grows, the tech companies - deploying personal data and means of surveillance undreamt of by former elites - are increasingly available for repression (in a just cause of course). We forget how authoritarian regimes always spin out self-justification.

When social cohesion breaks down (and this is a feature of the political-economic period we're living through) left and right are equally tribal and nasty, each in their own way. In the end it's always human beings and their antagonistic group interests, dressed up in fancy ideologies.

Makes you nostalgic for the mid twentieth century, Les Trente Glorieuses.


And here's an antidote to that.

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