JOEL KOTKIN: The Tech Oligarchs Are Going to Destroy Democracy — Unless We Stop Them

Once, the big tech firms embodied American exceptionalism and aspiration. Today, they are strangling these ideals. Government: do something. “Whom do the oligarchs’ wish to destroy? Of course, Donald Trump, whom they find understandably offensive, but who also owes little or nothing to them.”

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John D. Rockefeller tried to control energy distribution through his Standard Oil. Later, the Big Three ran the automobile businesses. These were powerful firms, but they could not, like Google, create algorithms that determined what people see, tilted not only toward their own commercial interest but their political predilections as well. In this way, what the techies are doing is oddly reminiscent of China’s efforts to control and monitor thoughts, sometimes assisted by these same U.S. tech firms.

Indeed. Also:

Our past generation of old industrialists may have been far more openly racist and sexist, created pollution and pockets of poverty, but they also built middle- and working-class opportunity; the oligarchs do neither. The Valley was once an exemplar of the American dreamscape but is now an increasingly narrow plutocracy dependent on non-citizen foreign labor, which constitutes upwards of 40 percent of their workforce as well as a cadre of young, largely temporary workers.

In its earlier iteration, Silicon Valley was a uniquely egalitarian place where outsiders made success and working people had decent incomes. Today, Wired magazine’s Antonio Garcia Martinez has labeled Silicon Valley as ‘feudalism with better marketing.” Despite enormous wealth, tech-driven cities like San Francisco and increasingly Seattle have become dysfunctional places, with massive homeless populations and a shrinking middle class.

Bad enough in place, worse if it spreads. “Once, the tech moguls legitimately could be sold as exemplars of American exceptionalism. But now, if unrestrained, the moguls are likely to be its assassins.”

 

 

h/t GR

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