“Why We Are Allowed to Hate Silicon Valley”

November 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

The often cranky but always provocative writer and technology researcher Evgeny Morozov just published, go figure, a cranky and provocative essay addressing the “Teflon Industry” that is Silicon Valley. It’s a long read, but pretty interesting, and gestures much more sternly to some of the things I’ve written regarding the Facebook imperative. Quoth:

This bubbling discontent [about the various “disturbances” brought about Silicon Valley and its frat life 4eva Big Data obsession] is reassuring. It might even help bury some of the myths spun by Silicon Valley. Wouldn’t it be nice if one day, told that Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” we would finally read between the lines and discover its true meaning: “to monetize all of the world’s information and make it universally inaccessible and profitable”? With this act of subversive interpretation, we might eventually hit upon the greatest emancipatory insight of all: Letting Google organize all of the world’s information makes as much sense as letting Halliburton organize all of the world’s oil.

But any jubilation is premature: Silicon Valley still holds a firm grip on the mechanics of the public debate. As long as our critique remains tied to the plane of technology and information– a plane that is often described by that dreadful, meaningless, overused word “digital” – Silicon Valley will continue to be seen as an exceptional and unique industry. When food activists go after Big Food and accuse those companies of adding too much salt and fat to their snacks to make us crave even more of them, no one dares accuse these activists of being anti-science. Yet, a critique of Facebook or Twitter along similar lines – for example, that they have designed their services to play up our anxieties and force us to perpetually click the “refresh” button to get the latest update –  almost immediately brings accusations of technophobia and Luddism.

Like I said, long read, but all those words (somewhat) make up for the fact that the vast, VAST majority of discussions about Silicon Valley and the power of Big Data/its requisite incessant, unrepentant surveillance slash monetization wait I mean “social media” are glowingly positive.


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