In light of the current Zeitgeist of these fine United States of America, we’d like to remind everyone of the following startling revelation:
Well, every new political administration takes some getting used to.
A new awareness of immediate political involvement seems to be breaking out in Silicon Valley lately. Cultures, after all, are a little like living organisms, in that they have to defend themselves in order to not die out. When Silicon Valley gets threatened directly, it fights back. While in the past, tech CEOs have lightly advocated for some political position or another during the occasional Ted Talk, and hacker activists have agitated for pet causes like Net Neutrality, now there’s a sense of greater urgency. The war drums are beating. Hacker culture just might emerge as the most powerful leaders of political thought in this century.
The March From Silicon Valley To Washington
Just under a year ago when an elected Trump was a distant bogeyman, tech CEOs and US politicians met in a World Forum in Georgia, reportedly to strategize about stopping it. Obviously, whatever plan they hatched didn’t work, which does decrease their credibility as the next Bilderberg Group. Since then, the best and brightest of the tech industry have marshaled their efforts against Trump and everything he stands for, to their increasing frustration as Trump rose to power outside all expectations.
Now Google has headed the outcry against the immigrant discrimination policy, and they’re not alone. Shockingly, Elon Musk has actually joined Trump’s advisory council, looking to influence his policies from the inside. As for that Seattle judge who stayed Trump’s harsh hand, companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia were at the forefront of consideration, because their workforce lives and dies by H-1B Visa holders. So, while Washington, D.C. has so far sat on its hands, technology corporations have taken swift and decisive action. And in case you thought those Anonymous imps in the Guy Fawkes’ masks were taking the winter off, hackers exploited a vulnerability in radio stations to play an anti-trump anthem out to the public airwaves.
Why Hacker Culture Has To be Liberal
Traditionally, the technology world has leaned to the political left. It’s simply a matter of necessity; between the two dominant ideologies of America, there is just one that values the brains. Ever since German intellectuals fled Nazi persecution in the 1940s, “brain drain” has been a recognized reflex reaction of intellectuals whenever a region’s politics get too conservative.
Technology culture is by necessity liberal. It is a meritocracy, where brains and talent are in such great demand that it trumps all other measures of humanity. As long as you can do the job, the tech company wants you, and it doesn’t matter what color or creed you are. Tech culture thrives in an environment of scientific progress, intellectual curiosity, and progressive morals. It recoils in horror at scientific suppression, intellectual persecution, and fascistic morals. As the religious world has gravitated to the right wing, the STEM world has headed steadily in the opposite direction.
The tail also wags the dog: Technology lends itself not to capitalism, but to socialism. Quite a bit of the technology economy already resembles socialism. Both expertise and information are an infinite resource; you can share it all day and still have just as much as when you started. Thus, Wikipedia was built, and thus does everything from Google to Ted Talks thrive. Only when we involve physical materials does the system require capitalism. A while ago we pointed out where Universal Basic Income is an idea catching on among the tech elite, and what could be more socialist than that? Just recently Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have both waxed enthusiastic for abandoning the jobs to the robots and replacing wages with wealth redistribution.
Meanwhile, the Rust Belt mentality has been the driving force in conservative policy for decades. Trump, himself, has preached Rust Belt thinking: Coal mines over wind power, manufacturing over outsourcing, blue collar over white collar, isolationism over globalization. He’s only the latest in a long line of politicians who have promised, yet not delivered, The Day The Jobs Came Back.
Is It Time For The Technocrats?
Trump may have accidentally opened the door to the exit of his own party. For the first time, a business mogul has skipped the government food chain to ascend directly to the top. Well, if we want business moguls to be in charge, where could we find more? How about the Forbes’ list of top world billionaires – there’s Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates. And what do those names have in common? Why, they all founded fortunes within the American technology industry!
It’s baffling just how marginalized Silicon Valley has been in the American political arena. Granted, politics is an unappetizing profession to geeks who would rather be playing with cool tech toys. But with most of the economic power concentrated in just a few hands, all it should take is a light nudge for them to sway the course of political thought. Last century, industrial-age moguls like Ford, Getty, and Rockefeller all but wrote US policy. William Randolph Hearst certainly made a name for himself influencing political thinking, and he did it with newspapers. Where is the new media equivalent? For good or ill, the point isn’t that Sergey Brin should follow in the footsteps of Hearst, but rather that Silicon Valley hasn’t flexed one percent of its potential political muscle.
And yet, Silicon Valley has all the good ideas on how to run the country. So it seems possible that future paths to the White House might be forged through Silicon Valley. We have to admit, a future technocracy is an uncertain future, doubtless one where mistakes will happen and some adjustment period will be inevitable. But at this point, we have literally heard from everybody else.
“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Even those of the intelligent who believe that they have a nostrum are too individualistic to combine with other intelligent men from whom they differ on minor points.” — Bertrand Russell