Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

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SolarpunkFan
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Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby SolarpunkFan » 2017-02-16 12:33pm

My apologies if this comes across as disjointed. I'm a little flustered at the moment.

I've been looking at the intertwining of Silicon Valley business culture, government and society in general and I've been getting nervous.

We have very powerful and wealthy people like Peter Thiel who not only supported Trump, but also thinks democracy and freedom are incompatible (though those are only a few of his views that worry me).

But it's not limited to just Thiel. There is, I feel, a general disdain of the masses of humanity in a lot of Silicon Valley companies. For example, Larry Page deciding that he'd rather give his money to Elon Musk rather than charity. And of course the transhumanist movement which is full to the brim of Ayn Rand fanatics and free market fundamentalists. When I pointed out the problem of a Randian society in the context of technological employment, one Rand type handwaved it away by saying "people will just get upgraded". Would a system that coerces people ("work or starve" is coercive in my opinion) to upgrade if they don't want to be a bad thing? There was a later part of that conversation which was richly ironic wherein the same person said that it was the government that was really coercive. Uh-huh.

Really, it seems that the overarching culture in Silicon Valley seems to be that "society doesn't matter, technology will sort it all out". Frankly, that strikes me as incredibly ignorant.

Not helping matters is the fact that these companies have a lot of money and influence over practically all people in the world. An effect known as the filter bubble is undoubtedly one of the things exacerbating political divisiveness these days.

But that doesn't matter to them. filter bubbles and political lobbying are just "good business"; sure it screws everyone else over, but so what? You have a company to run and you need to keep it in the black.

So ultimately I'm left flustered. What the hell can be done? Heck, I'm contributing to the problem! I use Google Chrome, I browse Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, et al. I use Google search instead of DuckDuckGo. And so on.

Maybe I just need a digital sabbatical or something. :?
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Zixinus » 2017-02-16 12:58pm

The technology that they supply is not automatically bad.

Self-made bubbles like this are not unique and not the first time they got a lot of power either. You will find throughout history, both in the USA, British Empire and other places had such groups that had self-referential philosophical bubble happen.

History has proven these people wrong and will again. There will also always be people like these.

It's a good thing that you recognise the problem, but you also have to realize that the world is full of such problems and these are not the kind that one person can solve or that you have to solve.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-02-16 02:20pm

SolarpunkFan wrote:Really, it seems that the overarching culture in Silicon Valley seems to be that "society doesn't matter, technology will sort it all out". Frankly, that strikes me as incredibly ignorant.
People have been harboring beliefs along those lines for as long as "progress" has been a clearly defined concept (say, some time in the mid-1800s). These beliefs were if anything much more widespread, arrogant, and ignorant in the early 20th century than they are today. "The conquest of nature" is not a new idea, nor is "the conquest of 'obsolete' social institutions."

Maybe I just need a digital sabbatical or something. :?
Maaaaybe you do.

Although I really think that half of the reason you keep getting upset and worried over this stuff is because you're not placing it into historical perspective. Every problem appears to seem so new to you.

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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2017-02-16 03:27pm

SolarpunkFan wrote:Really, it seems that the overarching culture in Silicon Valley seems to be that "society doesn't matter, technology will sort it all out". Frankly, that strikes me as incredibly ignorant.


Yet well supported by history as far as I can see. The problem is people expecting us to always master complex problems in 1 generation or even 1 lifetime. It will sadly take longer, but on the other hand even the worst reasonable case scenarios for global warming STILL aren't equal to what a black death equivalent plague would inflict on us. And as far as the later goes our best defense is rampant high technology. Also against asteroids,


Not helping matters is the fact that these companies have a lot of money and influence over practically all people in the world. An effect known as the filter bubble is undoubtedly one of the things exacerbating political divisiveness these days.


I'm still amused how suddenly so many people think the internet might be evil just because Trump beat Hillary Clinton. :lol: I think this actually just demonstrates a not new conclusion that many people have a deeply routed desire for totalitarianism help it or not, and now that they are much more aware of what specific other people are thinking they are spinning all kinds of grandiose internal moral victory plans to stop it, consciously or not.

Your on a damn web forum that bans people. THAT VERY IDEA is a MASSIVE FILTER on the full spectrum of human expression. Humans have literal built in mental noise filters, it's basically a tool we require to exist in a peaceful manner. Sorry the whole damn planet isn't singing songs together (YET IT NOW PHYSICALLY COULD!!!!) just because the Berlin wall fell.

I've never used Facebook BTW, and am openly against it, but that's for reasons I hold more closely then any specific political belief. Its just people being too willing to hand over too much; but that's basically a long term public ignorance problem.

People have opposed every new technology for every possible reason, as far as I can tell from all my study of history to date. Also fake news is oh my fucking god, not a new problem, let alone just on the internet.. If anyone personally has issues, my best suggestion is learn about 'propaganda' in a general sense, because I feel pretty well immunized to the whole thing, most of it is blatantly obvious on tone alone.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-02-16 03:59pm

Industry moguls who may be highly competent in their fields but their massive egos nonetheless warps their views of other things, this isn't that new but still it's freaking alarming.

This is probably countenanced by the fact that things are more accessible and inclusive now than they've ever been.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2017-02-16 04:01pm

Simon_Jester wrote:People have been harboring beliefs along those lines for as long as "progress" has been a clearly defined concept (say, some time in the mid-1800s). These beliefs were if anything much more widespread, arrogant, and ignorant in the early 20th century than they are today. "The conquest of nature" is not a new idea, nor is "the conquest of 'obsolete' social institutions."

In particular Social Darwinism was once fairly well accepted as a mainstream idea, as were similar ideas about the Malthusian necessity of population controls with the belief that the world would otherwise stave to death.

Simon_Jester wrote:Although I really think that half of the reason you keep getting upset and worried over this stuff is because you're not placing it into historical perspective. Every problem appears to seem so new to you.

This is really the OP's problem. The truth is that the problems of the present are almost never truly new, they are generally a repeat of old ones in a different form. While it is true that the world is getting more complex, the ways people look at it are not changing all that much and the problems we generally create are not all that different. Peak fertilizer, peak forests, and peak whales were once issues after all.

With this rising complexity, something like an artificial superintelligence might be a truly new problem, but the underlying problems leading up to its creation are still not exactly new. Nick Bostrom's excellent book on the subject is full of historical examples of technological change.

Sea Skimmer wrote:People have opposed every new technology for every possible reason, as far as I can tell from all my study of history to date. Also fake news is oh my fucking god, not a new problem, let alone just on the internet.. If anyone personally has issues, my best suggestion is learn about 'propaganda' in a general sense, because I feel pretty well immunized to the whole thing, most of it is blatantly obvious on tone alone.

In particular this is simple an artifact of the confirmation bias, which has been inherent to people for all of human history. The internet works both ways on this issue, in which it allows you to see things you never could physically, potentially changing your worldview, as well as allowing you to form bubbles based on those that think in a similar fashion.


For a final somewhat optimistic point, the modern world truly is the best possible time in history to be alive, regardless of where you are in the world. Look at something like this as an illustration of why:

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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby SolarpunkFan » 2017-02-16 11:20pm

Thanks all. :)

I used to think I was actually pretty well versed in history. But now it seems like I never really understood what people felt and believed in in those times.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-02-17 06:39am

The trick is being able to make connections between old and new problems. People haven't changed much since ancient times, even if we have some new ideas and attitudes in our heads that create new potentialities.

But things like "people believe stupid stuff and sometimes you get a mass movement backing stupid stuff" or "our leader is a pathetic corrupt manbaby fuckwit" or "powerful rich people are disconnected and don't really respect the general public?" Yeah. Not new. The trick is to strip away all the uniquely new things (King Fuckwit has a Twitter feed!) and concentrate on stuff that is part of basic human nature (some kings are fuckwits).

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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby MKSheppard » 2017-02-20 06:59pm

SolarpunkFan wrote: For example, Larry Page deciding that he'd rather give his money to Elon Musk rather than charity.


ELON MUSK DID THIS IN A CAVE. WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-02-20 08:44pm

Haven't we discussed this recently? The techbro douche dark enlightenment ego-maniacal egotistic super-rich business mogul isn't new... we're seeing the same egotistical myopic "insensitive" worldview that fetishizes either unilateral power of just pure "progress" and "rationality" that are in actually anything but and are just buzzwords that conceal their dysfunctional disdain over the "softer" more nuanced approaches that don't appeal to their phallic fixations... these snowflakes who'd rather die before they'd extend humane considerations to their fellow people... and right now it's the Peter Thiels but we've all seen dickwads who think they're hot shit because they're rich as fuck and have "the way to the future... the way to the future... thewaytothefuture...thewaytothefuture" in their hands.

Sure, depending on the context of the times and of society, the prevalence of hyper-competitive "screw you buddy I've got mine, fuck y'all" and Ayn Rand-style alpha-dickwaving mentalities and ideologies can make this more odious and pervasive whereas elsewhere or elsewhen this might be not the case and the Captains of Industry might be more well-adjusted... and also, like when one hyper-specializes their way to success... I guess it's very understandable that some just can't avoid being detached from other issues because of the necessary investments needed for success-via-hyperspecialization. So no shit some clueless techshits are gonna go "oh teach everyone to code that will make Frisco's homeless problem go away!"

Anyway thank goodness despite all appearances, they're not the ones who dominate their fields and there are people who are more well-balanced, with more nuanced, humane, compassionate and intelligent views on things beyond whatever fields these wannabe wunderkinds specialize in.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-02-20 08:49pm

I submit All-Star Superman as a great example of these clashing perspectives, particularly how only when he injected himself with superman serum did Lex Luthor - upon attaining superman-senses and realizing the interconnected nature of life and the unifying fields of existence - realize that superdickery was not the way and that he was wrong all this time for being a paranoid selfish prick. Then Grant Morrison's super Zen Silver Age-homaging kooky but chill and not-roid-raging-macho Superman coldcocked him. The anti-thesis of Moore's downer Manhattan whose superhuman perception ironically made him more alienated from the universe... which isn't necessarily the case, I think, if one has broadened perceptions of reality.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby K. A. Pital » 2017-02-21 02:01am

Adam Reynolds wrote:For a final somewhat optimistic point, the modern world truly is the best possible time in history to be alive, regardless of where you are in the world

You really did not think this one through, have you?
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2017-02-21 05:01am

K. A. Pital wrote:
Adam Reynolds wrote:For a final somewhat optimistic point, the modern world truly is the best possible time in history to be alive, regardless of where you are in the world

You really did not think this one through, have you?
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You are inside your own bubble already.

A resident of Lagos is still likely better off today than they would have been 25 years ago.

I understand that there are obviously still problems that should be addressed more than they are, but when you have a general downwards trend in factors like child mortality and extreme poverty, it is generally better to be alive at the present than it was historically. Both of those have been cut in half in the last 25 years. Things are getting better, albeit slowly and often unfairly.

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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Zixinus » 2017-02-21 11:50am

But there are problems that have been getting worse too. Overpopulation, desertification, extinction of animals and wilderness and general reduction of the habitability of the planet are also getting worse. We have always made junk and refuse, but the sheer scale of how much we do is also different. The difference between rich and poor increase as well. It is still an uphill battle to make people recognize that climate change is happening, never mind actually solving it.

The upper image is not without saying something: we have always made trash, but not to the scale we are doing now and we are ignoring the true extent of the problem.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby K. A. Pital » 2017-02-21 12:13pm

Adam Reynolds wrote:A resident of Lagos is still likely better off today than they would have been 25 years ago.

I thought that it was the best time regardless of location? I mean, there are many locations that were OK 25 years ago, but now are either ghost towns, dumps or bombed-out death traps (Libya, Syria).
Adam Reynolds wrote:I understand that there are obviously still problems that should be addressed more than they are, but when you have a general downwards trend in factors like child mortality and extreme poverty, it is generally better to be alive at the present than it was historically. Both of those have been cut in half in the last 25 years. Things are getting better, albeit slowly and often unfairly

Exactly. You just can't make a blanket statement that it is the best time to be alive regardless of location.
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-02-21 12:14pm

Reminds me of...

NATURE: Expand the frontiers of urban sustainability wrote:"Although the social, economic and ecological issues behind sustainability problems are regional or global in scale, urban policy usually addresses single ecological issues in individual neighbourhoods. Focusing on dense cities and their affluent areas ignores social movements and their advocacy for quality-of-life issues such as housing and commuting, which have direct ecological consequences. Targeting specific districts ignores the often negative regional and global impacts of local environmental, or 'greening', improvements.

Spatially, sustainability research and policymaking should shift focus from city centres to urban regions and global networks of production, consumption and distribution. Socially, policymakers should incorporate equity into every stage of the urban-policy process, from research to formulation to implementation.

Neighbourhood watch

From the revitalization of city parks to urban bicycle-sharing programmes, urban sustainability interventions tend to be conceived, implemented and evaluated one municipality or neighbourhood at a time. Yet urban environmental processes occur on much larger scales. Projects that benefit one district may have negative impacts next door.

One example is environmental gentrification. As districts become greener, they become more desirable and expensive. The premiums placed on neighbourhood amenities — such as walkability, public transport and the proximity of parks, farmers' markets and 'greenways' such as hiking trails and bike paths — by residents who can afford to pursue them raise the cost of living.

Social displacement can result. Policies that encourage these improvements tend not to be linked to a broader social-equity agenda, so low- and middle-income residents are forced into peripheral neighbourhoods where population densities are lower, commutes are longer and environmental problems are more common. Many sustainability gains are simply a regressive redistribution of amenities across places."
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby K. A. Pital » 2017-02-21 03:48pm

Reminds me of...
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-02-21 04:10pm

These violent delights have violent ends...
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby Shroom Man 777 » 2017-02-21 04:12pm

My reply quoting the Nature article was before you posted about bombed out cities (I think war shouldn't be part of this discussion) Stas. :P
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Re: Silicon Valley tech culture disturbs me

Postby K. A. Pital » 2017-02-21 05:36pm

Yeah, you're right, war is not a good example in the context of this topic.

But trash, exclusion, desertification and wrecking of habitats are.
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