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It’s Getting Harder to Believe in Silicon Valley
by Anna Wiener / March 1, 2017

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Awestruck visions of the tech industry have become less convincing than ever.

Wiener, A. (2017, March 01). It’s Getting Harder to Believe in Silicon Valley. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/the-shine-comes-off-silicon-valley/513815/

[...] The tech industry owes a huge debt to the financial sector. Wolfe is eager to depict Silicon Valley as the new New York, but much of the money that funds venture-capital firms comes from investors who made their fortunes on Wall Street. (The tech industry also owes a great debt to “Main Street”: Private-equity funds regularly include allocations from public pension plans and universities.) [...]

by Anna Wiener 2 years, 8 months ago

[...] The tech industry owes a huge debt to the financial sector. Wolfe is eager to depict Silicon Valley as the new New York, but much of the money that funds venture-capital firms comes from investors who made their fortunes on Wall Street. (The tech industry also owes a great debt to “Main Street”: Private-equity funds regularly include allocations from public pension plans and universities.) [...]

by Anna Wiener 2 years, 8 months ago

If technology belongs to the people only insofar as the people are consumers, we beneficiaries had better believe that luminaries and pioneers did something so outrageously, so individually innovative that the concentration of capital at the top is deserved. When founders pitch their companies, or inscribe their origin stories into the annals of TechCrunch, they neglect to mention some of the most important variables of success: luck, timing, connections, and those who set the foundation for them. The industry isn’t terribly in touch with its own history. It clings tight to a faith in meritocracy: This is a spaceship, and we built it by ourselves.

by Anna Wiener 2 years, 8 months ago

If technology belongs to the people only insofar as the people are consumers, we beneficiaries had better believe that luminaries and pioneers did something so outrageously, so individually innovative that the concentration of capital at the top is deserved. When founders pitch their companies, or inscribe their origin stories into the annals of TechCrunch, they neglect to mention some of the most important variables of success: luck, timing, connections, and those who set the foundation for them. The industry isn’t terribly in touch with its own history. It clings tight to a faith in meritocracy: This is a spaceship, and we built it by ourselves.

by Anna Wiener 2 years, 8 months ago

[...] Portraying Silicon Valley’s powerful as “uber-nerds” who struck it rich is as reductive and unhelpful as referring to technology that integrates personal payment information and location tracking as “little buttons.” The effect is not only to protect them behind the shield of presumed harmlessness, but also to exempt them from the scrutiny that their economic and political power should invite.

useful for my tech hubris piece

by Anna Wiener 2 years, 8 months ago

[...] Portraying Silicon Valley’s powerful as “uber-nerds” who struck it rich is as reductive and unhelpful as referring to technology that integrates personal payment information and location tracking as “little buttons.” The effect is not only to protect them behind the shield of presumed harmlessness, but also to exempt them from the scrutiny that their economic and political power should invite.

useful for my tech hubris piece

by Anna Wiener 2 years, 8 months ago

[...] In 2012, new start-ups were flush with money and the tech sphere was overwhelmed by ardent media coverage; the verb disrupt was elbowing its way into vernacular prominence and had not yet become a cliché. Facebook’s IPO was not only record-setting but a flag in the ground, and the West Coast seemed a hopeful counternarrative in an otherwise flailing economy. Stories about Silicon Valley were imbued with a certain awe that, today, is starting to fade.

Since the genre’s takeoff in the late 1990s, during the first dot-com boom, writing about the tech industry has traditionally fallen into a few limited camps: buzzy and breathless blog posts pegged to product announcements, suspiciously redolent of press releases; technophobic and scolding accounts heralding the downfall of society via smartphone; dry business reporting; and lifestyle coverage zeroing in on the trappings, trends, and celebrities of the tech scene. In different ways, each neglects to examine the industry’s cultural clout and political economy. This tendency is shifting, as the line between “tech company” and “regular company” continues to blur (even Walmart has an innovation lab in the Bay Area). Founders and their publicists would have you believe that this is a world of pioneers and utopians, cowboy coders and hero programmers. But as tech becomes more pervasive, coverage that unquestioningly echoes the mythologizing impulse is falling out of fashion.

missing author 2 years, 8 months ago

[...] In 2012, new start-ups were flush with money and the tech sphere was overwhelmed by ardent media coverage; the verb disrupt was elbowing its way into vernacular prominence and had not yet become a cliché. Facebook’s IPO was not only record-setting but a flag in the ground, and the West Coast seemed a hopeful counternarrative in an otherwise flailing economy. Stories about Silicon Valley were imbued with a certain awe that, today, is starting to fade.

Since the genre’s takeoff in the late 1990s, during the first dot-com boom, writing about the tech industry has traditionally fallen into a few limited camps: buzzy and breathless blog posts pegged to product announcements, suspiciously redolent of press releases; technophobic and scolding accounts heralding the downfall of society via smartphone; dry business reporting; and lifestyle coverage zeroing in on the trappings, trends, and celebrities of the tech scene. In different ways, each neglects to examine the industry’s cultural clout and political economy. This tendency is shifting, as the line between “tech company” and “regular company” continues to blur (even Walmart has an innovation lab in the Bay Area). Founders and their publicists would have you believe that this is a world of pioneers and utopians, cowboy coders and hero programmers. But as tech becomes more pervasive, coverage that unquestioningly echoes the mythologizing impulse is falling out of fashion.

missing author 2 years, 8 months ago