Silicon Valley’s Giants Are Just Gilded Age Tycoons in Techno-Utopian Clothes

Silicon Valley’s biggest names—Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe—reached a settlement today in a contentious $3 billion anti-trust suit brought by workers who accused the tech giants of secretly colluding to not recruit each other’s employees. The workers won, but not much, receiving only a rumored $300 million, a small fraction of the billions the companies might have been forced to pay had they been found guilty in a trial verdict. The criminality that the case exposed in the boardrooms the tech giants, including from revered figures like Steve Jobs who comes off as especially ruthless, should not be jarring to anyone familiar with Silicon Valley. 

 It may shock much of the media, who have generally genuflected towards these companies, and much of the public, that has been hoodwinked into thinking the Valley oligarchs represent a better kind of plutocrat—but the truth is they are a lot like the old robber barons.

Starting in the 1980s, a mythology grew that the new tech entrepreneurs represented a new, progressive model that was not animated by conventional business thinking. In contrast to staid old east coast corporations, the new California firms were what futurist Alvin Toffler described as “third wave.” Often dressed in jeans, and not suits, they were seen as inherently less hierarchical and power-hungry as their industrial age predecessors.  

Silicon Valley executives were not just about making money, but were trying, as they famously claimed, to “change the world.” One popularizing enthusiast, MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte, even suggested that “digital technology” could turn into “a natural force drawing people into greater world harmony.”

This image has insulated the tech elite from the kind of opprobrium meted out to their rival capitalist icons in other, more traditional industries. In 2011, over 72 percent of Americans had positive feelings about the computer industry as opposed to a mere 30 percent for banking and 20 percent for oil and gas. Even during the occupy protests in 2012, few criticisms were hurled by the “screwed generation” at tech titans. Indeed, Steve Jobs, a .000001 per center worth $7 billion, the ferocious competitor who threatened “war” against Google if they did not cooperate in his wage fixing scheme, was openly mourned by protestors when news spread that he had passed away.

But the collusion case amply proves what has been clear to those watching the industry: greed and the desire to control drives tech entrepreneurs as much as any other business group. The Valley is great at talking progressive but not so much in practice. In the very place where private opposition to gay marriage is enough to get a tech executive fired, the big firms have shown a very weak record of hiring minorities and women. And not surprisingly, firms also are notoriously skittish about revealing their diversity data. A San Jose Mercury report found that the numbers of Hispanics and African Americans employees in Silicon Valley tech companies, already far below their percentage in the population, has actually been declining in recent years. Hispanics, roughly one quarter of the local labor force, account for barely five percent of those working at the Valley’s ten largest companies. The share of women working at the big tech companies - despite the rise of high profile figures in management—has also showed declines.   


Print this post

Do you like this post?

Showing 3 reactions

commented 2014-04-29 01:00:21 -0400 · Flag
Thomas writes:

Now we know one of the central drivers behind the H1B visa’s & the clamour to ‘raise the quota’s’, drive the cost down, just a slightly more polished version of the illegal alien syndrome for american enterprise drive those costs down, and Bohner the imbecile is annoyed that the conservatives won’t work with him on immigration reform, ‘yea right’

the absurdity of what goes on in broad daylight in this country is stupefying
-which is about the only thing that FB offers this planet, the stupidification of the general populace !
commented 2014-04-29 00:59:10 -0400 · Flag
B.P. writes:

These “Progressive” technodweebs are as obnoxiously hypocritical as their whore-brethren in D.C.
commented 2014-04-29 00:59:10 -0400 · Flag
B.P. writes:

These “Progressive” technodweebs are as obnoxiously hypocritical as their whore-brethren in D.C.