Tech writer and think-tank denizen Greene looks at what may be big tech’s greatest disruption of all: the disruption of the political order.
Do you want Amazon making health care decisions on your account, if not your behalf? It’s not far-fetched, writes the author. In the blink of an eye, even as power has shifted to the ultrawealthy, Silicon Valley’s cultural influence now extends far beyond technology as such. “Having taken over our lifestyles,” warns Greene, “they are vying for our healthcare, infrastructure, energy, space travel, education, and postal systems.” They’re not doing so out of altruistic intent, either; while some public good may be realized by education reform, for instance, there’s also a lot of money to be made in the game. The political power of tech corporations, more so than other kinds of companies, is amplified, Greene adds, by the fact that the current president seems so weak and hapless. But, as she asks, “is Silicon Valley the right replacement?” Perhaps it is, if in a roundabout way. Though what she calls the “PayPal mafia” is characterized by a profound lack of social engagement, with leaders like Peter Thiel spouting a kind of Ayn Rand–ian me-first-ism. Though the current crop of youngsters in the valley are white males “with a real blind spot towards issues of race and gender,” the vast number of young men and women coming along in Generation Z are different. As they enter the electorate and the workforce, this ethnically mixed, tolerant, “radically progressive” cohort is likely to shift politics and the culture leftward, meaning that in the near future, Silicon Valley may become a force for good—“or, at least, better than the current greying bunch burning the planet down.” In that light, reinventing government may turn out to be just the thing that’s needed.
A fascinating exercise in description, prescription, and prognosis that we’ll have a chance to field-test in the near future.