Tags: silicon valley*

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  1. There is an emerging global orthodoxy concerning the relation between society, technology and politics. We have called this orthodoxy “the Californian Ideology” in honour of the state where it originated. By naturalising and giving a technological proof to a libertarian political philosophy, and therefore foreclosing on alternative futures, the Californian Ideologues are able to assert that social and political debates about the future have now become meaningless.

    The paper was published by Mute magazine. Barbrook later summarized it as a "critique of dotcom neoliberalism." Like most important theories, the Californian Ideology is invoked more than it is read. Punctilious political documentarian Adam Curtis made a movie about it, titled "Love and Power."

    In their work, Barbrook and Cameron dissected the Valley's belief structure. The two predicted much of what has since come to pass: that the Californian Ideology would spread through media and markets and become the unofficial reigning doctrine of God's favorite industrial-technical power, the United States.



    Here's how important Barbrook and Cameron's paper was: twenty years after the paper was first published, Wired — which, again, was one of the targets of the critique — published a commemoration of the essay, written by none of other than science fiction legend Bruce Sterling. Sterling called the essay "the iconic text of the first wave of Net criticism." He continued:

    The internet might have fundamentally changed in the last two decades, but their demolition of the neoliberal orthodoxies of Silicon Valley remains shocking and provocative. They question the cult of the dot-com entrepreneur, challenging the theory of technological determinism and refuting the myths of American history. Denounced as the work of ‘looney lefties’ by Silicon Valley’s boosters when it first appeared, The Californian Ideology has since been vindicated by the corporate take-over of the Net and the exposure of the NSA’s mass surveillance programmes. . . . With the Californian Ideology growing stronger, the Net was celebrated as the mechanical perfection of neoliberal economics.

    Barbrook and Cameron's essential point is this: tech culture is right-wing economics covered over with a layer of hippie rhetoric. The term "neoliberalism" wasn't popularly known back then, but that's essentially what the Californian Ideology was: social progressivism joined with economic conservatism. By 1995, the Democratic Party was a neoliberal party. If you're wondering where corporate wokeness comes from, that's where. With a yearning to frustrate English teachers, the Boomers wanted to do well and to do good at the same time. The end result of Boomer-era neoliberalism is epitomized in the Fearless Girl statue: a feminist image on Wall Street . . . funded by a trading firm that underpays women. Wokeness in doctrine, brutality in practice.

    However, the Californian Ideology was far more radical, far stranger than Clintonian triangulation. It was a religious creed. Its central tenet was uncomplicated: the machines would fix everything.

    Groups exist, and decisions have to be made by those groups. Any group where decision-making processes are banned -- where there are no politics -- can't work. What ended up happening on the hippie farms was this: decision making was relegated to a few people. The communes fell apart, but the idea lived on. In time, the hippies joined up with the libertarians. They had two things in common: they believed in self-correcting systems, and they didn't like the government. And so Silicon Valley was born.

    It was paradoxical poetry that this marriage of optimism and convenience happened in California, as Barbrook and Cameron wrote:

    One of the weirdest things about the rightwards drift of the Californian Ideology is that the West Coast itself is a creation of the mixed economy. Government dollars were used to build the irrigation systems, highways, schools, universities and other infrastructural projects which makes the good life possible in California. On top of these public subsidies, the West Coast hi-tech industrial complex has been feasting off the fattest pork barrel in history for decades. . . . Although they were later commercialised, community media, “new age” spiritualism, surfing, health food, recreational drugs, pop music and many other forms of cultural heterodoxy all emerged from the decidedly non-commercial scenes based around university campuses, artists' communities and rural communes.

    The liberals made their compromise. The '60s had failed to bring about the millennium, but that was okay: computers would realize all of those ideals. For instance, it wasn't necessary to remove the concrete reality of patriarchy and white supremacy: once everybody was online, those differences wouldn't matter at all. So what if your town was gangrenous after the factory left? There would be a new job waiting for you online.
    https://www.salon.com/2018/04/01/the-religious-creed-of-silicon-valley
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  2. When we look at digital technology and platforms, it’s always instructive to remember that they exist to extract data. The longer you are on the platform, the more you produce and the more can be extracted from you. Polarization keys engagement, and engagement/attention are the what keep us on platforms. In the words of Tristan Harris, the former Google Design Ethicist, and one of the earliest SV folks to have the scales fall from his eyes, “What people don’t know about or see about Facebook is that polarization is built into the business model,” Harris told NBC News. “Polarization is profitable.”

    David Golumbia’s description of the scholarly concept of Cyberlibertarianism is useful here (emphasis mine) :

    In perhaps the most pointed form of cyberlibertarianism, computer expertise is seen as directly applicable to social questions. In The Cultural Logic of Computation, I argue that computational practices are intrinsically hierarchical and shaped by identification with power. To the extent that algorithmic forms of reason and social organization can be said to have an inherent politics, these have long been understood as compatible with political formations on the Right rather than the Left.

    So the cui bono of digital polarization are the wealthy, the powerful, the people with so much to gain promoting systems that maintain the status quo, despite the language of freedom, democratization, and community that are featured so prominently when people like Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg or Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey talk about technology. Digital technology in general, and platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter specifically, exist to promote polarization and maintain the existing concentration of power.

    To the extent that Silicon Valley is the seat of the technological power, it’s useful to note that the very ground of what we now call Silicon Valley is built on the foundation of segregating black and white workers. Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law talks about auto workers in 1950’s California:

    So in 1953 the company (Ford) announced it would close its Richmond plant and reestablish operations in a larger facility fifty miles south in Milpitas, a suburb of San Jose, rural at the time. (Milpitas is a part of what we now call Silicon Valley.)

    Because Milpitas had no apartments, and houses in the area were off limits to black workers—though their incomes and economic circumstances were like those of whites on the assembly line—African Americans at Ford had to choose between giving up their good industrial jobs , moving to apartments in a segregated neighborhood of San Jose, or enduring lengthy commutes between North Richmond and Milpitas.
    https://hypervisible.com/polarization/power-technology
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  3. The surge in homelessness has prompted at least 10 local governments along the West Coast to declare states of emergency, and cities from San Diego to Seattle are struggling to come up with immediate and long-range solutions.

    San Francisco is well-known for homeless tent encampments. But the homeless problem has now spread throughout Silicon Valley, where the disparity between the rich and everyone else is glaring.

    There is no firm estimate on the number of people who live in vehicles in Silicon Valley, but the problem is pervasive and apparent to anyone who sees RVs lining thoroughfares; not as visible are the cars tucked away at night in parking lots. Advocates for the homeless say it will only get worse unless more affordable housing is built.

    The median rent in the San Jose metro area is $3,500 a month, yet the median wage is $12 an hour in food service and $19 an hour in health care support, an amount that won’t even cover housing costs. The minimum annual salary needed to live comfortably in San Jose is $87,000, according to a study by personal finance website GoBankingRates.

    So dilapidated RVs line the eastern edge of Stanford University in Palo Alto, and officials in neighboring Mountain View have mapped out more than a dozen areas where campers tend to cluster, some of them about a mile from Google headquarters.

    On a recent evening, Benito Hernandez returned to a crammed RV in Mountain View after laying flagstones for a home in Atherton, where Zillow pegs the median value of a house at $6.5 million. He rents the RV for $1,000 a month and lives there with his pregnant wife and children.

    The family was evicted two years ago from an apartment where the rent kept going up, nearing $3,000 a month.
    https://apnews.com/9309128222ab4c4f92b0d0022e1ec133
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  4. When it comes to human beings — what motivates them, how they interact socially, to what end they organize politically — figures like Page and Zuckerberg know very little. Almost nothing, in fact. And that ignorance has enormous consequences for us all.
    http://theweek.com/articles/731764/genius-stupidity-silicon-valley
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  5. The point is not that making a world to accommodate oneself is bad, but that when one has as much power over the rest of the world as the tech sector does, over folks who don’t naturally share its worldview, then there is a risk of a strange imbalance. The tech world is predominantly male—very much so. Testosterone combined with a drive to eliminate as much interaction with real humans as possible—do the math, and there’s the future.

    We’ve gotten used to service personnel and staff who have no interest or participation in the businesses where they work. They have no incentive to make the products or the services better. This is a long legacy of the assembly line, standardising, franchising and other practices that increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s a small step then from a worker that doesn’t care to a robot. To consumers, it doesn’t seem like a big loss.

    Those who oversee the AI and robots will, not coincidentally, make a lot of money as this trend towards less human interaction continues and accelerates—as many of the products produced above are hugely and addictively convenient. Google, Facebook and other companies are powerful and yes, innovative, but the innovation curiously seems to have had an invisible trajectory. Our imaginations are constrained by who and what we are. We are biased in our drives, which in some ways is good, but maybe some diversity in what influences the world might be reasonable and may be beneficial to all.

    To repeat what I wrote above—humans are capricious, erratic, emotional, irrational and biased in what sometimes seem like counterproductive ways. I’d argue that though those might seem like liabilities, many of those attributes actually work in our favor. Many of our emotional responses have evolved over millennia, and they are based on the probability that our responses, often prodded by an emotion, will more likely than not offer the best way to deal with a situation.

    Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. Damasio concluded that though we think decision-making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

    With humans being somewhat unpredictable (well, until an algorithm completely removes that illusion), we get the benefit of surprises, happy accidents and unexpected connections and intuitions. Interaction, cooperation and collaboration with others multiplies those opportunities.

    We’re a social species—we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone. In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Harari claims this is what allowed us to be so successful. He also claims that this cooperation was often facilitated by a possibility to believe in “fictions” such as nations, money, religions and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions, or not yet anyway. That’s not to say they won’t surpass us, but if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock. If less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

    Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive.
    http://davidbyrne.com/journal/eliminating-the-human
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  6. Juicero is hilarious. But it also reflects a deeply unfunny truth about Silicon Valley, and our economy more broadly. Juicero is not, as its apologists at Vox claim, an anomaly in an otherwise innovative investment climate. On the contrary: it’s yet another example of how profoundly anti-innovation America has become. And the consequences couldn’t be more serious: the economy that produced Juicero is the same one that’s creating opioid addicts in Ohio, maiming auto workers in Alabama, and evicting families in Los Angeles.

    These phenomena might seem worlds apart, but they’re intimately connected. Innovation drives economic growth. It boosts productivity, making it possible to create more wealth with less labor. When economies don’t innovate, the result is stagnation, inequality, and the whole horizon of hopelessness that has come to define the lives of most working people today. Juicero isn’t just an entertaining bit of Silicon Valley stupidity. It’s the sign of a country committing economic suicide.

    At the root of the problem is the story we tell ourselves about innovation. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a lone genius disappears into a garage, preferably in Palo Alto, and emerges with an invention that changes the world. The engine of technological progress is the entrepreneur – the fast-moving, risk-loving, rule-breaking visionary in the mold of Steve Jobs.

    This story has been so widely repeated as to become a cliche. It’s also inaccurate. Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs typically make terrible innovators. Left to its own devices, the private sector is far more likely to impede technological progress than to advance it. That’s because real innovation is very expensive to produce
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...tion-silicon-valley-juicero?CMP=fb_gu
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  7. Danny Crichton writes at TechCrunch that startups in Silicon Valley run on an alchemy of ignorance and amnesia and that lying is a requisite and daily part of being a founder, the grease that keeps the startup flywheel running. Most startups fail. The vast, vast majority of startup employees will never exercise their options, let alone become millionaires while doing it. But founders have little choice as they sell their company to everyone, whether investors, employees, potential employees, or clients. "Founders have to tell the lie – that everything is fine, that a feature is going to launch even though the engineer for that feature hasn't been hired yet, that payroll will run even though the VC dollars are still nowhere on the horizon," writes Crichton. "For one of the most hyper-rational populations in the world, Silicon Valley runs off a myth about startup success, of the lowly founder conquering the world."
    https://techcrunch.com/2015/07/25/startups-and-the-big-lie/#.r3fic7:bO3Q
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  8. ora che alla Casa Bianca non c'è più Barack Obama la Silicon Valley trema. Con Donald Trump si è spezzata quella catena di comando che dai quartier generali californiani dei colossi del tech arrivava direttamente nelle stanze della Commissione o del Parlamento europeo attraverso la Casa Bianca e il Dipartimento di Stato. Una vera lobby di governo capace di difendere a spada tratta gli interessi della tecnologia a stelle e strisce. Ora i giganti come Apple, Google, Facebook o Amazon tremano. Se dai tempi di Mario Monti (nella veste di commissario europeo) e Microsoft l'Europa non ha evitato di colpirli, ora che sono del tutto privi di ombrello politico temono il peggio.

    La lobby della Silicon Valley con Trump è disarmata. I grandi amministratori delegati californiani sostenevano e finanziavano i democratici. Obama (loro grande sponsor) prima, Hillary Clinton poi. Basti pensare che Erich Schmidt di Google, tra i 140 uomini più ricchi del pianeta, ha fondato una startup che in campagna elettorale collaborava direttamente con la candidata democratica. Ora le relazioni tra l'industria tech e la Casa Bianca sono ai minimi. Vuoi per l'appartenenza politica dei suoi proprietari, vuoi perché la constituency di Trump - alla quale deve l'elezione nel nome dell'America First - è la grande industria manifatturiera come quella dell'auto.

    Dunque a Bruxelles sono finiti i tempi in cui i Ceo californiani erano in contatto diretto con la Casa Bianca che poi tramite il Dipartimento di Stato faceva arrivare le direttive direttamente alla rappresentanza americana presso l'Unione europea a Bruxelles. Dove agli ordini dell'allora ambasciatore Anthony L. Gardner lavoravano mano nella mano con i lobbisti della Silicon Valley per influenzare le decisioni della Commissione e del Parlamento europeo. A Bruxelles oltretutto gli Stati Uniti non hanno ancora nominato un nuovo rappresentante presso la Ue e prima che questo avvenga passeranno diversi mesi. Così gli addetti ai lavori raccontano che quel team di esperti agguerriti nel difendere gli interessi del tech si stia sfaldando: "Oggi lavoriamo senza indicazioni da Washington - racconta uno di loro - ci limitiamo a concentrarci sull'ordinaria amministrazione ".

    D'altra parte i rapporti tra Washington e Bruxelles dall'elezione di Trump sono ai minimi: basti pensare che il 25 maggio il presidente Usa sarà nella capitale europea per un vertice della Nato ma ad oggi non è prevista una bilaterale tra il tycoon newyorkese e il presidente della Commissione, Jean-Claude Juncker, che pure dietro le quinte si è dato da fare per organizzare l'incontro. Il che certo non aiuta le aziende americane che con la Commissione hanno a che fare ogni giorno.
    http://www.repubblica.it/economia/201...imasta_orfana_di_obama-164654121/?rss
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-05-05)
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  9. For a long time I told the same basic joke about Silicon Valley, just updating as some new walled garden network replicated long-existing technology in a format better able to attract VC cash and, presumably, get them ad dollars.

    2002, Friendster: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2003, Photobucket: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2003, Myspace: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2004, Flickr: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2004, Facebook: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2005, YouTube: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
    2006, Twitter: At last, a way to post text on the internet!
    2010, Instagram: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2013, Vine: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
    2013, YikYak: At last, a way to post text on the internet!

    You get the idea. An industry that never stops lauding itself for its creativity and innovation has built its own success mythology by endlessly repackaging the same banal functions that have existed for about as long as the Web.
    https://medium.com/@freddiedeboer/the...silicon-valley-horseshit-95cc5a85e8a4
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  10. At the end of the twentieth century, the long predicted convergence of the media, computing and telecommunications into hypermedia is finally happening. 2 » Once again, capitalism’s relentless drive to diversify and intensify the creative powers of human labour is on the verge of qualitatively transforming the way in which we work, play and live together. By integrating different technologies around common protocols, something is being created which is more than the sum of its parts. When the ability to produce and receive unlimited amounts of information in any form is combined with the reach of the global telephone networks, existing forms of work and leisure can be fundamentally transformed. New industries will be born and current stock market favourites will swept away. At such moments of profound social change, anyone who can offer a simple explanation of what is happening will be listened to with great interest. At this crucial juncture, a loose alliance of writers, hackers, capitalists and artists from the West Coast of the USA have succeeded in defining a heterogeneous orthodoxy for the coming information age: the Californian Ideology.

    This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley. Promoted in magazines, books, TV programmes, websites, newsgroups and Net conferences, the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. This amalgamation of opposites has been achieved through a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies. In the digital utopia, everybody will be both hip and rich. Not surprisingly, this optimistic vision of the future has been enthusiastically embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians across the USA. As usual, Europeans have not been slow in copying the latest fad from America. While a recent EU Commission report recommends following the Californian free market model for building the information superhighway, cutting-edge artists and academics eagerly imitate the post human philosophers of the West Coast’s Extropian cult. 3 » With no obvious rivals, the triumph of the Californian Ideology appears to be complete.

    The widespread appeal of these West Coast ideologues isn’t simply the result of their infectious optimism. Above all, they are passionate advocates of what appears to be an impeccably libertarian form of politics – they want information technologies to be used to create a new ‘Jeffersonian democracy’ where all individuals will be able to express themselves freely within cyberspace. 4 » However, by championing this seemingly admirable ideal, these techno-boosters are at the same time reproducing some of the most atavistic features of American society, especially those derived from the bitter legacy of slavery. Their utopian vision of California depends upon a wilful blindness towards the other – much less positive – features of life on the West Coast: racism, poverty and environmental degradation. 5 » Ironically, in the not too distant past, the intellectuals and artists of the Bay Area were passionately concerned about these issues.
    http://www.imaginaryfutures.net/2007/04/17/the-californian-ideology-2
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