We gotta stop deifying Silicon Valley

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Silicon Valley is basically this American generation’s Detroit. It’s a business hub, an economic engine, and the stuff we’re most proud of producing comes from there. We deify all the Silicon Valley bullshit. Fail fast. Break things. Venture capital.

But what if this is all leading us down the wrong path?

Let’s do this through a couple of quotes

First up: Chamath Palihapitiya, the founder of Social Capital (former exec-level dude at some tech firms). Try this one as he speaks to Stanford Business School students:

Yep. Let’s do one more while we’re here:

Could you imagine an executive having to present to a group and talk about “moderate growth?” Some of those guys would probably commit suicide before doing that. I’m not kidding.

The growth focus

Except for Apple and a host of companies, none of the money in Silicon Valley is real. It’s valuations and growth metrics. It’s what could be there, essentially. That “growth culture” — 10x! — is very associated with Silicon Valley. That’s not necessarily a good thing:

Also yes.

The jobs issue

Let me try to make this as clear as possible.

The culture of Silicon Valley is driven by engineers and people who generally seek efficiency in doing things.

That’s good.

But here’s what is bad: trying to create “friction-less” experiences usually involves removing humans.

That costs jobs.

The states that put Trump over the top? All states with high job loss. He spoke of jobs often.

The correlation is there.

Automation is going to cripple us because it occurs at this intersection:

Much of this “friction-less efficiency” is, in fact, driven by Silicon Valley (and other tech hubs).

I guffaw anytime I see someone say “Automation will create more value-add roles for humans.” No it won’t. Executives don’t think that way. If they did, wouldn’t we have more value-add roles now?

But tech is unavoidable, right?

For sure. You can go live in a cave if you want. Probably not wise.

But instead of deifying tech, we should think about tech.

  • What is this doing to us?
  • What’s the value here?
  • Is this the right model or path?
  • What are the repercussions?
  • Where is this taking us?
  • What does it mean for our people?

No one really seems to think this way.

Every job I’ve had, the whole deal is:

  • “People are complaining so I think this is a problem we need to address.”
  • “Let’s hear from some vendors but never let the people who do the work speak with the vendors.”
  • “We’ll now buy a solution.”
  • “Oh, no one wants to use it and it doesn’t fit with our systems? Oh well. Got some KPIs to focus on, can’t worry about that now!”

This is software becoming shelfware. It happens because we deify tech. We just assume tech will solve our problems. It’s not always true. You could actually argue it reversed some industries, i.e. recruiting.

The great irony of Silicon Valley’s future

The BMOC of Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, actually predicted its demise:

Look at some of the experiences in Jobs’ life:

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You think some bro coder trying to get acquired has “lived on an apple orchard?” No. He’s lived in a walkup in San Francisco working overnight on his “net promoter score disruption” app. The sameness of Silicon Valley — white, male, capitalist-driven — will eventually doom it. Detroit’s on the rise now, but it was a shit show for a long time. Same thing will happen to SV.

Now can we cease the deification for a second?

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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