Article and image: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/08/26/silicon-valleys-crisis-of-conscience
I’ve had my eyes on this New Yorker article since it was published a few days ago. I’ve been reading it in chunks since ‘A Reporter at Large’ is a particularly long and dense type of New Yorker article. As I am finally done with it, I would like to comment on the importance of being aware that the tech world is controlled by humans. We all understand that our lives rely blindly on a small number of tech giants in Silicon Valley and other parts of the world, and that our information is being stored in order to keep the system going the way it is. What most people fail to grasp, however, is that this media empire is run by people that are just like us. It is run by parents, recent graduates, grandmas, widows, etc.
The author talks about a retreat in Big Sur called Esalen, where top executives from Silicon Valley are known to go spend their weekend in relaxation, reflecting on their impact on the world. The article points to the massive wave of discontent that has washed over tech people over the past couple of years “as people recognize that their conventional success isn’t necessarily making the world a better place.” Given that reality, there has been a lot of fuss about how the human side of tech giants manifests itself as technology becomes a threat to employees’ mindfulness. Through yoga practices, mental exercises, aimless social interaction, and other activities, a portion of the world’s most powerful people are treated almost like misunderstood artists trying to find themselves.
I find it really interesting to explore the inner workings of tech giants in reference to the human capital they hold, and seeing how their top executives deal with the major consequences of their work, be they good or bad. It intrigues me how easily people in power are able to accept headlines such as New York Magazine’s Trump Won Because of Facebook, and claims that the latter was fuelling the genocide in Myanmar. It is great to see how many employees revolt along with The Great Tech Backlash, and we can also look at another recent article from Wired on the Three years of misery inside Google to understand that better. At a time in which the technology industry is constantly targeted by governments and the rest of society, it is nice to see whether the people controlling it feel like heroes or villains.
One thought on “Silicon Valley Crisis of Conscience: Where Big Tech goes to ask big questions.”
Great article – I just read it the other day. I think you address the point of the piece. I would suggest everyone in “management” read it, because it just doesn’t apply to only media management. Along with strategy & operations that address the “business” side of media, organizational culture powerfully defines not only how people work, but why they work and how they cope with working.