In Silicon Valley they think differently, and if that leads to arrogance, so be it. At least that’s what Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joel Stein implies in his long meditation on the area’s outlook on technology, money and changing the world.
For better or worse, technology is driving the area’s economy: Private pay and benefits are rising more quickly there than in any other major metropolitan area in the country, reports the Oakland Tribune. “The Bay Area has one of the strongest economies in the nation,” Christopher Thornberg, founding partner at Beacon Economics, told the newspaper.
Undoubtedly, you’ve read about the tempest in San Francisco recently, where urban activists are decrying the influx of highly paid tech professionals, who they argue are displacing residents suddenly unable to keep up with skyrocketing rents. The buses that shuttle workers from the city to Silicon Valley corporate campuses have come under attack, tech executives have had their homes picketed and industry luminaries have made some unfortunate remarks comparing the protests to Nazism.
Stein set out to examine the underlying notion that Silicon Valley’s and San Francisco’s tech entrepreneurs are feeding a backlash by being, in a word, jerks. His conclusion seems to be that they may well be jerks, but they’re misunderstood jerks. He doesn’t deny that there’s sexism and boorishness at play in the young tech community, but he sees the industry trying to make itself better. He sees a lot of egotism at work, too but, he observes, if you’re setting out to change the world, you’re probably going to need a big ego to do it.
And the truth is, Silicon Valley does have a record that lends itself to feeding egos. “More often than not, when the Valley’s startups brag that they’re doing what established corporations and government can’t, they’re right,” Stein observes. “While the government negotiates with car companies to tweak corporate average fuel economy standards, Elon Musk has made an electric roadster everyone wants.”
On top of that, it’s worth observing that no one’s trying to bring the world over to the Dark Side, either. HealthTap, a Palo Alto company that provides a video chat service between doctors and patients, essentially makes doing good a job requirement. “In the interview, if they don’t talk about wanting to do good and make a difference, we don’t hire them. No matter how good they are, that’s the end of the interview process,” Ron Gutman, the company’s founder, told Stein.
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