Why Silicon Valley’s ‘Attitude’ Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

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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.

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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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3 Responses to “Why Silicon Valley’s ‘Attitude’ Isn’t Such a Bad Thing”

  1. Gerald Kelly

    How many of these people will really change the world with their work? Most of it will be forgotten in a year or two, a lot of me-too mobile/social-media/shopping apps. This isn’t arrogance, it’s cluelessness

  2. Steve Kress

    Just because they are not doing ‘BAD’ , it does not necessarily follow that they are doing ‘ Good’. What they are doing is perpetuating the segregation that has occurred in all boom towns, only worse. They are not improving the transportation infrastructure, they are going around it. They had to be forced to pay for their use of existing bus stations which are part of the commonweal. They have instituted the tyranny of the commons. Since it is a shared resource, they feel they can consume it at will, without regard for the other shareholders.

    They do not integrate into the community and make it stronger, they bulldoze it over and make it theirs. It is not unreasonable for the existing residents to feel conquered rather than part of a growing community. Put it into the perspective of the British during WWII. The Yanks were over-fed, over-sexed and over-here. Now the new yanks are well paid, specially treated and starting to assume that they are entitled.

    Sure they are growing, but are they making the communities any better?