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Is Silicon Valley Morally Bankrupt and Toxic? 469

concealment sends this quote from a post about how the goals of many tech companies are at odds with what's good for consumers: "Since I've been out of the Silicon-Valley-centered tech industry, I've become increasingly convinced that it's morally bankrupt and essentially toxic to our society. Companies like Google and Facebook — in common with most public companies — have interests that are frequently in conflict with the well-being of — I was going to say their customers or their users, but I'll say 'people' in general, since it's wider than that. People who use their systems directly, people who don't — we're all affected by it, and although some of the outcomes are positive a disturbingly high number of them are negative: the erosion of privacy, of consumer rights, of the public domain and fair use, of meaningful connections between people and a sense of true community, of beauty and care taken in craftsmanship, of our very physical well-being. No amount of employee benefits or underfunded projects can counteract that. Over time, I've come to consider that this situation is irremediable, given our current capitalist system and all its inequalities. To fix it, we're going to need to work on social justice and rethinking how we live and work and relate to each other. Geek toys like self-driving cars and augmented reality sunglasses won't fix it. Social networks designed to identify you to corporations so they can sell you more stuff won't fix it. Better ad targeting or content matching algorithms definitely won't fix it."
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Is Silicon Valley Morally Bankrupt and Toxic?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:09PM (#41812343)

    Betteridge's law of headlines
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Betteridge's law of headlines is an adage that states:

      "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no". ...
    "The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bollocks, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it."'s_law_of_headlines []

    As for the article's content:

    A great discovery!
    The author has finally also found out that their customers are the advertising firms, their 'users' are the product they sell.
    Film at 11.

    The rest is some pseudo-socialist rant.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

    • by i_ate_god ( 899684 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:29PM (#41812529)

      er... positing a question on a discussion forum is a generally acceptable way of starting a discussion on said forum

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @09:00PM (#41812845)

      I think my subject line says it all. We need to make a headline out of that.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @09:01PM (#41812851) Journal
      ok fine, I'll rewrite the headline for you.

      Is Silicon Valley at all non-toxic and do they have any morals left?

      Fixed it for you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by s.petry ( 762400 )

        Have you ever been to Silicon Valley? I live here and can tell you that the answer is "no". SV is not like Detroit with 3 companies that make up the economy, it's pretty much everything you can think of dealing with technology. Why do you rate such a massive amount of technological knowledge on 2 companies in the valley? For instance, Rambus is here as well as every other company designing computer memory. All of the companies designing switching equipment are here also. That's right, Ericsson (former

        • by fearofcarpet ( 654438 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2012 @08:14AM (#41816309)

          Have you ever been to Silicon Valley? I live here and can tell you that the answer is "no". SV is not like Detroit with 3 companies that make up the economy, it's pretty much everything you can think of dealing with technology. Why do you rate such a massive amount of technological knowledge on 2 companies in the valley? For instance, Rambus is here as well as every other company designing computer memory. All of the companies designing switching equipment are here also. That's right, Ericsson (formerly Redback and Entrisphere also), Brocade, Cisco, AT&T are all here designing and building the switching equipment for your phones, PCs, servers, and more. Apple is here, as is Dell, HP, Oracle, IBM, and countless others that design and build everything from PDAs to massive servers. Yes, all designed and developed in SV as well as most of the software you use to run on them.

          Okay, piss and moan about Google's lack of morals. Why not also pay attention to the products and services they provide for "FREE" to cynical douche bags like the author of TFA? Don't like Google for their morals, simple answer is don't use their products and tell others the same. That's how the free market works you know, we have the power as consumers to either keep companies in business or put them under in time.

          And look, I'm as cynical as the rest (maybe more) when it comes to Government. You can check my post history if you have doubts. But companies are not the same (at least currently in the US) as the Government. People still have power in the market, but you have to be smart enough to use the power you have.

          So the answer again is "No", you obviously have no idea what Silicon Valley is or does to make such an ignorant argument. Come visit sometime, surprisingly most of the people you meet here are very courteous and helpful. I will warn you to keep the arrogant attitudes at home though, pricks are frowned upon here and it's a very big place.. easy to get lost if you get my meaning.

          Like my parents and three of my grandparents, I was born in "Silicon Valley." My family has had a front-row seat to the transformation of the South Bay from orchards to technology companies and I have watched the Silicon Valley culture completely takeover and displace the existing culture. If you happen to be in a profession that benefits from Silicon Valley, then good for you, you get to stick around and watch Silicon Valley subsume everything that was great about the Bay Area; that unique mix of red neck farmers, libertarian outdoorsmen, and hippies. Of course if, like my family, you happen to be blue collar and your sleepy little town lies within commuting distance of Cupertino or downtown SF then you get to watch rich assholes from out of state move in and buy every house in sight for ten times what its worth. They wait like vultures until someone who probably built their house when they came back from WWII drops dead and, when the children can't afford the taxes on the inflated real estate, they generously step in to buy the house, which they promptly tear down or remodel into a walled fortress. Your close-knit neighborhood, surrounded by oak trees and poppies where you used to wander with impunity..? Yah, that's now an up-scale area with high fences and manicured yards; everything else is an over-grown mess because everyone is too important to pitch in and trim back the brush on weekends.

          I remember when stores were still closed on Sundays in San Jose because they were all small, locally-owned businesses. There was a small, local grocery store near my grandparents' old house--which they were forced to sell when they retired because of the skyrocketing cost of living and property values--that I used to buy candy at after school. I visited a couple of years ago and was happy to see that it was still standing. I was, however, enraged to find that it had become a "specialty market," selling gluten free bullshit and $10 loaves of "artisan bread" to the owners of the expensive German car

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      Don't be so quick to dismiss it. I don't know about "morally bankrupt", but if you've ever smelled the air around northern San Jose or Milpitas, you'd readily believe it was toxic.

    • by arielCo ( 995647 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:27PM (#41813413)

      Ooh, I got one!

      Can any headline which ends in a question mark be answered by the word "no"?

      • Betteridges law states that the answer is no. To avoid the paradox forming I recommend putting your fingers in your ears and sing "la la la".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The rest is some pseudo-socialist rant. Move along, nothing to see here.

      I think that's a hand wave on your part. You're just slapping a label on the author's assertions and then jettisoning them without analyzing it and providing a reasoned response. The author is simply stating that every candle lights the darkness around it -- but it still casts a shadow. The question here is not whether Google (or any company, organization, or group) has done wrong, but whether the good outweighs the bad. And has it?

      Is the ability to search the internet using a proprietary algorithm and dat

      • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2012 @02:28AM (#41814837) Homepage Journal
        It is quite refreshing and thought-provoking to read such a comment on Slashot, of all places. I tend to wholeheartedly concur with girlintraining. My European vantage point must have something to do with that. No industry, when growing beyond a certain size, can go without regulation for a long time and still be governed by something that looks and smells like "ethics". The role of the state is NOT only to protect the weak - it is, also, a role to reign in the strong. We have known that since the Romans, more specifically since the attempts of more than one emperor to regulate the worst excesses in Roman economy ( Diocletian, most of all ). To ignore this is to deliberately let the lions' cage open, backstage in a circus full on unsuspecting public.
      • by Gordo_1 ( 256312 )

        Um, that's quite a block of text. I'm sure you make some valid arguments in there somewhere, but can I briefly bring attention to the words your fingers typed here:

        Is the ability to search the internet using a proprietary algorithm and database almost instantly worth the steady erosion of our privacy and corresponding loss of civil liberty? Our founding fathers made the vote anonymous for a reason -- and in that day and age, the right to peacefully assemble was also the right to anonymously assemble.

        I beg you to explain by what mechanism Google providing Internet search capabilities or any service for that matter -- services, I might add, that you may freely choose to use or not -- your right to privacy, anonymous voting, civil liberties and freedom of assembly have been eroded?

        Has Google unbeknownst to me, taken away free will?

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:13PM (#41812373) Homepage Journal

    then it will happen. Companies that survive do so by providing something that people want and something that people will pay for (sometimes the two are split, like Facebook).

    If other people don't want what you want, accept it, and don't blame Silicon Valley.

  • Is it broke? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by malakai ( 136531 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:14PM (#41812381) Journal

    Holy rant...

    To fix it, we're going to need to work on social justice and rethinking how we live and work and relate to each other. Geek toys like self-driving cars and augmented reality sunglasses won't fix it. Social networks designed to identify you to corporations so they can sell you more stuff won't fix it. Better ad targeting or content matching algorithms definitely won't fix it

    Here's another idea, it's not broke.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:16PM (#41812401)

    You were the one who wanted all this great content for free (as in beer). By "you", I mean the opinions expressed here on Slashdot, especially when the topic comes to copyrights and file sharing laws. Google and Facebook are doing things "the right way", by that reckoning, but yes there is the darker side of which you speak.

    How is Google supposed to pay 30,000 engineers, 1M rack-mounted x86 systems, and still hit their quarterly earnings and revenue targets? And the same for Facebook.

    Only Amazon has a traditional business model, but even they are leaders in mining content about their users as well as their traditional IP inventory.

    • by Firehed ( 942385 )

      I think the heart of it stems from the fact that even non-users are affected by this kind of thing - at least unless they go massively out of their way to avoid it. Look at the opposition and non-adoption of the DNT header, to actively* express that you do not want to be tracked by these companies. They just don't care about the human side of things if there's money to be made.

      But at the same time, it's like the banking crisis. In theory, a single business going under should only hurt its direct customers.

  • Short answer no, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:18PM (#41812413)
    Long answer yes, with a "but". They are no better nor worse then any other for profit venture. As soon as a company goes public, they are money making tools for the share holders.
    • by Ol Biscuitbarrel ( 1859702 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:28PM (#41812525)

      Well, I agree with the author. Tech is a malignant leech on society, unlike wholesome industries such as finance or insurance.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @09:26PM (#41813019) Homepage

        Well, I agree with the author. Tech is a malignant leech on society, unlike wholesome industries such as finance or insurance.

        You forgot the law industry. But in all honestly, sci-fi has shown us everything from tech utopias like Star Trek to tech dystopias like 1984 with omnipresent telescreens with hidden cameras and microphones - though I'm sure there's even "techier" dystopias. Don't get me wrong, technology is great progress but it's also great progress for those who want to surveillance and control other people. And the big difference from the past is that computers and robots are obedient to a fault, they'll never rebel, never refuse to carry out an order, never lead an insurrection no matter what rights they violate or atrocities they're commanded to commit. Here in Norway 2/3rds of the population no longer make any adjustment to their tax returns - the government already knows everything and will hand you a pre-filled tax statement that you check.

        Income tax? The company you work for report your income, unless you're self-employed. Own property? Bank accounts? Stocks? Car? Boat? Bought or sold any of those? All domestic registries report in and all linked to the same person id, you just need to report foreign holdings/transactions. Oh yes and marriage status and children, so you get your tax breaks. About 94% of all payments now happen electronically, somewhere between 50% and 60% of the population is on Facebook that we know stores everything indefinitely, there's electronic toll roads that read car signs and for regular travel most now have electronic tickets linked of course to your ATM card or your cell phone - that are all registered to a person, so even if you left your cell phone that everybody carries at home you're likely tracked somehow.

        Now I don't see any particular reason to want to overthrow the government, but I sure think it's going to get harder and harder to organize anything big without the government's knowledge - at least a government that doesn't care one bit about personal privacy like authoritarian regimes generally don't. I'm pretty sure the TV is just a TV though and not a two-way telescreen, but in pretty much every other way imaginable the government knows far more about me than they did as little as 20 years ago. And a lot of the things they don't log today, is only because the logging switch is set to off. If the watchdogs are silenced, it's as easy as flipping a switch and more data comes streaming in than ever before in history.

    • Most Silicon Valley companies aren't public, and are instead money making tools for the venture capitalists. Which is, if anything, worse.

      What this author is taking issue with is not this fact _per se_ but the unthinking embrace of anything new, revolutionary and 'disruptive' that comes out of Silicon Valley without any consideration of more humdrum, everyday concerns like law and order, privacy etc...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:18PM (#41812419)

    Let me tell you, if you want to see toxic check out Wall St. and it's satellites in NJ and CT. At least Silicon Valley creates cool shit that make people productive and/or entertained. Wall Street produces nothing, it just sucks value out of the economy and puts it in overseas tax shelters. it sounds to me like you're burned out from living in the center of a capitalist vortex. Take some time off and go live in Massachusetts or Oregon or something and decompress. I would kill to work at a place like Apple. I don't care if it means 90 hour weeks, you got something more important to do than develop the next generation of computing technology?

  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:19PM (#41812429)
    Looking back to what it was 25 years ago, much of what it was no longer exists. There's lots of vacant buildings, don't know why they are building more.
    • Looking back to what it was 25 years ago, much of what it was no longer exists. There's lots of vacant buildings, don't know why they are building more.

      Spot on. All the semiconductor manufacturing has gone to Asia, mainly Taiwan. Our CEO was always over there on business trips and is always coming back with stories about office parks the size of the city of Fremont being built left right and center over there. Still a fair bit of design work happening here though. Apple is probably the archetypal modern company. Most value is added at the design, sales and marketing ends of the process, and that all takes place in the valley. The dirty work of manufact

    • there are parts of san jose that are nearly ghost towns. acre after acre of FOR LEASE office / manufacturing buildings. but you are right, they keep building new stuff. i guess because no company wants to move into a depressing 1970's office.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:23PM (#41812465)

    Gee, I'd love to see a world where Intel, Dell, IBM, HP, TI and a host of other companies never existed. Yea, we'd be better off without GE, Ford, General Motors, Exxon and the like. Would not need any hackers in Silicon Valley, much less silicon. Just forget the transistor, integrated circuits or microprocessors ever existed.

    Capitalism may have it's flaws, but it is better than any previously tried system over the last 6,000 years of recorded history. Please let's not repeat any of them!

    • Gee, I'd love to see a world where Intel, Dell, IBM, HP, TI and a host of other companies never existed. Yea, we'd be better off without GE, Ford, General Motors, Exxon and the like. Would not need any hackers in Silicon Valley, much less silicon. Just forget the transistor, integrated circuits or microprocessors ever existed.

      Capitalism may have it's flaws, but it is better than any previously tried system over the last 6,000 years of recorded history. Please let's not repeat any of them!

      I'm with you all the way, except for your inclusion of Exxon. Some companies happen to bump shoulders with society by accident from time to time, but Exxon really is a nasty piece of work and I'm not just talking about the Exxon Valdez disgrace. Much of the global warming denial industry can be traced back to this one company.

    • by AdamWill ( 604569 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:54PM (#41812797) Homepage

      If you read the article, it's not about that at all. It's about _new_ Silicon Valley: the startup culture. This is massively different to the culture that existed when Intel, Dell, IBM, HP and TI were founded.

      Those companies are all fairly traditional companies in organization and goals. They were typical old-school American corporate structures built to achieve modern results. HP wasn't crowdfunded, hyped into a bubble and then pushed into an IPO to make the founders and a couple of venture capitalists into multi-millionaires. It was a long-term endeavour built around providing serious engineering for serious ends. It wasn't a get-rich-quick scheme.

      This article is more about the culture of quick-hit startups in Silicon Valley these days, which are built more around buzz, hype and marketing vapidity than they are around serious engineering or any kind of long-term planning. It's questioning the culture of founding a company around a cute idea with the aim of selling out in two years to become a millionaire. That is not what Hewlett and Packard were about. They built a company around engineering on the basis of a belief that they could provide a benefit over the long term.

      If anything I'd say the weakness of the article lies in its evidence, which isn't really sufficient. It has one useful and accurate case study - Uber - but it really needs more than that to talk about any kind of trend. I rather think, though, that if the author had tried, he could have come up with lots of other examples. Uber was a great case study, though. It's 'innovative' and 'disruptive'...where you read 'disruptive' to mean 'doesn't see the point in complying with regulations meant to ensure public safety'. There's a _reason_ taxi services are strongly licensed and regulated virtually the world over (and you probably wouldn't feel great taking a cab in a place where they aren't).

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @09:26PM (#41813017) Journal
      There is room for a criticism of capitalism that do not deny that it helped fund a lot of innovation. We all know the Tesla vs. Edison fight and we all know that nothing has been done to correct these mistakes.

      This is not because this system has allowed great things that it is exempt from any criticism or that alternatives can not exist. Half of the achievements of the 20th century was publicly funded, let's not forget about that. Corporation are not the only way to make things happen.

      Look at Bletchley park, look at the NASA. Look at the Bell Labs, which are an hybrid entity of public obligations and private funds and which invented Unix, C, and radioastronomy amongst other things.

      Great things can be done through capitalism, free entrepreneuship and competitions, but let's not assume that this is the only way.

      By the way, let's review the invention that you attribute to corporations :
      • Transistor : The wikipedia page on the history of the transistor proposes two first independent inventors, both working at public labs. The modern version of the transistor is attributed to the Bell Labs (which is not really a private entity : their work was public, and funded by private funds coming from a monopole negociated with the US government)
      • Microprocessors : The NASA seems to be attributed the creation of the first "microprocessor" : Apollo Guidance Computer
      • Integrated circuits : the first person to propose that worked in a public lab, the first to create a working prototype is disputable. Could be the Bell Labs (again)

      So be careful with the examples you choose and realize that the computer revolution started as a governmental effort to crack German code, continued in the US as a Navy project, was given its best tools by the Bell Labs, an entity whose structure would make most business angels cringe and that software development is now driven in big part by a bunch of OSS idealists that often work on it for free.

      Internet itself started as a university and military project. It was heavily funded by the government (Hello, M.Gore) before corporations could understand the interest of this thing. Afterwards, they tried very hard to break and control it, unsuccessfully. (Look at AOL, look at what MSN was supposed to be at first)

      I don't deny that capitalism or even corporatism can drive innovation, but if you want examples, computer science is not the best place to get them. The feeling I get is that groundbreaking innovations are usually publicly funded while incremental innovations are made by corporations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:23PM (#41812471)

    The era of socialism as it defined in the dictionary is dead in America. The idea of noblesse oblige, and societal responsibility are not only forgotten in minds of those who control the wealth in this country, but spit upon as if it were a curse. Too many Americans today feel that wealth redistribution by the state should be abolished, as they are quick to scapegoat the needy in light of this country's ills. It is this undercurrent of disregard for our fellow countrymen that is showing all over the place in the attitudes of the Haves, in today's politics and even something so basic as getting a job.

    America needs to wake the hell up and realise that helping each other, taking responsibility for one's actions, and working for the common good are the cornerstones of civilization. Throw them out, and all you will have is barbarity and all that implies.

  • by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:25PM (#41812485)

    Ehh, you're just now figuring that out?

  • by mschaffer ( 97223 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:26PM (#41812507)

    I thought that Silicon-Valley being "morally bankrupt and essentially toxic to our society" was self evident. But, why single out Silicon-Valley?

  • by kawabago ( 551139 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:27PM (#41812517)
    There is too much invested in the lifestyle we have now for society to change course to avoid catastrophe. People will continue doing the same things until collapse by economic, environmental or political forces impose change.
  • Feeling down?
    No help around?
    Burma Shave

  • by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:30PM (#41812535)

    Not that I seriously disagree with TFS, but... Since when is this tech news or stuff that matters?

    News at four! Business is focused on its own interest rather than on the public's good in corporate America! Read all about it on Slashdot!

    Seriously... This is the kind of stuff I'd expect to be reading on some political site, not on slashdot. I barely cope with the US political news and the US elections. (How about EU, Asia or Latin America political news for a change?) Wtf?

  • by TheInternetGuy ( 2006682 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:30PM (#41812537)
    I am not completely convinced of the points that the OP is trying to make. But any company has the interest of it's owner closest to heart. In a public company, the owners are the stock holders and stock holders usually wants continuous growth and year on year profit, which might not be what is best for the company an might not be what is best for the consumer/user.
    I once had the fortune to work for a very large international corporation that was entirely family owned, with no external stock holders. And I can tell you that the culture and mentality within that corporation was completely different compared to other workplaces I have been in.
    They were much more concerned with continuously building the value of the brand / family name, than to make profit for the share holders. If they were convinced something was the right thing to do, they would allow it to take time and money.
    So I would say the problem lays more in the way that companies are financed today, and the effects that has on their operations, than whether they are located in Silicon Valley or not.
  • No (Score:2, Informative)

    by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 )
    The answer? It's no. Just like it always is. []
    • by Rennt ( 582550 )

      Come on, mate. You can do better than unoriginal meme regurgitation.

      Besides, the question was posed by slashdot editors. The article headline is noticeably bereft of any questions.

  • by wisty ( 1335733 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:35PM (#41812607)

    Since when are self-driving cars a "geek toy"? Road safety is a huge thing. Unless you hate old people, the disabled, and people who are just unlucky, getting humans away from the steering wheel is going to be up there with curing cancer.

    • by VAElynx ( 2001046 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:43PM (#41812679)
      Never shall I sit my arse in a self-driving car. Bus? Fine, that's what I tend to prefer being a shitty driver. But not something that can be messed with as easily as these sort of control systems.
      Someone wise said this on slashdot earlier to the topic - Society can cope with serial killers, but parallel ones are a different cup of coffee entirely. Imagine the result of a software flaw or a malicious intervention where twenty cars do the same fucking stupid thing on an interstate highway. Sure, people fuck up all the time, but at least there, the probabilities of them doing so are fairly independant, and they can adapt to a messup better than software.
  • by tbird81 ( 946205 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:41PM (#41812661)

    Companies try to make money! How evil!

    Companies are meant to make money, that's how they pay their employees. As long as they're not using the law/government to take advantage (i.e. Apple) then there's nothing wrong with it.

    Money is not evil. It's usually the most greedy who complain about the wealth of others.

  • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:41PM (#41812667)

    >Better ad targeting or content matching algorithms definitely won't fix it

    Maybe not, but you have to admit that if you're going to be force-fed ads, ads for computer hardware & home automation gear are several orders of magnitude less annoying than ads for feminine hygiene products, diapers, payday loans, personal injury lawyers, and [Romney|Obama].

  • Yup, there are lots of morally bankrupt and toxic corporations. Limiting your critique to the high tech industry could cause you to think this is about technology vs human interactions or some made up arbitrary distinction. Clear your mind, feel the force, and examine your feelings: this issue is much broader than you suppose.

    People can be morally bankrupt and toxic. They can be greedy little shits. Usually they're either taught by society, or reigned in by societies laws, to be more ethical and bubbly and

  • In a word, YES! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by under_score ( 65824 ) <mishkin&berteig,com> on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:48PM (#41812727) Homepage

    I moved there in 1997 to work for the Lighthouse Design division of Sun Microsystems (formerly the division did NeXT software). As a mid-size city kid from the Canadian prairies, I was immediately struck by, not just the moral bankruptcy, but what I felt was literally a soul-destroying culture. I left soon after and only returned a couple times, each time having that impression confirmed.

    Here are some of the things I observed. Some are general to the United States and its form of capitalism, some (seem to be) specific to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley:

    1. Culture of guns and violence. Simply a belief that enough other people are "bad" that you must protect yourself and it would be okay to kill someone else to do that. There are lots of places in the world where that belief is not pervasive and they seem to be nicer places to live. It's kinda like the justice system is supposed to work: it's fairer if you presume innocence and that actually encourages people to behave nicely whereas if you presume guilt, people will live up to that expectation.

    2. Extreme Culture of Materialism. Money matters, and getting rich matters even more. The expression "F***-You Money" is a good indicator of this. I knew a few people who had their "F***-You Money" and they weren't enlightened... they were spoiled. It's like the "American Dream" taken to an unhealthy extreme. People were generally extremely busy and most friendly conversation was either about money, money other people make, technology, sex or drugs. Very little friendly conversation was about community, relationships, or the soul.

    3. A Bizarre Hypocrisy around Tolerance/Inclusion. San Francisco, in particular, was bad for this; blind to its own racism yet so proud that it was inclusive and tolerant. If you know the area, I only need say "East Palo Alto" (it's been a few years so maybe it's gentrified now) and you should be able to figure out what I mean. We tolerate all religions, all philosophies, all genders, all types of cultures... except the black and spanish folks in our midst who only work menial or retail service jobs. The real problem is that most people there were completely blind to what was blindingly obvious to me as an outsider.

    4. Pervasive, Persuasive Moral Bankruptcy. The longer I was there, the more I "got into" the culture. I've seen this happen to other friends from outside the area. It kills people's souls. Maybe not everyone... I'm sure there are some people who are shining examples of enlightenment... but I couldn't resist it, and I don't know anyone else who has (save one person). Of course, this is "normal" - we adjust to and eventually adopt the culture of our surroundings unless we actively work against it. I _was_ actively working against it and it still changed me to my own detriment.

    I believe that the organizations that are there (Google, Facebook, etc.) are not "to blame" as they are just participating in the culture and trying to be successful in that culture. (Or to be more accurate, the people in those organizations are doing this.) But anyone who has an idealistic bone in them will quickly have it gellified and unconsciously begin to give up that idealism for the much more flexible moral relativism and then eventually the outlook that, heck, capitalism isn't so bad after all! not realizing that the ideology in that area is beyond capitalism: it's imperial corporatist capitalism that cares only for growth, and at any human cost (just so long as it doesn't harm the bottom line).

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SQL Error ( 16383 )

      So what you're saying is that America is populated with people?

      • So what you're saying is nothing in his comment meant enough to reflect on, so you flicked it away with an "it's human nature" bromide? That's lazy, man. What he said bugged you. But maybe you just want to brush it off and move on. Ok.

    • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

      I can't speak to the rest of your points, but I found your first one incomprehensible:

      Simply a belief that enough other people are "bad" that you must protect yourself and it would be okay to kill someone else to do that.

      Were you to be attacked on the street one day, would you not protect yourself? Do you think poorly of those who have? Do you not believe in a right to life, let alone liberty and property? Or do you just not believe in "bad" people?

  • Not a Luddite screed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Josh Coalson ( 538042 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @08:51PM (#41812751) Homepage
    It's not just corporate greed; consumer greed fuels the race to the bottom of the price curve. Users apparently have no problem "paying" for a service with their and others' privacy or other intangibles as long as the service is free-as-in-beer. The whole vendor-customer structure has been inverted; Facebook's and Google's etc. users who might have been paying customers in a sane economy pay nothing so are now the product. Now half the "innovation" that happens in the valley is just new ways to get people's attention and sell them out to advertisers, and the more obvious a patent is, the more it's worth.

    I wonder if there could ever be a sane market again where you paid what a phone costs and got secure communication without being tracked, or paid for email with built in PGP and avoided getting spammed and having your email property of and stored by your provider forever, paid for a social networking service without having your life exposed or your face secretly scanned and sold to the government. I think those times are gone.
  • It's an airy concept devoid of any real meaning. It's has the flimsiest of justifications for its existence and every time I hear it I want to hit someone. It's a high-minded sounding renaming of whatever particular pet grievance the current user of the term has in mind at the moment. It's an attempt to avoid any real debate over the merits of the grievance by presenting a piece of the picture and appealing to someone's sense of fairness. It's dishonest, deceitful and doesn't belong in polite conversation. It's the race-baiting of the left.

    Otherwise, I completely agree with you. Silicon Valley is toxic and morally bankrupt. Just as bad in its way as Wall Street.

    The problem, as I see it, is the profit motive. Which is not exactly a problem precisely. It's when the profit becomes the goal instead of the reward.

    When you structure a business, you have to structure it so it makes financial sense, so it can support itself, so it can make money. Structuring it to extract the maximum possible value out of the system is counter-productive. With the right kinds of locks and business tricks you can keep anybody else from getting into your value stream at all. Microsoft is the king of this. Unfortunately this behavior is long-term toxic to the business ecosystem. And it's long-term toxic to the fabric of society.

    No, you should have a goal in your business that has nothing to do with money. The goal you have is the value you provide. Then think about how to get enough money out of the system to achieve that goal grow modestly and make you and your employees reasonably well-off. Your profit is your reward for doing something people value. It's not the goal.

    Of course, there are puzzles like Facebook. Facebook has never been profitable. They're greedy because they have no idea how to extract value. So any means is considered fair game because they're hungry. Which is a different (but related) kind of attitude problem.

    To me, the evil of Facebook is one of centralization. Whenever you have that kind of centralization you will get something that uses its control to the detriment of everybody else. It might not happen right away (aka Google), but it will inevitably happen. Centralization is a bug, never a feature.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2012 @09:05PM (#41812885)

    - Don't ever think a corporation does anything directly to benefit their customers.
    - Don't ever think a corporation does anything directly to benefit their internal employees.
    - Don't ever think a corporation does anything directly to benefit the "public"

    For corporations, everything is done in the name of profit. If it happens to benefit other parties, that's a side effect, not the intention. In most cases, it has to benefit other parties to make a profit, but by no means is original intention. The original intention is profit.

    AC states this as a fairly generalized statement. There are exceptions - corporations who fall outside this stereotype, private companies who are not necessarily interested in a profit, non-profits, etc. However, for most cases, don't delude yourself into thinking there was ever any true intention other than profit.

  • They started in the Nile River Valley. We should have killed them before they evolved into other rich people.
  • Earlier Silicon Valley tweeted:

    Duh, WINNING

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @09:11PM (#41812933)

    If you think we live in a capitalist society, think again.

  • Social media topped the list when /.ers were asked What tech would you un-invent? []

    I guess all the people complaining about the article forgot to vote in that particular poll.


  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @09:57PM (#41813229)
    It's a defective culture of sociopathy where every company sees both its customers and its employees as nothing but marks to be lied to exploited and shaken down for as much financial gain as possible.

    It's not a ding on SV, it's a report from the trenches in Sunnyvale and Mountain View. . This is how it is. No one trusts anyone and no one is trustworthy either. There is zero comroderie that doesn't blow over with the first sign of shifting political winds. IT's one of the most disgusting atmospheres imaginable.

    A few things I learned working here : corporations are like Darwinistic experiments in evolving and promoting sociopaths.
    I will never hire anyone who has been in a position of management with a corporation for years.
    I have no interest in incubators, VC or any of the other trappings of SV which are supposedly dedicated to helping entrepreneurs. Thanks. See ya.

    I will think long and hard about hiring anyone who has been an engineer in a large corporation for a prolonged period of time. Long and hard. Sorry.

    For having this much money, SV is basically a long series of yesteryear strip malls with very very very expensive houses most of which were built in the 50s and go for , oh, about 5-8 times their value elsewhere in the country, which is to say their actual worth.

  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Monday October 29, 2012 @10:11PM (#41813305) Homepage Journal

    Products and services are not forces of moral good. Moral good is a force for moral good. And as long as we're bashing capitalism, all those communist countries didn't for one second consider the well being of their captive populations. Did you know for example that there is not a single communist/socialist country which ever permitted trade unions?

  • by lennier1 ( 264730 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2012 @12:01AM (#41814033)

    The number of MBAs in the valley has probably reached critical mass.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2012 @12:31AM (#41814203) Homepage

    I can kind of live with the self-interest part. But the short-term orientation is killing us.

    One solution to that is to put back some of the old features which forced businesses to think longer-term. Longer lock-in periods for stock options. (That used to be 2 years; now it's 6 months or less) Taxing short-term capital gains at much higher rates than long-term gains. (Warren Buffet keeps mentioning this.) Bringing back Glass-Stegall, so commercial banks and investment companies are separate industries and trouble on the investment side can't take down the depository institutions. Bring back some of the old bank regulations which kept banks more local and tied to their own loans, so they don't make bad ones.

    More radically, tax dividends, interest paid, stock buybacks, and executive compensation at the same corporate tax rate. There's a bias in favor of debt in current tax law, and this fuels the "private equity" industry. Level that out, and companies will pay dividends rather than boost their stock.

    Make pension funds no longer "qualified investors", so they can't invest in hedge funds. Regulate hedge funds like other mutual funds. Don't allow traders to deduct short-term capital losses from capital gains, which would end high-speed trading.

    Give stockholders control over executive compensation. Not advisory votes, but each stockholder puts down the total compensation of the top 5 employees on the proxy, and the share-weighted median is used. Make voting rights pass through as far as the tax break does, so mutual funds and pension funds pass that decision through to their shareholders.

    Now that's financial conservatism and solid American values, circa the Eisenhower administration.

  • by MikShapi ( 681808 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2012 @01:00AM (#41814361) Journal

    See here: []

    Silicon valley solves problems. It may not solve the ones you want, but it solves many of them, and with cutthroat efficiency.
    Why? because it allows people to take risks with new ideas. I'd transport you 100 years back, or maybe 700 years, and let you try acting out new ideas back then.

    Some of them may be world-changing []. Others may be fart apps.
    But the important thing is that there are many, and there can be many, because the risk is not all worn by government or the taxpayer or some planning comittee of old farts who care more about their seat than about what they can use their power to fix. In Silicone Valley risk is worn by the people who consciously choose to take it.

    I find this "war" between people who want to fix the world and people who want to make money one of the dumbest ideas ever concocted.
    If you don't like east-coast MBA's being taught that money is the single important product of any business - good on you. neither do I. Money is a byproduct, albeit an important one. The real product of any organisation we build should be the awesome it creates, whatever that may be. If you agree - prove that old-school profit-over-everything MBA culture wrong. Go and DO something awesome.

    And why can't you do something awesome for the world AND make a killing?
    Money is important. If awesome organisations don't make money, if they don't have a built-in economic engine, it's like giving birth to a child without a heart, who will need to spend the rest of his life carrying around a life-support machine. I'd rather that life-support machine comes built in.

    Our societal life support machinery (charity, government funding) is limited and finicky. You want to build organisations that will die the second someone closes a tap? go ahead. I'd rather see us create things with the resilience of Google.

    You think Facebook and Google aren't awesome?
    Suggest you take your head out of your ass, because you can't perceive the change these technologies made to places elsewhere in the world, outside your nice comfy American bubble. Compare Hama, Syria - 30 years ago and today []. Compare India, China or Brazil back then and now. What do you think technology has done to these people? Given a lot of them more hope and dignity and prosperity than they every had in history.
    Recognize you are not alone in the world - there are 7 billion of us now. And things that were possible when there were 10 times less people may no longer be possible when there's this many vying for the same amount of resources. If your idea is going back - it's a bad one. If your idea is going somewhere new - stop bagging the existing system and start being very specific about how you want to make it better.

    Last, I sense a big disillusionment with "money". Money is not merely a vacation or a new plasma. It's not just a gold star. Money is power to change. Succeeding in Silicon Valley (and anywhere else in the world as an entrepreneur) is about convincing people of ideas and obtaining the resources to make what you can imagine happen. Money gives power to do that. You're not going to change anything by whinging or waxing ethical theories. You need to get off your bum, figure out a vision to do /something/ better, figure out how to connect a "power source" to that vision in the form of an economic engine so your idea isn't a public liability, and go build this organisation that does awesome.

    As a society we have a list of problems as long as the eyes can see. Quit wasting people's time by ranting. Society as it hangs together today is stacks better than anything else we ever tried. If there's things you don't like about it - start fixing them, or get the fuck out of the way of those that are doing just that.

    Yes, that's a dare.

  • by Casandro ( 751346 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2012 @01:53AM (#41814667)

    While in the past many companies there were actually headed by engineers who understood what they did, those companies are more and more headed by MBAs. They don't understand technology that's why they come up with business models like "renting e-Books". That's also why there is next to no progress in the mobile sector for example. And that's the reason why we still have to deal with horribly bad and insecure computer systems.

    Then again fewer and fewer people with technical skills want to work in the US, so the remaining companies will eventually have to move out in order to get workers.

  • by hutsell ( 1228828 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2012 @01:54AM (#41814669) Homepage

    This is the way it is with everything, the way it has always been and sadly, the way it will always be until we're genetically altered as a species to have an unquestioned hive mentality. It only seems unusual when one gets initially involved with a sense of excitement about their own dreams and plans, eventually realizing they were wrong for imagining it to be otherwise. Humanity operates politically as a political animal and has never been a meritocracy -- although it tries to be on occasion. The real challenge is to find a way to constantly improve something and allow everyone involved in the problem to buy into the decision making process. Anything else will only result in variations of the original complaint skewed with a different perspective.

    So what will you actually do? It has to actually be something.

    Speeches that allow you to feel proud about your comments are more about the pride and little about the (conveniently vague) idea. The idealistic rant is a classic condition of human nature. It's been done by everyone at one time or another and not unique to any time, place or culture. Stating the obvious while thinking others were unaware of the obvious and thinking they have become impressed with your enlightened insight is one aspect of what the Greeks meant by being sophomoric. After stating the obvious, you then "walk away" and leave it for someone else to resolve while feeling like a genius for somehow equating the stating of a problem with the offering of a solution.

    Personally, my beliefs presently lack the cynicism anyone may wrongly infer from this post and embrace a positive outcome for societies in the long run, maybe even close to what was explained in the summary. But that will occur only if there isn't suppression of communication or a suppression of disparate groups of people with differing opinions independently trying to work with each other to improve their condition, including a process that prevents one of those groups from becoming a monopoly; or a way to prevent a bunch of royal asshats wandering around with nothing to do except to question people's motives -- every time they pursue something they happily enjoy doing or find interesting -- explaining this is not in the best interest of society.

    The utopian scenarios I'm told I should pine for instead of pursuing personal happiness, never seem to really explain themselves well enough to prevent it from deteriorating into some one-size-fits-all master plan empowering a committee of well meaning self appointed leaders to decide what's best for everyone to do. Also, they tend to pay lip service to people's feedback (in the best case scenario -- usually, they disappear) and becoming an inhumane version of the original complaint in TFS. If you want to prevent it from happening, well ... then (cough) ... you should do something about it.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann