The Glorification/Glamorization of Technology Companies, Silicon Valley, and Tech Culture Has Got to Stop
I realize I am banging a drum that many other people, more competent and wise than myself have been beating for years but please can we stop now. The constant throwing up a little in my mouth every time I read the latest hagiographic profile of Google or Amazon or Apple or generic startup X with next greatest new thing is becoming too much to bear. I freely admit it, I like technology as much as the next person, I even sometimes feel genuine gratitude and amazement at all the things technology has accomplished. I even on occasion spend actually money to buy the latest tech product or use the newest and hippest Silicon Valley service. However as a practicing scientist I am continually disgusted at the way the media portray these things. I am even more dismayed at how the public seems to conflate these technologies and the culture that created them as the end product of scientific research or the scientific method applied to real life. This is simply not the case.
Certainly technology is based on scientific principles. One could even argue that the engineers and programmers who invent and develop these products and services are practicing a form of science. However these people are not scientists. They merely use the discoveries of science to build things that many people find useful and interesting. Unfortunately the technology culture has become infected with a disease some have called techno-utopianism. This highly contagious infection afflicts not only practioners in the tech field but has also spread to the ever growing gaggle of hangers-ons, wannabes, and plain ignorant masses of media that regularly write and report on this topic. It has even infected a large portion of the global population at large. Techno-Utopianism rests, to a large extent, on a fallacy. The belief that if something is “scientific” it must be good. Technology, just like science, is neither good nor bad. Unlike science however technology “markets” itself as only good. Genuine scientists recognize the potential for evil outcomes, the modern technologist never sees a downside. The news media and the average joe have been sold on this misconception. They might laugh at the newest tech product that fails miserably in the marketplace but they never question their belief in the inherent “rightness” of the effort involved to try. Because of this unwavering support any social ills that might be attributed to tech products or culture are dismissed as irrelevant or unimportant. The boorish behavior of Silicon Valley executives, the abysmal treatment of workers involved in the industry, the environmental impacts, all of these are ignored or minimized.
I could live with all of that. However when science and technology are conflated as two sides of the same coin I cannot remain silent. This association tarnishes all the good people who still believe in and practice true science. They spend their days, usually unremarked upon, searching for the truth. Looking to explain and describe the things that future technologist will use to invent the next new thing. They are not concerned with the opinions of focus groups or the market. Obviously this view of the working scientist is a highly idealized one. But I I have no doubt the same could not be said of the vast majority of Silicon Valley engineers or programmers.