Is Silicon Valley Morally Bankrupt?
Being a leading edge computing professional places you in a very privileged group. Not only do you have a deep understanding of the technology that drives the world, but you also have your choice of well-paid career options along with considerable autonomy and respect.
However, should the pursuit of innovation excuse you from complying with the laws of the land? The founder of transportation company Uber has been accused of behaving that way—in this case, ignoring existing regulations with innovation as the justification.
Indeed, the technological progress engendered by the tech industry seems to be accepted as an unmitigated good—one that excuses a fairly broad swath of potential shortcomings. As one example, planned obsolescence has long been a staple strategy, despite the environmental impact of manufacturing and discarding electronic hardware.
Yet much of the criticism around Apple's seven-month turnaround between the iPad 3 and iPad 4 centered not on the environmental or financial consequences of this shortened obsolescence cycle but on the perception that the expense of buying a trendy top-of-the-line device should entitle you to at least a year of feeling smug about owning the latest and greatest gadget on the market.
Marketing of electronic devices is increasingly shifting away from their utility and towards their emotional appeal. Your smartphone, not merely a communications device, has become a fashion statement—a change that promises to shorten turnaround cycles even more.
Companies large and small start out being very pro-user as they build a critical mass. Eventually, though, they seem to reach a tipping point where the good of the user takes a back seat to the company's need to make money.
Facebook's continued assault on the privacy of its users translates into more advertising revenue for the company, and it's easy to strongarm users into playing along when Facebook is the only game in town for many people's friend circles.
And Google, despite having the plucky mantra of "Don't Be Evil," seems to be acting increasingly badly in pursuing a stranglehold on more and more information—which again translates directly into more and more ad money.
What do you think? Is this kind of conduct something that's endemic to Silicon Valley or just the norm for how large corporations behave? As tech workers, what responsibility do we have to do something about it?