One thing in particular troubles me lately, namely that computer people (myself included), and especially the Silicon Valley set (and I’ve worked with plenty of them), think that technology will save the world. Their technology will save the world. It’s the path to salvation. This isn’t a view that’s specific to the Valley, but technocracy is especially the culture there. And in Colorado Springs too.
Technocrats are true believers as radical as any terrorist. Robert McNamara was a technocrat, and see where that got us. Technocrats think that they’ll be able to fix climate change and send star-men to Mars in electric cars, but in the meantime they insist that you be patient and trust the data. Data’s never wrong. But they never talk about the interpretation or manipulation of data.
Technocrats think they’re smarter than everyone else. Granted, they’re smart. Certainly smarter than their tools in regulatory capture. Consider: Orrin Hatch, in all earnestness, asks Zuckerberg how Slavebook makes money. Harvard boy, with a smirk responds: “We run ads.” I’d smirk too. What a profoundly ignorant question.
The fact that someone at the apex of political power doesn’t appear to understand how a $40 billion company makes money is either laughable or deeply disturbing.
I manage a network of computers, a modest database, and various cloud services. For personal use I have a monster desktop at home, two notebooks and a few tablets. I’m a product of the technological revolution, and I’m deeply suspicious of technology.
In fact, western “democracies” in the global economic system are the products of powerful non-governmental entities which are decidedly non-democratic. Government intelligence agencies and big data corporations like Alphabet and Amazon wield incredible power through their technologies, and no one has the slightest idea how it’s being used. You’d think Snowden would have tipped us off. Sure the Russians do it. You don’t think anyone in Silicon Valley is doing it? Early 20th century fascists would have traded their testicles for the tools we have today.
We should be treating big data, and especially anyone involved in data collection, with the utmost suspicion. Facebook is a threat to our democracy as much as any Russian hacking operation.