The Battle For Silicon Valley’s Soul

from The New Republic

Last year, as Big Tech drew comparisons to Big Tobacco, and the industry’s CEOs were hauled before Congress to explain why government propaganda and harassment had been allowed to continue unchecked on their platforms, Silicon Valley searched its conscience. At Google, employees urged the company to stop facilitating Chinese censorship and providing artificial intelligence for drone warfare. At Amazon and Salesforce, they tried to prevent ICE and Customs and Border Protection from usingtheir software. And across the field, workers called for safer workplaces, freedom from harassment, and better working conditions for the contractors, janitors, and food service employees who keep business running. Organizers were doing nothing if not disrupting Silicon Valley from the ground up.

This industry was built in part on the promise of creating a more just and democratic world. How do we make sense, then, of its collaboration with the forces working against democracy? Can it uphold Google’s original vow not to be evil? Can it ever exceed that goal? These four pieces reckon with how the rank and file are changing Big Tech, politically and culturally. Workers may not be able to institute reforms overnight, but as is becoming overwhelmingly apparent, they will hold these companies to task more strictly than any lawmakers are prepared to do.

More here.

8 Responses to The Battle For Silicon Valley’s Soul

  1. Richard Gudino February 15, 2019 at 11:39 am #

    I always thought that tech companies and any one that had to work under a big corporation was evil. That they would only care about their bottom line. That the employee and customer was only as valuable as the dollar sign assigned to their name. Silicon Valley has long been the US source for tech innovation, housing everyone from Apple Inc to Google. This is the frontier for tech innovation, my assumption would have been that these companies would have held conservative values, but instead fall further left. As cited by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation that now tech companies have reached the same level of influence as Tobacco and Oil companies have. Getting into major political issues and putting a stance on them. The Battle for Silicon Valley’s soul is essentially how is tech going to play a role in shaping the world politically? How will their influence change the course of our present history? So far based on the article the tech companies have provided ICE and military use of their tech. Their tech being the ones that allow the drones to operated and killing innocent lives in the process of killing one human being. This will tie back to just war theory and seeing if our ends will justify the means. Then there are the programs and software that allow ICE to track and organize their criminals and keep records of deported or captured illegal immigrants. Another thing that the tech companies like google are going to be standing up for are the fair and equal treatments of employees, ensuring that there is a good and safe work environment. I agree with the idea of a good working environment, but I can not back the idea of withholding tech from government entities that need them to operate. I hate that what’s going on with the immigration situation in America, the way that kids are being taken away from their kids and violating human rights. However, what these immigrants are doing is still illegal and there are laws that need to be upheld, I understand the situation my parents were illegal immigrants they understood the risk with trying to cross in this country illegally. That’s an idea people do not seem to get, it is still an illegal activity and people are aware of the risk if they get caught. This world just seems to becoming more complex, tech and innovation add to the complexity. Even with how our technology can be free of error in executing their program they are still an extension of humans. It goes back to the article by Fei Fei Li that our tech and code will be an extension of us, and humans are flawed. Which means that our world will always be flawed and we will never truly have a just Democratic country. We will have to do our best with what we have on hand.

  2. Jack F Comfort February 15, 2019 at 7:55 pm #

    As tech companies continue to expand and our knowledge about AI skyrockets, who know’s the capability they’ll have. This being said they will continue to gain more and more attention from other companies and even the U.S government. The U.S will try to take this knowledge of AI and try to use it for their own, using any tactic possible to extract the information. This will create a certain dilemma for not only the companies, but also for the U.S. Will the companies give up their information for what they think is the betterment of society and how far will the government go to get the information they desperately want?

  3. Raymond Wilkinson IV February 15, 2019 at 8:33 pm #

    This industry was built in part on the promise of creating a more just and democratic world. This quote taken from the excerpt plainly states the purpose of the world of technology and all the industries it encompasses. As advancements in technology grow and new gadgets and machines are invented the question of whether the industry still promises the same purpose arises. The article states “Last year, as Big Tech drew comparisons to Big Tobacco -At Google, employees urged the company to stop facilitating Chinese censorship and providing artificial intelligence for drone warfare. At Amazon and Salesforce, they tried to prevent ICE and Customs and Border Protection from using their software. And across the field, workers called for safer workplaces, freedom from harassment, and better working conditions” to me these descriptions of the big tech environment sound far from a more just and democratic world. These excerpts and statements from company workers shows the need for reform or change in big tech in order to keep the direction of the technology industry towards a more just and democratic world.

  4. Trent Gagnon February 15, 2019 at 9:22 pm #

    The “battle for silicon valley’s soul” is not so much a battle but really a question as to if a business wants to be profitable or inefficient. Some of the debate as to the morality of Google working on military drones or Amazon on border patrols is a battle of political beliefs. For those who see drone warfare as the solution to war as much as a means to war, Google opting not only to ignore the future of military technology and deny the massive monetary gains that would accompany such developments is immoral and insensible. For those who believe drone warfare will be the end of the world, then Google is selling out the world for their profits. Same goes for Amazon. Being paid to enhance the security of Americans homes and employment or ruining lives for money. None of these acts or atrocities against humanity, and any decision by a business not to take advantage of such opportunities would be ill-advised, to say the least, as in this capitalist society if Google were to pass on developing drone tech some other company certainly would be willing to help the US government out. It’s not so much a battle for their souls but a battle with up and coming organizations with a chance to swipe opportunities Google and Amazon are too moral to take advantage of.

  5. Kyle Stephens February 22, 2019 at 2:15 pm #

    Big tech companies in the silicon valley are the most important thing in America. I honestly don’t think there is any argument that can be made against it. Silicon Valley is where the future of the U.S. is. We are going into an increasingly technological world and I believe that calling out these companies to keep them in check as a great idea. We cat have these huge companies going off and doing whatever they please. They need to be kept in check by the government so there is no power struggle between companies or even eventually a struggle between one huge tech company and the U.S. government. I think the main problem with these companies is simply that they know who they are and they know they’re importance. These tech companies could easily cripple the U.S. by moving elsewhere where they could potentially have better success and support from those governments.
    These companies have to know that they overstepped with the allowance of government propaganda and slander on their websites. Especially when some of these companies have vows they made in congruence with the government to make the U.S. a better democratic society. Yet, they allow the people to make propaganda against the government. It is a poor business decision although not a bad move in terms of users sing your platform. This is because as a consumer we want to feel like we have all the power in any situation we are in. And, with these big companies allowing for people do things such as slander the government on their site, well people like that. We feel so powerful and it inspires innovation. In this case it may be the wrong type of innovation, but its still innovation. The sites are allowing people to meet others with the same views on politics etc. Essentially they are becoming breeding ground for antigovernment propaganda. So, I believe the government was absolutely in the right for calling out these companies and bringing them in front of congress. The U.S. is doing a good job of keeping these tech giants controlled, but also allowing for advances in technology that the U.S. desperately needs.

  6. Jon Sozer February 22, 2019 at 6:36 pm #

    Technology is what rules the world. Specifically in the United States, the state of the goods and services industry has skyrocketed in recent decades. The ability to provide better, more efficient service has become the hallmark of many companies, and too many companies rely on technology and the advancement thereof to try and stop.

    Silicon Valley is the home of some of the biggest companies in not only America, but the world. So, the question to ask is if what they are doing is right? Not right solely as in righteous, but right by their consumers, by the leading authorities, and by themselves. Are they making money from what they are doing, and are they doing so by taking advantage of others? Are they providing the services available to them to those that pay for it, or are they short changing their general demographics, with better services and technologies kept for special customers? Are they providing their services to those that would use them for the general wellbeing of others? The point I’m trying to make is: companies should be doing everything in their power in order to provide all they can to their customers, and to be able to make money and continue to grow. They shouldn’t restrict themselves in order to please their consumers, but they shouldn’t take their consumers for granted and build themselves up in the background. Technology is important, but societal matters are equally, if not more, important.

    In conclusion, I think that Silicon Valley should have a “soul”, but only until a certain extent. Limiting these companies to an egregious degree would only restrict the country’s – and the world’s- growth. Technology is a necessity in the modern day, and acting against that is a losing battle for whoever tries.

  7. Abdulrafay Amir March 7, 2019 at 10:32 am #

    This so-called fight for Silicon Valley is more so seeking to find the truth of whether or not a business intends to be productive or wasteful. A large part of the discussion in this short article discusses the quality of Google chipping away at military automatons or Amazon on fringe watches is a violation of political convictions. For the individuals who see ramble fighting as the answer for war as much as a way to war, Google selecting not exclusively to disregard the eventual fate of military innovation and deny the huge money related additions that would go with such improvements is shameless and unaware. For the individuals who trust ramble fighting will be the apocalypse, at that point Google is selling out the world for their benefits. Same goes for Amazon. Being paid to improve the security of Americans homes and work or demolishing lives for cash. None of these demonstrations or monstrosities against humankind, and any choice by a business not to exploit such open doors would be stupid, no doubt, as in this industrialist society if Google somehow managed to pass on creating ramble tech some other organization positively would help the US government out. It’s not so much a fight for their spirits but rather a fight with best in class associations with an opportunity to swipe openings Google and Amazon are too good to even consider taking a part in something so interesting as this situation.

  8. Trovonta Burgess March 7, 2019 at 11:52 pm #

    As the Silicon Valley is known for its technological and innovative creating headquarters, the issue was not so much focused on the dispute between companies but rather their knowledge and understanding of being up-to-date with what’s going on. Industry’s CEOs were asked questions to provide explanations on why certain things had been happening within them and possibly obtaining stricter guidelines on their platforms. Many well-known companies take part in the controversial discussion when it comes to politics and sometimes information gets misconstrued in translation. A result of this is having a misunderstanding between the two or having false information being releases about the company and their activities. Everyday exciting information is discovered about the future use of technology and AI and companies like Google or Amazon, have to be very selective with who they share their information with. Because that allowed the action of tampering or misuse of something to occur, like having to prevent certain governmental agencies from having access to certain software. This also coincides with the establishment of having employees feel safe in their primary working environment and eliminating any threats that can interfere with the daily operations of getting their jobs done.
    Silicon Valley was initially created for the development of the technology industry to gradually transform into something greater than what it was years ago. Thus, when collaborations like the one between Google and Amazon for example happen, it makes others wonder the motives behind them working together. As it is commonly known that corporations only do what in their best interest of “growing the company”, sometimes by any means necessary. Especially if they are rejecting or working against something that is vital for the upbuilding of society. Big tech has a lot to say and has a strong impact in the areas of politics, the media and cultivating change. Therefore, it is up to the workers ultimately to take a stand when something isn’t right and hold these companies on a more accountable than lawmakers are willing to do already. It is the responsibility of the workers and employees because they what supports and helps the company to grow and reach the new level of success that it encounters. Without employees, no work would be done and unfortunately, make it unable for big tech companies to make power moves.

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