Tech Boomers: Is the Motivation Data or Power?

September 14, 2022

I read an essay by the high profile writer / analyst / technologist Douglas Rushkoff. People love his approach. In “Douglas Rushkoff: Silicon Valley’s Elite Prize Data Over Reality, and It’s Hurting Us All,” the argument runs along this path:

  1. Use innovation to pop up a level or what gamers call “level up”
  2. Get data: Overt, covert, whatever and use math art history majors don’t know about
  3. Use analytic outputs to generate clever stuff
  4. Make or get money or more money
  5. Get big, bigger, and biggest whatever.

I think the idea threads through Mr. Rushkoff’s new book and is a component of his metaphor, “The Mindset.”

I am confident he is correct, well, mostly correct.

I think there are other, possibly more potent chemicals fueling the thinking of the tech boomers.

One of these is a desire to demonstrate that one can do whatever one wants. Whether it is the hoo haa or the “chaos monkeys,” the antics of programmers playing Foosball during the work day, or dying with a hooker after taking an opiate, one has to accept the thought process of really smart, very clever people. I call this the high school science club idea of how the world should and will work.

The second is more fundamental. The other chemical chugging through the tech boomer is a desire for power. The type of power that leads the big dog at Facebook Meta Whatever to be a leader who cannot be removed from office. A parallel exists at a certain online ad vendor which talks equality and diversity and then terminates those who are manifestations of diversity for thinking different thoughts. And there is a certain online bookstore which allows certain types of products flow from source to consumer without worrying too much about provenance. Then when a best seller pops up that online retailer dupes the products, cuts the price, and sallies forth.

What role does innovation play in these two digital chemicals addictive characteristic? I think it plays second or third violin. Innovation is not well understood. What people who are smart and clever grasp is the idea of doing what one wants and finding a way to gain power.

Does my view suggest a dark side to the tech boomers’ success? It depends upon whom one asks.

Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2022


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