The cultural implications of Silicon Valley - English

Big infatuation

By Juliane Mendelsohn29.10.2014Culture and Society

Like The Kardashians, Silicon Valley just isn’t part of the real world.

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Flickr/Alexander Baxevanis

It was about a year ago that I met Joe. Back when the Snowden leaks weren’t facts of life but truly haunted us. The political being the personal and all that jazz, I tried to explain to him how distraught I was, how distraught we were, and how we felt “we had lost fundamental freedoms that would never be returned”:http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/juliane-mendelsohn/7577-britain-and-the-snowden-revelations. “I can see where you’re going with this,” he said, trying to be diplomatic, “but I don’t share your fears”. “Then again,” he continued, “I do come from the valley.” As the evening continued and the beers kept following, he repeated this several times: “Then again, I actually do come from the valley” (…) “Then again, I have actually worked for Google.” I am acquainted with people not sharing my views or my fears, but this was truly heartbreaking.

Totally cool with it

Is it normal to not be concerned with massive personal infringements and the loss of privacy? And is it normal to consider “Big Data” a fair and triumphant trade-off for getting free stuff?

If you’re totally cool with it, then maybe this is due to a mental ailment, a type of romantic and blinding state usually referred to as infatuation. Like watching “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” for 12 hours straight and then wanting to be Kourtney Kardashian. A comfortable past time you can all too easily fall into as a member of a lonely society that doesn’t know how to better spend its free time. But it’s not normal.

It is also not normal to consider it progressive or wonderful to lock your employees away in their offices – even if they have swimming pools and golf courses. To have your CEO tell employees “how to love their children and how to be women”:http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/juliane-mendelsohn/8134-a-new-model-for-female-emancipation. Or to have your employers play such a large role in your private life that they systematically “support your sex changes”:http://www.advocate.com/business/2011/11/22/google-transgender-gold-standard and the “freezing of your eggs”:http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/dessislava-kirova/9163-the-false-promises-of-social-freezing. I know that on the other side of the street the Kardashians do this on television. But they are not part of the real world, nor is Silicon Valley. In the real world these things should be considered private, strictly private.

T-shirt-wearing, humble-acting, fruitarian tech-kids

I admit the harm is limited if you restrict it to the geniuses of Silicon Valley. They are not being “driven to suicide and unhappiness”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn_suicides like the people who actually produce the Apple products. Of course, those T-shirt wearing (admittedly, I wear T-shirts too), humble-acting, fruitarian tech-kids with their Colgate smiles can do whatever they want with their lives.

It is about our infatuation with them and a culture that is created which doesn’t only demand absolute dedication to the brand or company but also accepts and welcomes full transparency of every aspect of our lives for the cause of this Tech enlightenment.

Remember when we thought the Bret Easton Ellis-style Wall Street was a magical place, filled only with really smart guys who could defy the laws of common sense and had completely eliminated financial risks? Remember how that led to a culture of greed and destruction that catapulted us into a monster of a financial crisis? Remember how outraged and appalled we were and how Alan Greenspan apologized to the public?

Loss of individuality

Well, the same is going to happen here. Unless you’re willing to throw away the stuff they give you for free, live like a hermit, and learn encryption, we are going to lose our individuality and all of our personal freedoms “one Whatsapp message”:http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/juliane-mendelsohn/8050-consequences-of-facebooks-whatsapp-deal and “Facebook post at time”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/10/23/snowden-filmmaker-laura-poitras-facebook-is-a-gift-to-intelligence-agencies/. And all this for a brief little romantic infatuation?

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