Homeless in the Shadow of Google

Take a look at this story from Bill Moyers about the population of homeless in Silicon Valley. Granted there are homeless in every community, but as the segment suggests, this region can be fairly described as a microcosm of the United States where wealth consolidation and the bifurcation of society remains a growing economic cancer.  As such, it seems like a great opportunity for those atop the hill in Digitopia to show us right in their own community how their innovations might fulfill some of their more idealistic promises.  Y’know, IRL.

The one-word answer for everything the masters of Web 2.0 want to do is “innovation.” From privacy invasions to copyright infringements to just about any responsibility society might presume to place on their shoulders, the response from this industry too often echoes the Robbert Barons of another era who would say, “You can’t stop progress,” while labor was being ground beneath its wheels.  How often are we treated to up-with-people messages about global enlightenment and egalitarianism through technology?  Meanwhile, the tented societies living in the shadows of Google, Facebook, et al symbolize the reality that at least some of of this so-called innovation is cannibalizing that which already exists and monetizing ephemera, while building little more than another way to sell an ad for products that fewer and fewer people can afford.

© 2013, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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7 comments

  • We’re going to ‘progress’ or ‘innovate’ our way back to
    Kings/Queens and peasants. It’s heartbreaking and it’s expanding to
    a neighborhood near you. *coming soon!* I volunteer at a nearby
    soup kitchen, and i see several neighbors that are/were hard
    working and reliable people filling the lines. I had wondered where
    they went after their house was foreclosed… i got my answer. All
    the while these mega millionaires are hiding their profits
    off-shore so they don’t have to pay any taxes. ” Google has dodged
    taxes on $24 billion. [ ’09-’11] ”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/microsoft-taxes-profits-offshore_n_1901398.html

  • History repeats, because the greedy rich, (there is a
    minority that aren’t) always think ‘THIS time, we’ll handle the
    peasants differently!’ But alas, another French Revolution-type
    imbroglio will occur, the Eric Schmitts of the world will face the
    guillotine (or it’s modern equivalent, again, at the hands of the
    peasants), and all will be well again….for awhile.;-) Good
    article! It should seem so obvious to most, but they seem to be
    sleeping through this one.

  • Idealistic? I’d question that, at least in the context you’re using it. Google, Facebook et al have never been ideologically neutral. They’re right-libertarian. Because the only solutions for issues to do with poverty are collectivist, they aren’t just uninterested in this kind of thing, they’re actively opposed to resolving it.

    • David Newhoff

      Agreed, Sam. I think more than a few of these guys believe they’re John Galt incarnate. To a certain extent, I’m calling the bluff. The PR message that justifies SV’s position on issues like copyright is that the big-picture, economic value of their industry more than outweighs any harm done by disrupting existing models. The message is always “innovation vs ______,” and I say you can’t call things innovation in the economic sense unless it seeds a good number of middle and working-class jobs.

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