Although Silicon Valley is considered one in every of the most prosperous, productive financial facilities on the planet, it’s arduous to think about a extra generic panorama. Wall Road, that different nice American financial hub, is located in the downtown of the densest, most bustling cultural middle in the United States. In distinction, a lot of Silicon Valley seems to be like all prosperous American suburb: Broad-set streets lined with deciduous timber, cookie-cutter tract homes, generic strip malls populated by company franchises, an anemic public transit system, huge parking tons and six-lane expressways. Native critic Rebecca Solnit as soon as wrote that “finding the landscape of Silicon Valley isn’t as easy as getting lost among the subdivisions and freeway exits and industrial parks.” Certainly, Silicon Valley is a superb place to boost a automotive.
Lots of the most beneficial tech corporations in the world squirrel themselves away in bland industrial parks, surrounded by asphalt and manicured timber — a far cry from the towering skyscrapers that home America’s industrial titans in cities like Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. This stretch of car-choked suburbia, extending from South San Francisco to Cupertino, is house to a few of the most celebrated whiz-kid capitalists of our era: Apple’s Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), Fb’s Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Web page, and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison all constructed their fortunes driving up and down the 101 freeway that runs alongside the axis of this area, whose epicenter sits, appropriately, at Stanford College.
When you’re acquainted with the billionaires listed above, you may discover one thing peculiar: most of them are white. And males. This isn’t random probability: Silicon Valley produces a variety of wealth, however the spoils are directed in the direction of those that resemble these individuals, culturally and ethnically; 70% of the tech business is male. At the 4 largest tech corporations, Hispanics and blacks solely make up 9% of the workforce. And all through the entire business, ladies are likely to make quite a bit lower than males: in reality, the gender pay hole in Silicon Valley is far worse than it’s in the nation at giant.
All tech corporations converse enthusiastically and sometimes about “diversity” and the want for variety, and but it appears perpetually as if the Valley’s variety drawback is incapable of being solved by a number of well-planned company initiatives. That’s as a result of there are historic causes for the composition and exclusion of sure castes of individuals in Silicon Valley, and these causes date again to when Northern California was first settled by Europeans.
We consider “technology” as one thing common, an idea related to all cultures and civilizations, however in reality that isn’t the case. It’s an concept—and a comparatively new concept at that, having not achieved its trendy which means till the Industrial Revolution. The phrase “technology” derives from the Greek “techne” — which means artwork or craftsmanship — and, true to its Greek origin, it’s a European idea.
These days, the concept of technology is tied a notion of progress: all of us take for granted that that technology exists on a scale of fixed enchancment and reinvention. We should forged apart previous applied sciences in favor of consuming new ones. These with higher technology are extra superior than these with lesser technology. Philosophers Jacques Ellul and Martin Heidegger described technology as a “cultural system that restructures the entire social world as an object of control.” In different phrases, technology just isn’t merely a constructed world of issues—a tool, or a bit of software program, or a cotton gin—however a system of considering, and one with the potential to take over, like an an infection. To paraphrase thinker Andrew Feenberg:[Technology] is characterised by an expansive dynamic which finally overtakes each pretechnological enclave and shapes the entire of social life. The instrumentalization of society is thus a future from which there isn’t a escape aside from retreat. Solely a return to custom or simplicity presents an alternative choice to the juggernaut of progress.
In the event you research the historical past of what’s now referred to as Silicon Valley, you possibly can see how this rings true. There was some extent in time, earlier than colonization, when the San Francisco Bay Space was dominated by a individuals with a lifestyle and philosophy that didn’t revolve round technology or technological enchancment. One may argue that the colonization of California by Europeans marked the first of many historic moments that the individuals of the Bay Space would bear a cultural “restructuring” to suit a technological doctrine.
5 hundred years in the past, this swath of Northern California was populated by the Ohlone peoples, about 10,000 of whom lived in the stretch of land that we name the San Francisco Bay Space. So wealthy in plant and animal life was this area that the Ohlone have been capable of survive with out farming or animal domestication; certainly, Western explorers, once they ultimately arrived, have been amazed at the amount of untamed animal life. The Ohlone lived off acorns from all the totally different kinds of oaks, blackberries and gooseberries, chia, shellfish, and the roots of many crops. They hunted squirrels, rabbits, elk, bear, whale, otter and seal. They didn’t “farm” in the Western sense of the phrase, although that they had a posh information of learn how to use managed burns to domesticate plant and animal meals sources.
Although they’re referred to as Ohlone now, at the time they didn’t consider themselves as a contiguous group: There have been at the least eight totally different languages between their small tribelets, every one spoken by a few thousand individuals. One may stroll twenty miles and be unable to know the native tongue. Their laissez-faire social relationships have been alien to the hierarchy-obsessed Spanish missionaries, who commented that “in their pagan state no superiority of any kind was recognized.” Likewise, the Ohlone lived in a communal society—which vaguely resembled a present financial system—that shocked the missionaries. “They give away all they have… [and] whoever reached their dwelling is at once offered the food they possess,” one missionary stated. There was no apparent type of authorities. Standing and competitors have been unimportant to the Ohlone; generosity and household have been. This led early missionaries, who have been topic to highly effective governments, to conclude that the Ohlone lived in “anarchy.”
The Ohlone peoples had a really totally different relationship with animals than the Europeans. Predators like foxes, bobcats, mountain lions and coyote have been plentiful, but coexisted peacefully with the Ohlone. “Animals seem to have lost their fear and become familiar with man,” stated Frederick William Beechey, an English captain. It has been advised that as the European colonizers brazenly hunted and killed straightforward recreation over a number of generations, animals tailored to the presence of gun-toting hunters and discovered to maintain their distance. “We take it entirely for granted that animals are naturally secretive and afraid of our presence,” wrote historian Malcolm Margolin, “but for [the Ohlone] who lived here before us, that was simply not the case.”
In the late 18th century, the newly-arriving Spanish shortly arrange missions in California, and commenced forcibly taking Ohlone topics into the missions — ostensibly to transform them. But the Ohlone have been held towards their will and compelled to labor for the Spanish, who separated women and men and lashed and hit them once they refused to behave as the missionaries happy. One firsthand account describes the Spanish missions as indistinguishable from slave plantations. In addition to violence towards the Ohlone, the missionaries introduced measles and different illnesses with them, which killed many Ohlone independently. Numerous epidemics in the 1790s killed lots of at Mission San Francisco and Mission Santa Clara. And over the course of the 19th century, the native inhabitants of California dropped from an estimated 310,000 to 100,000. This mirrors what was occurring in the remainder of North America: there have been an estimated 10 million American Indians dwelling “north of Mexico” when Columbus arrived, a quantity that ultimately fell to lower than a million.
As the Spanish established their Missions, additionally they imposed their technological beliefs on the land. By 1777, Mission Santa Clara (in present-day Santa Clara, California, now house to the Intel Company) had a farming and livestock operation that included pigs, chickens, goats, roosters, corn and wheat, principally non-native species. Regardless of re-shaping the panorama to their technological whims, the missionaries have been stunned at how the Ohlone continued to “nourish themselves” on acorns, trout, and different wild harvests. The Spanish didn’t perceive why the Ohlone didn’t have reverence for their “superior” techniques. “For one who has not seen it, it is impossible to form an idea of the attachment of these poor creatures for the forest,” wrote Basque missionary Fermín Francisco de Lasuén. “[Outside the Mission] they are without a roof, without shade, without food, without medicine, and without any help. Here they have all of these things to their heart’s content. Here the number who die is much less than there. They see all this, and yet they yearn for the forest.” It was unfathomable to missionaries like Lasuén that the Ohlone may want a world with out the inflexible hierarchies and controlling angle in the direction of nature that the Europeans possessed.
The variations between the Ohlone and the Spanish methods of life reveal the contradictions inherent to our present-day concept of “technology.” To borrow the Silicon Valley business-speak of at this time, who possessed extra superior technology? The Ohlone or the Spanish? Who was extra revolutionary? The deep information of the upkeep of the panorama, and the communal life loved by the Ohlone, meant that the Bay Space remained in a comparatively secure ecological state for a thousand years. The incursion of the colonizers disrupted this; they imposed their technological whims and their agricultural logic on the panorama and enslaved and exploited the Ohlone. You’ll be able to not survive in the Bay Space on acorns and wild trout and blackberries, as the Ohlone did; a lot of the plant and animal life has been extirpated to make means for Western civilization.
Therefore, the notion that the Spanish have been extra “advanced,” technologically-speaking, is debatable. As I write this in 2018, I’m reminded of a current information story a few newly-released shopper product referred to as the “Juicero.” The Juicero is a $400 juicer whose father or mother firm is backed by $120 million in funding capital, together with cash from Google. It’s a Wi-Fi–allow juicer that connects to the Web to tell you of your juice’s origin as you drink. Regardless of being referred to as a juicer, it doesn’t actually juice something; you’ll be able to’t drop a carrot, apple, or orange inside it. It may possibly solely make juice by wringing out proprietary, pre-sealed packages shipped by the firm to shoppers. A mini-scandal erupted after a Bloomberg reporter found that one might use one’s arms to wring juice out of the proprietary juice packs, and fill a glass with juice a lot quicker than the machine can. Shortly thereafter, the firm ran out of cash and shut down.
Human palms usually are not usually regarded as notably high-tech. However in this case, they have been, from a technological standpoint, superior to the $400 Juicero.
The Juicero saga attests to the undeniable fact that typically technology doesn’t make us extra superior, or clever, or make our lives higher or quicker in any respect. Typically it merely makes us depending on new, extra resource-intensive techniques, whereas casting apart these which might be incompatible with so-called financial logic.
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Excerpted with permission from “A People’s History of Silicon Valley: How the Tech Industry Exploits Workers, Erodes Privacy and Undermines Democracy,” by Keith A. Spencer, out there now from main booksellers. © 2018 Eyewear Publishing.
Keith A. Spencer
Keith A. Spencer is the cowl editor for Salon, and manages Salon’s science, tech and well being protection. His guide, “A People’s History of Silicon Valley: How the Tech Industry Exploits Workers, Erodes Privacy and Undermines Democracy,” was launched in 2018 from Eyewear Publishing. Comply with him on Twitter at @keithspencer.
Keith A. Spencer
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