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I’ve lived in Silicon Valley for the last 20 years, and recent political and economic events have had me thinking about how Silicon Valley relates to the rest of the country — or rather how it doesn’t. With CEOs boldly proclaiming their primary goal is to beat a rival CEO to $10 billion in revenue, leading innovators talking about sending tourists to the moon, and Uber’s “win at all costs” mentality miring them in multiple scandals, I’ve been wondering if Silicon Valley has lost touch.
Long before boarding the Silicon Valley roller coaster, I grew up in Northern California’s other valley. One of the world’s largest agrarian economies in the world, the Central Valley was (and in many locations still is) a vast world of rice farms and almond orchards mixed with Sacramento’s state politics. Even as Silicon Valley’s influence expands, the Central Valley remains mostly blue-collar and conservative — a place I still consider home.
To be clear, Silicon Valley has a lot going for it. It’s the model that many industries around the world would like to emulate: one that embraces big ideas, innovation, and hard work being rewarded. The aspiration is greatness — not just in making money, but also in making the world a better place. The idea that you can “dream big” and find the right partners and innovators to bring those ideas to reality is our own modern and geeky version of the “American dream.”
However, due to a variety of factors, we have succumbed to Silicon Valley elitism. And that attitude is causing us to miss our chance to connect with Middle America and the rest of the world. Here’s why:
Silicon Valley has become too much like Wall Street
The mind-boggling cost of living, a lack of diversity in leadership positions, and men behaving badly makes more mainstream news these days than the latest and greatest products. Even worse, it seems there are no consequences for these actions. We aren’t learning from our mistakes. Tech culture has become too much like the Wall Street of the 1980s — a lucrative club for the well-connected elite. The win-at-all-cost mentality, where you will screw over your partners and even your colleagues to climb the ladder, has become too prevalent. Uber is just the latest example; before that Zenefits, Github, and many others have been publicly shamed. And, keep in mind, those are just the ones whose scandals…
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