I meant to capture something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I moved to the Bay Area in February: the tension between Silicon Valley’s impact on democracy and its utter lack of interest in or understanding of the institutions and systems of government its companies do business in. Silicon Valley isn’t on a bubble, it’s in a bubble.
Although she relies upon generalizations (which she acknowledges), Bracy makes some very good points here about the myopia of “Silicon Valley” and the bay area in general. Two quick thoughts:
Technology, despite a disappointing focus on widgets, continues to advance at an ever accelerating pace, while public policy lags. A few truly disruptive consumer-facing companies like Uber and Airbnb probably didn’t intend to push up against existing policy, but that’s ok. In fact, I prefer a model where a new technology creates consumer demand for new policies.
My point: you don’t have to set out to change public policy to positively impact it – technology’s rapid advance will continually bump up against our existing frameworks no matter what. By the way, Airbnb has a public policy blog.
We’ll move beyond Silicon Valley’s navel gaziness at some point. We’re still at the very early stages of the Internet. Still! We had a lot of fun a while back doing a project for World Bank HR in which we imagined what would happen when asphalt engineers or water sanitation engineers started blogging or using Twitter as a matter of course.
We’re still heavily skewed toward geeks building products that geeks use to do geeks stuff, but over time, the balance will tip more toward geeks building products that everyone uses to do everything. Generational shifts will change that.
Regarding products for everyone: I’m reminded that I saw a construction worker looking at his iPhone while holding up a stop/slow sign on the street the other day. Was he Instagramming about how authentic his job is? Remember: all the iPhones and Instagrams are the same.