classless techies

Is there a class war brewing in San Francisco, where the underclass rise up against the oppressive masters of technology, those sinister “techies” who would create a world without the unsightly poor?

The notion is flatly ridiculous – which is irrelevant to whether it will actually take root in the minds of ironically-named progressive advocates. The ridiculousness is not in the descriptive or predictive power (i.e. whether class conflict is here or will happen), but in the conceptual assumptions about what technology is and who comprise its class. Why have a class war against a class whose triumph would achieve all of your goals?

What is the end state of the triumph of technology? Consider the question in the context of the ultimate vision of, say, capitalism or socialism, democracy or theocracy, or any -ism or -acy you care to caricature: In a capitalist dream, only money matters; in a socialist one, the government provides for us all; we are all equal in a democracy and a perfect deity makes our lives perfect in a theocracy. So what does the world look like if all the wild dreams of technology come true?

It is a world where energy is endless, food is bountiful, transportation is instant, humanity is connected, information is universally accessible, life longevity is unprecedented – and all of these things are so inexpensive that it’s easier to call them “free.” Technology in its greatest ambition aims to make class irrelevant. Not nonexistent, but irrelevant – there may still be luxury, there might still be money, but the meaning of these things is entirely different when the poorest person on earth lives for a hundred years in full health. The poets and philosophers tell us that money isn’t everything, but action on that insight is available to only a very few who reach enlightenment. Technology’s implicit ideal is that everyone will have no concern higher than pondering the meaning of life.

So how can you have a class war against a class that aims to end class? Hating techies may be like hating lawyers – the stated goals of the profession are inarguably noble, its highest practitioners are indispensable to a just society, but the system is complex, widely misunderstood, rife with perverse outcomes, and plagued by bottom-feeders. The would-be techies who make trivial applications with inconsequential goals, who despoil the conversation with their attention-seeking rants – these are the ambulance chasers of the tech world. They are classless in a more literal sense.

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2 thoughts on “classless techies

  1. I liked this a lot. I think it’s easy to ignore the attacks against “techies” if you live in the rest of the US. (ie, “It’s not happening here” sentiment).

    Don’t you think that villanizing those folks (ie, techies) that make ALL our lives better feels a little like physics (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction)? It’s the pendulum -folks revolting against change – trying to slow it down. Ill-informed and misguided, but inevitable in America I fear.

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