Silicon Valley's long-standing connections to the U.S. government
Information technology is crushing humans, and humanity. We are slaves to the machines that control our lives.
That’s the conclusion of Scottish philosopher Alistair Duff, who serves as professor of information society and policy at Edinburgh Napier University. In a February 25, 2016, interview with the Atlantic’s Kaveh Waddell, Duff states that the information age is characterized by “massive inequality” that creates “master-slave relations.” Google and other tech firms are abusing intellectual-property protections and “are playing fast and loose in the name of copyright, all in the name of progress.”
“Progress” is a word fraught with peril in the technology sphere. Duff claims that the ideals of a technology utopia dominated by leisure pursuits and bereft of want are corrupted by “the subordination of people to a technological imperative.” In particular, Duff bristles at the anti-statism he encounters in Silicon Valley – the concept that government is inherently evil. He points out that the U.S. Defense Department was the driving force – and funding source – from Silicon Valley’s inception in the 1950s and 1960s. Military and government remain active participants in nearly all technology development.
Duff claims that the biggest mistake the tech elite make is worshiping at the altar of liberty, and in the process disallowing and denigrating the concept of justice:
“The ultimate value is not liberty: It is justice. Liberty has to fit within the context of social justice. And where it violates justice, I’m afraid justice trumps liberty.”
What Apple CEO Tim Cook is doing in rejecting the FBI’s order to unlock the iPhone used by the murderers in the San Bernardino attack on December 2, 2015, is a misguided attempt to “trump justice with liberty,” according to Duff.
A call for a publicly owned “fellowship of the net”
There’s no denying the value of social networks in bringing people together, but the Achilles heel of commercial social networks is their need to sell private information about their community members to make a profit. Duff claims the “libertarian, winner-takes-all model pioneered in Silicon Valley” is ultimately inhumane. The “new generation” of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs treats people like computer servers, according to Duff. The leaders expect people to be on 24/7/365 and to have no separation between their work and private lives.
When the industrial revolution arose in the 19th century, it took decades for the “socialist movement” to “humanize the factory system, tame industrialization, and make sure it was steered in the direction of human welfare.” Similarly, the process of humanizing the information revolution is just beginning, and it will require the participation of the government, whether directly or indirectly (probably some of both).
Without the support and funding of the U.S. government, there would be no Silicon Valley. Without the participation of the public to ensure information technology serves all of humanity and not just the technology elite, there will be no justice.