Silicon Valley sells the world the idea that it wants to make things better. It exists, the rhetoric goes, not just to make products but to make progress. If that’s the case, it’s focusing on the wrong things.
“It’s distressing sometimes to see the amount of effort—not just human effort but also the rhetoric—to develop stuff that turns out to be apps or toys for rich people,” says SUNY Polytechnic Institute historian Andrew Russell, an outspoken critic of the cult of innovation . “Saying ‘We’re innovating and that is by default making a world a better place,’ and then patting yourself on the back and getting in your Tesla and driving to your seaside ranch is missing the point.”
The harm here isn’t just that Silicon Valley is trying to solve the wrong problem, which wastes brainpower and resources. The focus on innovating away death sets a cultural tone that directs attention from answers that might actually help, like infrastructure or education. Russell says kids deciding what they want to be when they grow up aspire to become like the titans in Silicon Valley—risking that they’ll grow up wanting to solve the wrong problems.