Other Ten Percent 6/13/14

Jun 13 2014

Man I wish I had a topic for today. I kicked around a half dozen at various points today that got rejected either for not being interesting enough (who wants to read about what I’ve learned about Hawaii?!?!) or too negative (Let’s discuss congress for 2000 words) or for just being too weird (I wanted to write a really detailed account of an occult ritual that ended up being how they chose the plot of the new Transformers movie). In the end I never came up with anything so join me in the next paragraph where I start writing words and then stop when I reach a natural end or just get to like 500 words and give up.

So when I was going to write up a whole thing about how incurably fucked the startup scene has left the political situation in San Fancisco it was going to be centered around the work of start up millionaires and billionaires to rebrand giving their companies tax breaks and avoiding any regulation as a newer, sexier kind of libertarianism. Sometimes this is hilariously literal as in the two guys who got Rand Paul to come speak at their rally for “conservatarians.”

But much more often it’s a way of rebranding the singularity as a fundamentally conservative endeavor, as in the case of these tweets by Venture Capital emperor and living Pillsbury Doughboy Marc Andreessen. Eventually tech startups will usher in a future where has to work and nobody dies and we all just get to sit around thinking big thoughts in between jumping tall buildings in our sweet robot bodies so the job of government, the logic goes, is to get the fuck out of the way so we get there as soon as possible. Anybody the tech industry destroys should be taken care of by a social safety net in the interim.

As that Slate article points out the hole in this logic is that the tech industry has no interest in building a social safety net and in fact does everything in its power to avoid contributing to one. But more and more since reading it I’ve been fascinated by the idea of them NOT doing that kind of bullshit double think.

Imagine if Google spent half the time it’s currently spending figuring out how to make self-driving cars that don’t flip out every time it snows figuring out how to feed everybody on earth. It’s not like there’s not radical tech solutions here, 3D printing, drones and pretty much every other high-tech thing Silicon Valley can’t stop drooling over has tremendous implications for stopping homelessness, world hunger, disease and war. The problem, of course, is that disrupting those things has no buyer. Remaking the world’s financial markets to disrupt inequality COSTS money. So why bother?

I’m not wild about the idea of Google replacing the government for any number of reasons. For starters I’m not actually ready to give up on actual government just yet, but so long as GOOGLE is this enthused about the idea of making social services obsolete I wish they’d fucking get to it already.

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