How Silicon Valley’s whiz-kids finally ran out of friends | John Naughton

The tech founders said they were not like the evil capitalists of old. We should have known better

Remember the time when tech companies were cool? So do I. Once upon a time, Silicon Valley was the jewel in the American crown, a magnet for high IQ – and predominately male – talent from all over the world. Palo Alto was the centre of what its more delusional inhabitants regarded as the Florence of Renaissance 2.0. Parents swelled with pride when their offspring landed a job with the Googles, Facebooks and Apples of that world, where they stood a sporting chance of becoming as rich as they might have done if they had joined Goldman Sachs or Lehman Brothers, but without the moral odium attendant on investment backing. I mean to say, where else could you be employed by a company to which every president, prime minister and aspirant politician craved an invitation? Where else could you be part of inventing the future?

But that was then and this is now. It’s taken an unconscionable length of time, but the tide of approbation has turned. Tech has suddenly lost its halo. Everywhere one looks, we find groups sharpening knives for a critique or an attack on big tech. In an interesting essay in the Atlantic, for example, the commentator Alexis Madrigal identifies no fewer than 15 different groups preparing ambushes. They include angry conservatives and progressive politicians, disillusioned tech luminaries, competition lawyers, privacy advocates, European regulators, mainstream media, scholarly critics, other corporations (telecoms firms, for example, plus Oracle and other business-software companies, for example), consumer-protection organisations and, last but not least, Chinese internet companies. With enemies like these, the US tech companies are suddenly discovering that they really need some friends.

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