The Prodigal Techbro

"It's a teleportation machine, but for ethics."

The Prodigal Tech Bro is a similar story, about tech executives who experience a sort of religious awakening. They suddenly see their former employers as toxic, and reinvent themselves as experts on taming the tech giants. They were lost and are now found. They are warmly welcomed home to the center of our discourse with invitations to write opeds for major newspapers, for think tank funding, book deals and TED talks. These guys -- and yes, they are all guys -- are generally thoughtful and well-meaning, and I wish them well. But I question why they seize so much attention and are awarded scarce resources, and why they're given not just a second chance, but also the mantle of moral and expert authority. [...]

Today, when the tide of public opinion on Big Tech is finally turning, the brothers (and sisters) who worked hard in the field all those years aren't even invited to the party. No fattened calf for you, my all but unemployable tech activist. The moral hazard is clear; why would anyone do the right thing from the beginning when they can take the money, have their fun, and then, when the wind changes, convert their status and relative wealth into special pleading and a whole new career? [...]

The prodigal tech bro doesn't want structural change. He is reassurance, not revolution. He's invested in the status quo, if we can only restore the founders' purity of intent. Sure, we got some things wrong, he says, but that's because we were over-optimistic / moved too fast / have a growth mindset. Just put the engineers back in charge / refocus on the original mission / get marketing out of the c-suite. Government "needs to step up", but just enough to level the playing field / tweak the incentives. Because the prodigal techbro is a moderate, centrist, regular guy. Dammit, he's a Democrat. Those others who said years ago what he's telling you right now? They're troublemakers, disgruntled outsiders obsessed with scandal and grievance. He gets why you ignored them. Hey, he did, too. He knows you want to fix this stuff. But it's complicated. It needs nuance. He knows you'll listen to him. Dude, he's just like you...

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8 Responses:

  1. It's amazing how close those excuses are to what the marxist and socialist movements have been crying about their failed experiments.

  2. Lloyd says:

    and hasn't the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation done a lot of good for the world?

    • margaret says:

      i work in "silicon valley" and thankfully live far away. i was told the schools in the area were great thanks to rich parents that donate to the schools. the schools just across the city line in east palo alto, not so much. not that the kids are any less bright or deserving of a "rich" education. relying on a few beneficial oligarchs to keep the system afloat sucks ass. our current failing experiment is taking us right back to serfdom.

    • NT says:

      Or the DNA Lounge, also a gift to the world from a programmer turned technology critic.

      • JJK says:

        Heh... hmmm, needs a catchy byline similar to "The Prodigal Techbro".

        How about... "The Pundit Publican"?

        ... runs, ducks for cover ...

    • jwz says:

      Get your "whataboutism" out of here. Billionaires do what's good for billionaires. Full stop.

  3. Eric says:

    This sounds like what happened with Gavin Belson with his "tethics" pledge in the last season of Silicon Valley.

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