Rage Against the Machine: The Tech "Backlash"

Image:  SouthPark/Comedy Central

Image:  SouthPark/Comedy Central

Well, here we are.  The golden children of American industry are being tongue-lashed by their very own tribe.  When Ben Smith and John Battelle start picking on tech companies, you know the tide is shifting.  So what’s the problem?

Automation, my dear friends.  Automation created by “elites” with educations. (It’s not bro-culture, BTW- that’s endemic in every stratum of society, and is probably a topic for another post.)   

I’ve been a member of the tech community my entire working life.  I can remember the days when developers were not rock stars - when we had to remind the guys (they were always guys) to bathe and wear shoes to the office, and sometimes put up with the fact that a few of the most gifted among them would only work at night, like vampires.  And quite a few of them were homegrown, an offshoot of the time when companies were cooked up in garages, not accelerators. 

But now developers drive nice cars (when they’re not riding their skateboards), wear cool clothes, and usually keep normal, if long, working hours.  And virtually all of them hold college degrees, because the business has gotten too big and too important.

My ever-beloved South Park actually took on the issue during its 21st-season debut last night:  Laid-off blue-collar workers with Confederate flags marching to protest Google, Amazon and Apple taking away their jobs. The solution:  have everyone throw out their Alexa and Google Home speakers and replace them with a laid-off worker.  (Spoiler: some of those workers found this demeaning.)

Obviously, South Park is about as politically incorrect as you can get.  But it’s also pretty much always on the nose with its skewering of our society.  And while their point last night was not really “tech backlash,” they inadvertently circled around what everyone fears:  people are being replaced with machines.  And the people inventing the machines have soft jobs and college degrees - and because of that, are obviously missing some core American values.  

But guess what?  This has been happening forever.  Our goal as a race seems to be to keep inventing new technology, continually upping the ante.  It’s core to our survival.  And each wave is vilified, from the steel industry, to railroads, to electricity … and now, data mining, e-commerce, and self-driving cars.  The perpetrators of these evils always start our as robber barons, before they morph into something gentler.  It’s just the tech industry’s time under the microscope. 

Keep bringing on the innovation, ladies and gentlemen.  This too shall pass. 


Creating Momentum for Your Project in the Age of Content Shock plus Where Should I Put My Digital Series?

Presentations from today's Digital Hollywood/Women in Film workshop.  (Sorry, Issuu embed not working for the second doc - here is the link.)