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Silicon Valley?s inequality machine: a conversation with Anand Giridharadas

The Elite Charade of Changing the World

Humanist HubAnand
Goldman Sachs
Justin Rosenstein of Asana
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Greg Epstein
Neil Postman
Anand Giridharadas
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Michael S. Schwartz
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Jeff Bezos
Patrick Nouhailler
Mark Zuckerberg


Silicon Valley

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As Epstein writes:In 2018 I joined MIT in addition to my role at Harvard, and the experience of becoming a chaplain at what is officially a technology institute inspired me to reorient much of my work toward helping people think about and create ethical lives in a technological world.I’ve essentially moved from studying religion to studying tech, and it’s a surprisingly natural transition. I don’t think anybody would say, “I feel shortchanged in the absolute level of new shit in this age.” I’m not sure what age you would preferred to have lived in. But if you go to many, many societies, including the one you and I live in, but many others, and you ask people, “What about progress?”, which is most people’s lives getting better, in my definition, I think it would also be hard to deny that many, if not most people, in certainly the advanced countries, will tell you, “No. I haven’t experienced much progress, and I do feel shortchanged on that score.”And so, if you start with the premise of how is it that we live in an age of tremendous innovation, and for so many people, so little progress, the answer is the winners of our age have cornered the fruits of innovation, so that they fail to translate into progress.And, at the heart of what I’m trying to establish with the book, is how they have then turned around, and in response to this exclusion, and the anger it generates, sought to pass themselves off as change agents who can fix the problem that they are complicit in causing, and who can fight the fire that they helped set.This is not the first generation of ultra rich people in history to seek to justify their own rule, but they’ve found a particularly ingenious way to do it, which is to seek to be the solution to the problem that they are still actively working to cause.Greg: What do you say to the folks who would say it’s not just new shit, as you put it so well, but that all the new shit, even if there is more inequality, adds up to a better quality of life for everybody? The average twelfth grader tests more poorly in reading today, than in 1992.If you think about all the new tests, going back to that medical example, all the new diagnostics, all the new genetic work that has been done, it really actually requires a tremendous amount of rigging to have all of that go into one end of the machine, and have a decline in life expectancy come out of the other.That’s not a natural occurrence. The win-win religion holds that if you do anything that has any cost, significant cost, for the winners of our age, you will only be hurting the most powerless among us.Greg: I’m fascinated by the way you speak of win-win-ism as a religion — in the book you also talk about how high-powered consultants at places like McKinsey subscribe to a ‘religion of facts.’ And in a profile piece on Justin Rosenstein of Asana, you portray him sitting around a table in Silicon Valley, talking about community and saying a secular grace. I don’t think it’s possible to look at the world right now, and objectively say what they continue to say, which is that them being in charge, these technologies being in charge, rich people doing more of what they have been doing, it’s gonna save us. I think Zuckerberg genuinely feels, and I have sort of come to understand this from people who know him, and understand how he thinks, that journalists asking him questions, or regulators pushing back, are essentially deferring his emancipation of the world. I love people in finance, because no one in finance has ever tried to convince me that they’re not in finance, or they’re not motivated by finance.I have never ever in my life had a meeting, or an interview with someone in finance who is like, “Well, our business is really about inspiring connection through money in our communities.”Greg: I have actually had that exact meeting, by the way.Anand: That’s kind of amazing.

As said here by Greg Epstein