Earlier tonight, I read something that I wrote on the Internet a few years ago. I won’t link to it. I regret it. It was an impulsive, not-very-coherent “wall of text” post on a message board. It disturbed me to read it and realize that I had written it.
The VC-funded tech industry, these days, swarms with talentless narcissists. In that world, you can find yourself face-to-face with raw evil– the kind that lacks form or purpose. It’s something that you don’t encounter in most industries– at least, not in the same way. That might be the most understated occupational hazard of that industry.
For a contrast, let’s talk about finance. There’s a lot of greed, but Wall Street isn’t evil. In finance, people don’t go out of their way to ruin each others’ lives and careers. That sort of vindictive behavior is common in Silicon Valley. For all the claptrap about creating new wealth, the attitude revealed by techie behavior is zero-sum at best and blindly malicious at its worst.
A managing director at a bank would never resort to physical violence over a blog post that was critical of his employer. I know venture capitalists who have. It’s not an uncommon thing in Silicon Valley.
If I had to guess the difference, it’s that financiers are honest about why they go to work. They do it for the money, and they’ll admit as much. Their industry is amoral and has a few bad actors, but most of them are decent, ethical people. The techies, on the other hand, think they’re such a gift to humanity that any wrong behavior can be justified in terms of some distant-future greater good (e.g. the Singularity) in which they’ve placed a bizarre pseudo-religious faith.
I spent a lot of time (and millions of words) trying to fix the tech industry. That’s why I blogged. I failed, of course. I didn’t make a dent. The corporate software industry is as scummy, socially harmful, and downright evil in 2017 as it was in 2011, when I started writing about it.
Also, you have to be careful about fighting evil. When you stare it down, face on, you risk going nuts for a while. Evil people operate safely in mental spaces that good people cannot tolerate without getting warped.
You can come back from it, of course, but it takes time. A lot of time, and it’s exhausting.