The Googilded Age
I used to be in love with San Francisco. Growing up as I did in the East Bay, a trip to The City was nothing short of a magickal adventure in my teens.
During college I stayed close to home, and went to SF State University where I patched together a decent education amidst soul crushing budget cuts. As the University struggled the tech industry blossomed during the Dot Com bubble.
The nature of The City began to change then, but when the crash came the changes seemed to roll back. It wasn't until Web 2.0 started in earnest that we realized the changes were bone deep.
Activists tried to warn us in the 90s that the funkiness of SOMA's nightclub scene would be replaced with Live-Work lofts. That The City would become a bedroom community for Silicon Valley. I don't think they envisioned just how radical the changes would be.
It's not just the Google busses. Those are practically cosmetic changes. There's a soul sickness in San Francisco now, and it looks a lot like the rich people who take to Twitter to complain about their "ride share" drivers not keeping their mouths shut while they shuttle them from VC meeting to VC meeting.
The Princes of the Valley have co-opted the langugae of techno-utopia (e.g. "sharing economy") to construct a new class of servants. They claim that they want to empower workers to monetize their spare capacity, but it seems what they're really into is the idea that there is a vast pool of human spare parts that can take care of the minutia that gets in the way of an aristocratic lifestyle.
Not every Tech entrepreneur is a power-hungry sociopath, but the ones that are see the ones who are not as obstacles to be removed. Those of us who don't hold stock are just collateral damage waiting to happen.
This month the Royal Bazaar of Silicon Valley, TechCrunch Disrupt, awarded it's highest honor to a service which promises butlers for just $99 a month.
The service is called Alfred, perhaps because the Princes of Silicon Valley see themselves as Bruce Wayne. That it they knew Disney would have their souls rewarded to them in court if they dared to call it Jarvis.
This is the Princes' vision for us: disposable servants.
I used to be in love with San Francisco, now I can barely stand the sight of her.