If you’ve paid attention to the news in the last decade, you’ve probably noticed a negative turn in sentiment towards the tech industry, sometimes called the tech “backlash.” Ask people what caused this backlash, and you’ll likely hear about how the unchecked spread of misinformation on tech platforms caused regulators to step in, triggering a public reckoning with tech’s impact on the world and its moral legitimacy as an industry. I’ve personally never resonated with this story; it simply doesn’t match my experience working in tech.
It was extremely disturbing to not find a single mention of the links between EA and longtermism, tech billionaires constant disregard of anything that is not "hardcore" enough (social sciences? any philosophy that is not Ayn Rand?), the ongoing mental health crisis created by hyperoptimized engagement algorithms (which Americans only started to take seriously when TikTok got popular, even though Meta is guilty of it as well), the tiring empty promises of types like Elon Musk (monorail, life on Mars, "free speech" on Twitter), the massive IP robbery that large text and image datasets constitute, and in general all the legitimate reasons why tech is getting its well deserved backslash.
Some of it has been used by the current elites through traditional media to shape public opinion? Well, could be. But some of these are not mischaracterizations: they are terrible facts, and tech elites must own the consequences.
Thanks for the essay. It's a real and deepening schism and the term "counterelite" seems apt. I hope your term catches on, because it captures some of the contradictions in the movement. (It's definitely better than TESCREAL.)
But I think you're setting out the divisions in a way that's a little too friendly to the counterelite and their way of looking at the world. The counterelite see a vast conspiracy of institutional mediocrities holding us all back. But, is there anything that a16z has done in the past two years worthy of their own "it's time to build" essay? Axie Infinity? Few software people seem to be able to make the jump into the physical science innovations that we need today, no matter how interested. (Exception: Elon Musk).
You're expressing the counterelite ideology as one where "ambition" is the engine that saves the world. To be honest, I'm not sure that's accurate. The ideology of the counterelite is that not that innovation is good for everyone, it's that the individual innovator is all that matters. They openly dehumanize people who simply aren't part of their culture, calling them NPCs. Many embrace eugenics and see the withering of democracy as an actively good thing. They also embrace UBI, but not as a way to achieve economic justice or invest in the future; it's just a way to placate and distract the hordes of their inferiors.
Perhaps part of the backlash is that only white men and several Indian/Asian-American men apparently make up the world view and dominate perspectives. Zero Black people, zero Hispanics and two women (both referenced as wife of). How is that a relevant swath of society?
Which part of the essay describes the "tech values", and the "battle" between them?
I tried to glean all that from the article but got lost in the "elites" being out to get us and each other and how the "mainstream media" (what's that? honest question!) is out to help them do this.
(Harbingers of conspiracy theories: persistent references to "elites" and "mainstream media". Unless you research conspiracy theories, perhaps qualify and substantiate those references really well?)
Best of luck.