|Twitter's rooftop garden which provides the tweeties with safe vegetables. In an effort to "call attention to corporate tax breaks and the tech company’s role in the San Francisco eviction crisis," a protest has been organised for outside Twitter headquarters on Thursday to coincide with the IPO (initial public offering) Photo: Twitter.
Last month the anti-government/ conservative Tea Party caucus of the
Republican Party, mainly comprising older whites living in so-called Red States
that receive the highest federal government transfers per capita, brought the
United States close to its first public debt default. Also in October, a
successful entrepreneur proposed that Silicon Valley disengage itself from
bureaucratic government hassle by establishing a type of techno-utopia that
again like the Tea Partiers' mindset, wants government à la carte - - Cold War
defense and space program demand was the genesis of Silicon Valley and today
it's messy politics that provides tech companies with a controlled flexible and
inexpensive Foxconn workforce of 1.5m in China. Farhad Manjoo in The Wall
Street Journal criticises the arrogance and says the "tech stars have sought to
declare the Valley the nation's leading center of power and to dismiss
non-techies as unimportant to the nation's future" while
losing "all humility about their place in the world."
Last July, Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and early financial backer of
Facebook, gave a $1m donation to the Tea Party-aligned Club for Growth. In 2012,
this interview with Francis Fukuyama, he did acknowledge the right's blind
spot on growing inequality in the US and said: "In the history of the modern
world, inequality has only been ended through communist revolution."
Last month we wrote on inequality in Silicon
Valley where the male-dominated tech elite has prospered while in recent decades
tech companies have shifted manufacturing and midlevel jobs overseas:
Women, African-Americans and Hispanics/ Latinos are
unwanted in Silicon Valley
Farhad Manjoo, who joined The Wall Street
Journal last September as a technology columnist from Slate, the online
magazine, writes that Balaji Srinivasan, a Stanford University lecturer and
co-founder of Counsyl, a
startup that scans the DNA of parents in 3% of all births in the United States,
wants a "peaceful exit" for Silicon Valley similar to his father's emigration
Srinivasan opened his Y Combinator startup school talk
(see video below) by asking is
the US the Microsoft of nations? He said Larry Page and
Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, were what Bill Gates feared when he
said in 1998 that two people in a garage working on something new was
Microsoft's biggest threat.
A government agency provided funds for the
development of the Google prototype at Stanford and the National Science
Foundation also funded Sergey Brin's graduate course at the university.
Srinivasan said the development of techno-utopian spaces
is dependent on exiting the current system instead of using one's
voice to reform from within, the very way Page and Brin decided to found their
search engine company to seek new ways to solve new problems.
Farhad Manjoo says in
his Journal piece:
idea seemed a more expansive version of Google chief executive Larry Page's call
for setting aside "a piece of the world" to try out controversial new
technologies, and investor Peter Thiel's "Seastead" movement, which aims to
launch tech-utopian island nations.
But there was something more significant about Mr. Srinivasan's talk than simply
a rehash of Silicon Valley's grievances. It was one of several recent episodes
in which tech stars have sought to declare the Valley the nation's leading
center of power and to dismiss non-techies as unimportant to the nation's
For instance, on "This Week in Start-Ups," a popular tech podcast, the venture
capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya recently argued that "it's becoming
excruciatingly, obviously clear to everyone else that where value is created is
no longer in New York; it's no longer in Washington; it's no longer in LA; it's
in San Francisco and the Bay Area."]
Manjoo met Srinivasan in Palo Alto and the latter
warned about a risk of a public reaction to robots taking over people's jobs and
therefore the need to be secure in the techno-utopia.
Manjoo said he found Srinivasan's thesis to be naive as the industry's own hype
is that technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, data mining and
ubiquitous networking are poised to usher in profound changes in how we all work
and live even though initially the technologies could cause enormous economic
and social hardships for lots of people.
Last Friday, Bill Gates in
an extensive interview with The Financial Times said he does not believe
that IT can solve a tangle of entrenched and interrelated problems that afflict
humanity’s most vulnerable: the spread of diseases in the developing world and
the poverty, lack of opportunity and despair they engender. “I certainly love
the IT thing,” he says. “But when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal
with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.”
In recent times, Mark Zuckerberg,
Facebook co-founder, outlined a plan for getting the world’s unconnected 5bn
people online, an effort the Facebook boss called “one
of the greatest challenges of our generation.”
The FT said when asked whether giving the
planet an internet connection is more important than finding a vaccination for
malaria, the co-founder of Microsoft and world’s second-richest man did not hide
his irritation: “As a priority? It’s a joke.”
The dreams of techno-utopias dovetails with
playing one country off against another and avoiding taxes on a massive scale.
The shakedowns are also costly
within the United States
The New York Times
reported last December that for local governments, incentives have become
the cost of doing business with almost every business. "The Times found that the
awards go to companies big and small, those gushing in profits and those sinking
in losses, American companies and foreign companies, and every industry
While workers are a vital ingredient in any business, yet companies and
government officials increasingly view the creation of jobs as an expense that
should be subsidised by taxpayers, private consultants and local officials said.
The NYT said that when Twitter threatened to
leave San Francisco in 2011, officials scrambled to assuage the company.
Twitter was not short on money — it soon received
a $300m investment from a Saudi prince and $800m from a private consortium. The
two received Twitter equity, but San Francisco got a different sort of deal.
The city exempted Twitter from what could total $22m in payroll taxes, and the
company agreed to stay put. The city estimates that Twitter’s workforce could
grow to 2,600 employees, although the company made no such promise."
Twitter also demanded that a police officer
should walk the pavement outside its new office.
Louise Story of the NYT wrote that while
the budgets of the public parks of the city were cut, the company’s plush new office
had a rooftop garden with great views and amenities. Enjoying the perks, one
employee sent out a tweet:
on Twitter’s new roof deck this morning as some dude served me smoothie shots. This is real life?"
US company profits per Irish employee at $970,000; Tax paid in
Ireland at $25,000
before trading began on the New York Stock Exchange, Nov 07, 2013:
Twitter's backstabbing founders set for IPO and firm valued at
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Farhad Manjoo discusses his take on Silicon Valley:
Balaji Srinivasan at Startup School 2013 on "Silicon Valley's Ultimate Exit"