Silicon City

I am reading this book. Excellent perspective if you work in tech and care about social impact. I remember reading The New New Thing by Michael Lewis back in 1999. I made the trek to Silicon Valley shortly afterward. The bubble had already burst. The year 2000 wasn’t a great year for tech, nor was 2009 when I moved back to the East Coast.

The year 2008 brought the change we could believe in (Barack Obama). Unfortunately, it didn’t benefit many outside of the tech and business communities. The economic roller coaster has been ascending since 2010 even after Hillary Clinton got trumped in 2016. It’s hard to forecast what will happen in 2019. Silicon City is about the here and now. The sun shines in San Francisco, but the roof is leaking. The social malaise from the digital divide has overtaken most neighborhoods. The author interviews a broad cross-section of dwellers in San Francisco. There’s a lot of buzz over craft beer but little action. Many folks have lost patience. Some are moving away like me.

This book portends what could go wrong when growth happens without empathetic leadership. Winners shouldn’t Take All in our cities. The same story is repeating itself in Seattle, Austin, Portland and so on. The algorithm for growth should benefit the community, not just a tiny fraction of the population.

One thing the book is trying to tease out is the impact of many of these technologies explicitly and then the byproduct of many of them unintentionally is to sort of disengage us from a sense of local connection and community that we, whether we know it or not, need to have for healthy communities and healthy cities. Absent a sense of connection to the man who is doing work alongside you, for you, or with you, or you are working for, it’s tough to keep a sense of a major urban city alive in America.

Cary McClelland