Our overlords in Silicon Valley are certainly developing some pretty cool stuff, but we shouldn’t be looking at them with a starry twinkle in our eyes.
There’s a school of individuals who worship the ground that tech executives like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos walk on, who we can affectionately call “accelerationists.” Through rose-tinted glasses they praise the work of Tesla and Amazon, praying for the day where our lives are run entirely by artificial intelligence.
Accelerationism puts forward the idea that we should deepen, expand, and propel the technological processes of capitalism in order to push the system to its limits. This push would eventually cause the collapse of the system as we know it, leading either to the establishment of a radical new social and economic system, or the creation of a society where no holds barred techno-capitalism dominates our lives.
From an acclerationist’s point of view, tech industry heads are symbolic leaders for the future technocratic world. These Silicon Valley types, being at the forefront of new technological developments such as space travel and AI, are considered the harbingers of a new cybernetic future, one that will push humanity beyond its current limitations.
The issue with putting our faith in these technological figureheads is that the pendulum could swing either way; either the technology developed during intensified capitalism will be repurposed for egalitarian means, or it’ll be used to continue extracting capital, with only an elite few reaping the benefits. Given how the bigwigs of Silicon Valley have acted, I can say with certainty that the pendulum isn’t going to swing in the first direction.
Let’s take a look at the Elon Musk submarine fiasco. During the weeks leading up to the rescue of a Thai boys soccer team from a flooded tunnel, Musk was asked by one of his followers on Twitter to make something to help the rescue efforts. He brought a mini-submarine constructed from rocket parts, the fruits of his labour, to the caves, which sat unused while a diving team rescued the boys.
Vern Unsworth, the head of the diving team which rescued the soccer team stated that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” Musk responded as any sane person would, by calling him a “pedo” in a now-deleted tweet, causing an uproar on social media.
Given Musk’s conduct, do we really think that his development of advanced technology is motivated by egalitarian values? If anything, Musk’s focus has always been on shock value and PR stunts (remember when he launched his Tesla into space using a SpaceX rocket or released a consumer-grade flamethrower?). Musk claims that he wants to colonize Mars one day, but who will get priority to go on the expeditions?
If we want the pendulum to swing the other way, we need to find a way to ensure that Silicon Valley bros like Musk don’t get to dictate how the technology is used. They may claim to have the best interests of humanity in mind, but their ultimate goal seems to be corporate growth and domination. As such, they’re keeping the development of exciting new technologies restricted to narrow purposes. In order to move beyond the constraints of capitalism, we can’t let tech CEOs dictate what technological direction we should move in.