It’s not just its own technology that Silicon Valley has become afraid of — it’s human beings. In tech as in politics, there’s always been an unbreakable bond between negative views of human nature and authoritarian ideologies. If you believe human beings are fundamentally stupid, weak, and corruptible, you’ll be far less inclined to grant them liberty — after all, they’ll only misuse it.
That’s how Silicon Valley now feels about its users. The heads of tech CEOs are convinced that left to our own devices, we will end up deluded by “misinformation,” tricked by “fake news,” and radicalized by “hate speech.” They often cite the high view counts on videos about so-called “conspiracy theories as an example.
Of course, they don’t consider that viewing something doesn’t mean you accept it, and that accepting it doesn’t mean you’ll accept it forever. Strangely for people who work in a field so closely tied to Moore’s Law, the idea that people might improve or develop over time seems to elude them.
What also eludes them is any notion that their political values and priorities might actually be wrong, and that what they call “conspiracy theories” (essentially everything they disagree with) might be right. Or that the populists who use their platforms aren’t “extremists” who need to be suppressed for the good of society, but real citizens with real concerns, trying to exercise their democratic rights in an age where Silicon Valley controls the only effective town squares.