Tech C.E.O.s Are in Love With Their Principal Doomsayer

Nellie Bowles in The New York Times:

The futurist philosopher Yuval Noah Harari worries about a lot. He worries that Silicon Valley is undermining democracy and ushering in a dystopian hellscape in which voting is obsolete. He worries that by creating powerful influence machines to control billions of minds, the big tech companies are destroying the idea of a sovereign individual with free will. He worries that because the technological revolution’s work requires so few laborers, Silicon Valley is creating a tiny ruling class and a teeming, furious “useless class.” But lately, Mr. Harari is anxious about something much more personal. If this is his harrowing warning, then why do Silicon Valley C.E.O.s love him so? “One possibility is that my message is not threatening to them, and so they embrace it?” a puzzled Mr. Harari said one afternoon in October. “For me, that’s more worrying. Maybe I’m missing something?”

…Part of the reason might be that Silicon Valley, at a certain level, is not optimistic on the future of democracy. The more of a mess Washington becomes, the more interested the tech world is in creating something else, and it might not look like elected representation. Rank-and-file coders have long been wary of regulation and curious about alternative forms of government. A separatist streak runs through the place: Venture capitalists periodically call for California to secede orshatter, or for the creation of corporate nation-states. And this summer, Mark Zuckerberg, who has recommended Mr. Harari to his book club, acknowledged a fixation with the autocrat Caesar Augustus. “Basically,” Mr. Zuckerberg told The New Yorker, “through a really harsh approach, he established 200 years of world peace.” Mr. Harari, thinking about all this, puts it this way: “Utopia and dystopia depends on your values.”

More here.

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