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The country’s response to a Big Tech bank collapse reveals a harsh verdict.
During the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, people in tech started to realize something: a lot of people really don’t like them.
Since the bank started to buckle late last week, tech luminaries have taken time out of their busy schedules of doing innovation to tweet about how everyone rooting against a bailout of Silicon Valley Bank simply doesn’t get it. Silicon Valley had birthed “the greatest wealth generation engine this country has had for the last 2 decades,” said Austin Federa, a spokesperson for the crypto blockchain Solana, and a bailout was essential to save a cornerstone of the American economy.
While getting ratioed in their own tweet threads, the wizards of tech seethed that so many didn’t see what they could. “The events of this weekend change things. The bank run isn’t actually the biggest thing—the reaction to it is,” tweeted Flo Crivello, a former Uber product manager who is now CEO a remote work tool company. “It’s making me and a lot of people realize that the media’s coordinated anti-tech campaign over the last 6yrs has been a lot more effective than we thought.”
Helen Min, a co-founder of a tech venture capital firm tweeted a less conspiratorial version of the same diagnosis: “VCs [are] now realizing Silicon Valley has a public image problem.” Indeed, prominent venture capitalist David Sacks, astutely noted that many were resistant to bailing out Silicon Valley Bank because it “has the name Silicon Valley in it.” If the situation were a little bit different, Sacks posited during an interview with UnHerd, people would get it; say, Sacks argued, “this was a farmers’ bank and it was 40,000 farms, small business farms that were on the hook, everybody would understand.”
Without realizing it, Sacks crystalized people’s real beef with Silicon Valley: if people felt like Silicon Valley actually improved or sustained their lives, they would defend it. More people would be up in arms about a bank for farmers collapsing because farmers make food that they like and literally need to survive. The region that once produced microprocessors, personal computers, internet search, and web browsers, kind of doesn’t really do that stuff as much as it used to, and people are noticing.
For several years, public opinion has grown increasingly critical of tech companies. In 2015, a Pew poll found 71 percent of the country had a positive view on tech, and 17 a negative one. A 2019 follow-up found only 50 percent had a positive view, with 33 percent having a negative one. A Gallup poll from 2020 put positive views of tech companies at just 46 percent and found that 57 percent of US respondents wanted more regulation. In 2022, Morning Consult found 67 percent of respondents favoring regulation, and agreeing tech’s benefits did not outweigh the power the industry had accrued.
GUY WHO INVENTED A SERVICE CALLED “BURGR” THAT USES AI TO MAIL YOU A SUBSCRIPTION BOX OF RECOMMENDED HAMBURGER TOPPINGS ONCE A MONTH AND MAKES MONEY BECAUSE IT’S HARD TO CANCEL: That’s real nice how you want to stifle innovation. With your smart phone and your computer microchips
— Patrick Cosmos (@veryimportant) March 13, 2023
It’s worth remembering that the conglomeration of private tech startups, the VCs that fund them, and the mega-corporations who all call themselves Silicon Valley were never as innovative as they liked to claim. In her 2013 book The Entrepreneurial State, Mariana Mazzucato observed that the real source of American innovation has always been the government. Libertarian, anti-establishment Silicon Valley owes its entire existence to the federal government, whose contracts and grants have funded its companies, and whose deep coffers have funded the research and development of technologies that Bay Area companies figured out how to profit from.