This week, a freelancer for the British newspaper The Guardian called out Silicon Valley for creating a “tech utopia nobody wants.”
JR Hennessy, who lives in Sydney, Australia, targets his criticism at San Francisco-based Soylent, a food substitute he calls “high-nutrient sludge,” and Google Glass, citing the Sarah Slocum incident as evidence that it “improves the life of the wearer at the expense of those around them.” He also mentions the repulsive billboard we told you about with an iPad that says “San Francisco: Meet your minimum wage replacement” as well as Facebook manipulating our emotions. His overall point arrives near the end of the article:
A divide is growing between the people who wholeheartedly embrace a radically new, radically self-centred vision of human life, and the people who do not. The internal lives of the tech elite, centred on the labour-saving innovations of Silicon Valley, are at odds with semi-atavistic conceptions of how people interact. Traditions and shared values are redundant, inefficient, and must be optimised out of existence.
The opinion piece's 782 and counting comments vary from attacks that Hennessy is a luddite (BobSW1) to cultural criticisms that we’ve turned into “monkeys jumping though the trees fascinated at some glittering rubbish for an instant” (jagara1).
On one hand, Hennessy’s view is short-sighted: Humans have been radically self-centered long before tech assisted them, and plenty of tech companies are trying to solve real problems, from sites like Fuck Cancer to startups like WaterFX, which uses solar energy to clean water.
On the other hand, he’s right to judge a Google engineer for tweeting that food stamps should be replaced with Soylent to keep poor Americans "healthy and productive.” Ugh.
Hennessy also missed a lot of other dumb startups that have popped up in this current tech boom. Here are a few of the most ridiculous:
- Yo, the smartphone equivalent of a Facebook poke, which allows users to message the word “Yo” back and forth. Yo just closed $1.5 million in seed funding and has a $10 million valuation.
- A $200 cup called Vessyl that identifies what you’re drinking and sends a detailed analysis to your smartphone.
- One of our recent favorites, MonkeyParking, a mobile app that auctions off S.F. street parking for cash, which had to shutdown its service in the city after a cease and desist order.
- ReservationHop, a site that lets people buy and sell reservations at S.F. restaurants for $5 to $12 apiece.
- “Smart pills” by a local company called Nootrobox, which emailed us about its ability to “enhance workplace productivity.” Naturally, TechCrunch wrote a fluffy piece about it.
- The calorie-counting GoBe wristband, which raised $1 million on Indiegogo, and is believed to be a scam.
For further proof, head to Product Hunt, the site where venture capitalist firms supposedly learned about Yo, according to Business Insider.
Just today we found these gems:
- Peggo: The swiss army knife of YouTube downloads
- Karma Swipe: Tinder for Reddit
- Hearts: Yo for empathy (send <3s to say "I'm thinking of you")
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