In a new, rather angry op-ed published on 48 Hills, which is actually a speech that Salon founder David Talbot recently delivered at Stanford, Talbot has no shortage of bad things to say about Stanford's role in the current tech boom that is reshaping San Francisco. "A big pipeline of intellectual and financial capital flows up and down the Peninsula between City and Farm," says Talbot, using “The Farm” as a stand-in for the school. "As a breeding ground for the new elite, the Farm is seen by many in San Francisco as the enemy camp, as part of the problem."
He hearkens back to Stanford and Silicon Valley's roles in defense industry advances of earlier decades, calling the money that bolstered the current boom "blood money." And he quotes his sons, now aged 19, 20 and 24, all of whom grew up in SF, as referring constantly to "Stanford douchebags" and "Stanford assholes," noting that the latter phrase even made it onto an episode of Looking.
Talbot is heartbroken to see that his beloved neighborhood, Bernal Heights, which used to be much more diverse, is now being overrun with these new elites. "If you stand at the corner of Precita and Alabama the main checkpoint for the neighborhood," he writes, "instead of seeing battered Subaru Outbacks and Hondas, you see a steady stream of new-model Teslas, BMWs and Uber limousines."
And though he may sound like a get-out-of-my-yard, grumpy type at this point, Talbot makes an impassioned plea that no one should probably dismiss outright, to get people to question the morality behind their new wealth.
Are you going to create a software tool that lays off an entire industry, and replaces human interaction with bots? Or are you going to find ways to save the planet? And help liberate the human spirit?
Are you going to join America’s perpetual war machine and go to work for the CIA or NSA and spy on your fellow citizens? Or sign up with a Silicon Valley company that feeds private information to the government? Or — in the brave spirit of Edward Snowden — are you going to challenge that Orwellian system of thought control? You know, Snowden is the real-life version of Steve Job’s brave, young rebel - the one who threw that hammer through the Big Brother video screen.
This is what it comes down to Are you interested in going public, or in serving the public - that’s the fundamental question a Stanford student has to ask these days. When I was in college, we had a saying - “You’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution.” Which one are you? A Stanford dick? Or are you different?