The Dark Side of Startup Culture

Americans have been slow to recognize the threat of Big Tech, leaving us to hope that it’s not too late.

In The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, urban futurist Joel Kotkin warns the global 99 percent of looming dangers ahead. Led by affluent tech giants, the new hierarchs of society are exerting a growing control over our lives and accumulating endless wealth at the expense of the declining middle and lower classes. The future of our society depends on our willingness to acknowledge and reject this return to the feudal system of medieval times.

The Consolidation of Wealth

In the past, capitalism and new technology laid the basis for improvement in material well-being and social mobility. Today, however, social mobility is getting harder, and most people aren’t making much real material progress because fewer and fewer companies control more and more of the economy. 

Tech leaders are becoming more like an elite ruling class. They run a small number of powerful companies and are building a more stratified economic and social order with bigger gaps between classes. 

The Silicon Valley startup culture has been strangled by the largest companies with their endless resources. This concentration of power foretells a far less democratic future. With their huge cash reserves, the tech oligarchs have plans to dominate entertainment, finance, education, and other industries. 

Our Tech Overlords

We are moving toward a future where a small number of people own the majority of the property, and families and the middle class are both declining, leading to outlandish levels of inequality. The ruling class in many democratic countries today consists of oligarchs and privileged people who claim to have a right to control people’s lives based on their supposedly superior knowledge and morality. If left unchecked, they could create a dystopian future with monopoly capital, intrusive technology, and autocratic ideology. 

Technology can be a great tool for solving problems, but it has limitations. Complex problems are beyond its capabilities. Additionally, technology cannot code intuition, beauty, love, or hate. Technology can become a problem if we rely on it too much because algorithms are not objective, but reflect the assumptions of those who create the programs. 

About the Author

Joel Kotkin is the presidential fellow in urban studies at Chapman University in Orange, California. He was described by The New York Times as “America’s uber-geographer,” and is an internationally recognized authority on global, economic, political, and social trends. He has written about the future of the middle class in global cities and the places with the best opportunities for minorities. 

Read our full summary of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism. . .

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