Silicon Valley promised to transform the world. All they delivered was techbros.
While working with a technology client a few years ago, I came up with the term Steve Jobs Disease.
I wrote about it in this old post, Know what I hope dies in 2015? Steve Jobs. This new post here offers fresh thoughts because the thingie that was addressed in the first post did not die. In fact, with the onslaught of #maga and the infusion of white nationalism into the techbro ranks, the problem seems to be worsening.
What is Steve Jobs Disease (SJD)?
When a white dude working in the technology industry possesses much of Steve Jobs’ legendary anger and venom and aggression, but none of Steve Jobs’ job-creating talent and innovation-driving vision, guess what? Dude has contracted Steve Jobs Disease.
If technology companies were less white and male, SJD would afflict others besides white males. But white males wanted to run Silicon Valley and the numbers prove that they do control it. Which, you know…makes it pretty much like every other industry. Nothing radical about Big Tech. While others besides white guys do sit in positions of power and growl at the masses in very Steve Jobs-ways, those folks are the exception and not the rule.
The client who inspired the term SJD had zero clue what needed to be accomplished and covered up his lack of vision with sneers, interruptiveness, passive-aggressiveness, micro-aggressiveness, goalpost-moving, and privilege. The people who worked on staff (and were pretty cool) lived in fear of him. Me? I just sub-contracted and came in to help write a video script.
He wasn’t the first fella afflicted with Steve Jobs Disease that I’ve encountered. In today’s business world, Blue Horseshoe loves white dudes with SJD. If a project is billed by the hour, bros with SJD can rant, scream, all-caps-type, cajole, threaten, and intimidate more billable hours out of thin air.
Freelancing for this guy was dumb. And it didn’t last long. But here’s the funny part: I called it. As our working relationship began to come to a head and I knew that no more work would be coming my way…I’ve also been in the business world long enough to pick up on the fact that this guy’s own bosses did not respect him. Sure enough, he got fired not even a month after he sent me a curt, We have everything we need from you, thank you for your effort… type of e-mail.
Sadly, my belief is that the bosses found a freshly-rested bro with SJD—someone who needed the job and spent the interview beating his own chest. In the 2010s’ business world, much of the status quo functioned business-as-usual. With most ineffective work environments, it’s easier to throw fresh meat at problems instead of fixing them. (Envision the for-profit healthcare model, their treatment-is-more-lucrative-than-prevention ethic. It exists in other industries.) Blue Horseshoe loves this approach to business, just make sure that every hour of wheel-spinning gets billed to the proper job number.
(Then again, the company could have taken the Glass Cliff approach. That business practice is another blog post all to itself.)
In the final months before the Great Recession began, I freelanced on-site at a large cable company. That was September and October of 2007. Mean, snippy dudes ran that place. The marketing staff lived in a state of panic. Blue Horseshoe loves mean, snippy dudes and hates marketing people.
This company conducted a substantial layoff in early 2008. After hearing about it, everyone’s nonsensical stress now made sense. Tying into this blog post, some of their investments in technology failed to yield results and this played a part in their staff reductions. Looking back, I wonder how many of the techbros and finance fellas who pushed for the technological investment got laid off. Hopefully and for appearances’ sake, they at least let one of them go.
It’s funny to be old enough to remember the promises that Silicon Valley offered America as the Internet (incidentally, a government-funded creation) started to become a part of our lives. Fellas like Steve Jobs lectured us that, in return for government tax breaks and paying employees with stock options instead of money, techbros would transform the world and push human evolution forward.
I have a friend, a fellow writer. She used to be a computer programmer back in the day. This is the way she describes her time working in technology.
“I thought I signed up for Star Trek but got Wall Street.”
Ahhh, the ‘90s. My proverbial flannel shirt flaps in the wind just thinking about that time.
Sure, when it comes to developments in areas like surveillance technology and alternative payment processes, techbros seem to know what they’re doing. I’ll give them that. But I don’t want to live in a surveillance state driven by rentier economics. That is not America. Techbros promised the world so much more when they asked to be allowed their freedoms.
Income inequality numbers have spiked while education scores plummeted since we granted techbros their super-duper-powers. Tech companies that promised egalitarian workers’ utopias now run boys clubs that score high points with the companies’ investors. If you need evidence of this, remember that tech companies became breeding grounds for white supremacy in the 2010s. This never could have happened in the world that Silicon Valley promised a few decades ago.
Let’s see…what else? Oh yeah, Planet Earth is cooking. Remembering that old tech-koom-ba-ya rhetoric? If the government just enacted tax cuts, many bros’ minds would suddenly free themselves and unshackle their chains and devise world-saving environmental breakthroughs—if we cut taxes, that is.
Those old tech hippies and punk rockers talked about open-source code and less capitalism. Today, the tech hippies and punk rockers talk about data-mining and tax shelters.
I hope Silicon Valley’s snippy, passive-aggressive, micro-aggressive asses receive lots of tax increases over the next decade. I hope a lot of this money goes to assist teachers.
The 2020s need smart people. Not Steve Jobs-knockoff jerkoffs.
Teachers: yay! Techbros: boo!
As we roll into the 2020s, guys with Steve Jobs Disease need to pay more taxes.
They can afford it.
They should also consider lightening up.
I finally got off my lazy ass and produced the paperback version of Revolutionizer Alpha.
The Revolutionizer Stories. We are not alone.
I also post at Medium.