IIn retrospect, it seems like it had to happen sometime. The shiny, glorious, high-flying technology sector has descended to Earth.
Not that it was that terrible – we’re talking more about an emergency landing than oxygen masks and brace positions. But ambitions were checked as rising interest rates ended years of easy money, a point driven through recent earnings calls and unprecedented mass layoffs from companies that used to do anything but send gold-plated helicopters to scoop up graduating computer science degree holders from the nation’s top universities.
Personally, I find it hard to feel bad. It sucks to lose a job, but if someone has to, it might be someone who’s been making more than $200,000 in a few years, let alone obscene privileges. (It should be noted that a friend of mine on Twitter tells me that he was actually upset that he was passed over by Abbreviations for Elon-o-tronand the comfort of a nice severance package, a sentiment shared by 80% of Twitter’s workforce before the layoff, according to a survey by polling app Blind.)
And beyond mere gloating at the thought of a withering Zucker-borg, I also find myself with a strangely uplifting, counterintuitive sense of optimism about the whole tech deflation thing. As far as I can tell, many of these companies haven’t done anything this remarkably good for the world in a long time. Sure, people get a lot of enjoyment out of social media, but it also has the nasty tendency to wracking our brainsand ours democratic institutions (not to mention the entire genocide something in Myanmar). Next day delivery is great as long as you don’t think about the class of poorly paid, algorithmically managed workers who have to quit bathroom breaks to make it possible.
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And none of that will change. The success of these companies was centered around innovations a few decades ago—PCs, Internet connections, ubiquitous smartphones—that provided unprecedented opportunities to make money (showing ads to people on their phones is good business! And it also turns out that most of us as getting things more than shopping). But when these companies tried to use their piles of cash and engineering talent to tackle tougher problems, like autonomous vehicles, they were blinded by their own optimism and exited stunningly short. And many of their other plans seem to involve simply expanding the basic logic of their original product to some horrific, dystopian degree. (Like scrolling through Facebook? Well, then you’ll love it living within it.)
The point I’m getting at is that I don’t think it’s a great tragedy that these companies finally lose some of their huge share of the public’s investment capital and technical talent. And it also couldn’t have come at a better time for the rest of us. In the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress passed a a really huge incentive for a clean energy economy. It’s suddenly a great time to be in batteries or solar panels, which is also a good thing for anyone who cares about phasing out fossil fuels and preventing climate catastrophe. Scaling up this innovation won’t solve the climate crisis by itself, but it certainly helps.
Transferring capital to these sectors is easy. And many of those laid-off workers may also be able to relocate — cleantech companies need programmers and product managers eventually. Not to mention that many of you techies are very smart and can certainly fill in the skill gaps. So here’s my plea to you, oh banished Meta Engineer:
The world really, really needs to solve this climate change problem or else very bad things it will happen. You might be able to help. In fact, with your experience, abilities, and education, you are almost certainly capable of doing more than most. There will also be a lot of money for the people who help figure it out. In fact, many people would kill to be where you are right now.
No pressure though. I know there will also be a big profit for whoever invents MySpace 2 or whatever. I’m sure it would be great. But maybe helping to prevent a climate disaster can be fun, too. “Renewable energy” – doesn’t that sound good? You’re already removing some of that darkness, aren’t you? Just my two cents here. Maybe just think about it. Take your time. But not too much time. We don’t exactly have a ton of it.
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