From Joel Kotkin at Newsweek, The New Face of Oligarchy:
But the tech oligarchy is not only a threat to American consumers. It’s likey to have a radical impact on workers, too. The tech elite differ significantly from the old corporate hegemons who needed a domestic working class, which forced them them to deal with organized union workers. By contrast, tech workers have no unions; they are often foreign nationals on short term visas, and their bosses have and been repeatedly caught spying on their own employees.
And as Thomas Piketty has noted, as opposed to the grubby bosses of the past, tech oligarchs tend to see themselves as technically gifted, a conscious elite shaped by their educational and vocational background, constituting what Aldous Huxley called “a scientific caste system.”
Tech oligarchs generally don’t believe in the American Dream or economic mobility. The author Gregory Ferenstein interviewed 147 digital company founders. What he found is that most are convinced that an “increasingly greater share of economic wealth will be generated by a smaller slice of very talented or original people. Everyone else will come to subsist on some combination of part-time entrepreneurial ‘gig work’ and government aid.”
In other words, oligarchical socialism: basic incomes provided for the reside of the fading middle class. (And for when the plan fails, some tech titans have emergency escape plans.)
Already, this dystopia exists in Silicon Valley, where the ultra-rich flourish, the middle-class wanes, and the poor live-in a poverty that has become unshakeable; according to a 2018 UC-Santa Cruz study, nine out of ten jobs in the Valley now pay less than twenty years ago, adjusted for inflation.Nearly 30 percent of Silicon Valley’s residents rely on public or private financial assistance.
The technocratic future is already upon us. And it has little need for the labor of the lower classes—or the messiness of democracy. These same people have amassed the power to control and disseminate information far more subtly and efficiently than Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin.
We now stand on the edge of becoming a society akin to China, where the central authority determines truth and what can be legitimately debated. The prospect of a duopoly of oligarchs and the federal apparat acting together present arguably the most profound challenge to the future of traditional democratic debate.