Big Tech’s broken promises: It wanted to solve the world’s problems with a digital magic wand, but it wound up complicating them instead. It creates jobs, but also homelessness.
The parking lot of a supermarket, or the side lane of a road with minimal traffic. Paying $700 a month to rent a worn-out trailer. Subscribing to a gym to have a place to shower after getting up in the morning. Eating at fast food restaurants to save time and money. From Mountain View to San Jose, these are the components of the life of an invisible population: the homeless of Silicon Valley. Invisible because they are not vagrants living on a sidewalk. We are talking about thousands, tens of thousands of perfectly integrated workers with full-time jobs — sometimes more than one — who still cannot afford to rent a home with their modest income. Their salaries are not low by America’s average standards; they earn between $12 and $19 per hour. However, it is almost impossible to find a two-room apartment for less than $3,000 per month in this region.
The ordeal faced by these people, who are often chefs and waiters in the expensive restaurants patronized by the staff of tech businesses, is another living proof of Big Tech’s broken promises: It wanted to solve the world’s problems with a digital magic wand, but it wound up complicating them instead. It produces jobs, but also homelessness, which has increased over the last two years around the San Francisco Bay Area despite the economic boom.
One example is Unique Parsha, “Pinky” to her friends. She prefers everything in pink: her clothes, her car, even her dog. Fox, which aired a report about her, has made her into a star. She is a model employee at Facebook, volunteers in her free time, yet she spends the night in her car. This is another factor contributing to the sharp decline in popularity for America’s cradle of technology, now under attack from several sides.
Being aware of this problem, the Kairos Society, an organization for young entrepreneurs which was founded in 2008, has delivered a mea culpa. Its chairman Ankur Jain has stated, “Our industry that once was lauded for bright, young talent taking on the world’s biggest problems now seems to be forgetting about the people that need solutions most. Over $160 billion in venture capital is going into startups each year — and yet most of the new innovation is driven by the latest hype cycle, not the real problems we face.” Now he wants to remedy the problem with a new board composed of, among others, the group president of Verizon Wireless, Ronan Dunne, and by Mexico’s former president, Vicente Fox. The goal is to invest in solutions for the Valley’s social problems instead of new appealing apps. Is that good news or just crocodile tears?