Friday, October 26, 2018

a piece at Wired on alternative histories of Silicon Valley in which "disruption" is reinterpreted as "extraction"

The article proposes that with a number of books providing histories of Silicon Valley that what has been sold as a history of disruptive innovation can be thought of more as exploitive extraction.  Companies in Silicon Valley presented as pioneering innovators in the tech industry can be seen (by some of the authors discussed in the article) as tail end hangers on who exploited private sector applications of technological and networking innovations initially developed as part of military-industrial establishment investments spearheaded by the United States government.

Which sounds somewhat like a thesis that, if I recall correctly, was proposed by Joan Didion more generally about the delusional mythology California has had as a whole as being about innovation and self-invented industry development that was generally a set of industries developed at the behest of the federal government and federal funding for infrastructural projects or wartime development in which California was a key beneficiary.

In his trilogy of books on post-Adornian aesthethic theory David P Roberts noted, in a way that seems quotidian since the 1990s, that the United States looked to be positioned to have what he called a contest between what he called Chicago ideology and California ideology in terms of technological and social advancement.  These could be construed in more recent terms as what American academics and some journalists seem to have called neoconservativism or neoliberalism.

Having lived and worked through the 1990s like most other people I've known in my life I don't remember what was called the dot com boom as being all that inspiring or exciting.  It seems to have been a boon for entrepreneurs of a specific stripe, people willing to speculatively jump on opportunities that seemed to be ripe within a subset of the industry, tech ... but I got a journalism degree, a degree that was already largely moot even twenty years ago.  So while people who had somehow timed their degrees and their questing to the development of the bubble the 1990s were no doubt a fine time, a Fukuyamaian "end of history" but for me it was years of temp job to temp job and no benefits (which I didn't seem to need at the time as it was so, who cared?).   Some of my peer group have looked fondly back on the Clinton years as years when there were more jobs.  Plenty of those jobs were pinch hit unstable jobs in a dot com bubble that burst in the later 1990s.  That the press didn't get around to christening the bursting of the dot com bubble quite as much as a thing until W was inaugurated doesn't mean the bubble hadn't burst by the dawn of the millenium.  .

So I don't have a ton of nostalgia for the 1990s as such in job market terms.  I guess I can admit to having nostalgia for the 1990s in terms of animation as a global art form.  Pixar films were fantastic, the DCAU was in high gear, Disney films may have been sorta lame but Ducktales was decent, anime was saturating the West Coast, South Park was emerging and The Powerpuff Girls arrived ... so, yeah, for animation the 1990s were great.  Capping off the end of the last century with The Iron Giant, Toy Story 2, South Park and Princess Mononoke was quite a way to wrap up 1999!  But I sure don't miss the endless temp jobs with no benefits or an American foreign policy that included what seemed to be the pointless bombing of the former Yugoslavia and a variety of military misadventures that would seem bad at the time but have paled compared to anything that's transpired in this subsequent century.

If it turns out that the Silicon Valley economic engine has been parasitically dependent on government projects that would not, I confess, shock me at all. 

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