The idealism that defined the early Silicon Valley is now dead

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

From the 1930s to the 1990s, Silicon Valley generated a lot of slogans that suggested a certain kind of idealism that inspired hopes of a better future. Think of early Hewlett Packard, and the phrase “management by walking around.” There was an emphasis on informality, there was a doubtfulness about bureaucracy, there was the belief that a company could do the right thing and also be profitable. All of that now seems to have died.

Interesting:

Stapleton is a marketing manager at YouTube, which is owned by Google. She’s one of seven employees at the tech company who organized a massive protest, called the Google Walkout for Real Change, that prompted 20,000 Google employees and contractors in 50 cities to walk off the job on November 1, 2018, to oppose the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegations.

They also put together a list of demands for executives to address what they considered “rampant” sexism and racism at the company. CEO Sundar Pichai agreed to make some policy changes, including getting rid of mandatory arbitration clauses in labor contracts and improving pay and benefits for contract workers, but employees are pushing for more.

Since the walkout, though, Stapleton and other Google employees say supervisors have retaliated against them for speaking out, which the company denies.

Stapleton said she was demoted and told to take medical leave, even though she wasn’t ill. Meredith Whittaker, an artificial intelligence researcher, said she was reassigned and told to stop her well-known research on AI ethics. Both women detailed their experiences in an email to coworkers in April, which was then shared with journalists at Wired and published.

“My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick,” Stapleton, who has worked at Google for 12 years, wrote. “Only after I hired a lawyer and had her contact Google did management conduct an investigation and walked back my demotion, at least on paper. While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day.”

…Stapleton’s farewell note perfectly captures the larger moral crisis unfolding at Google and across Silicon Valley, and reflects growing disillusionment with an industry that once represented hope and idealism.

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