The success of social networking firms in Silicon Valley has created immense wealth for their founders, early employees and chief executives. But it has done something else, too: it has given birth to a global elite of hyper-networked, stupendously powerful people with the money and motivation to behave as though the law is irrelevant.
Consequently, their companies play fast and loose with our rights – and our privacy. They sell us things that don’t exist, spy on us without our permission (and then lie about it), engineer their products to be as fiendishly addictive as possible while claiming they are merely “connecting” people, seek to turn a profit on the use of our private property, use our personal data in ways we never agreed to and even retroactively alter agreements we’ve made with them.
Some of these companies have more power over our daily lives than our national governments – yet their leaders are unelected, unaccountable and impossible to unseat. So it’s worth digging a bit deeper into the lives of the people who are running the most influential technology companies in the world.
Do the CEOs in Silicon Valley and beyond aspire, as they endlessly claim, to “change the world” for the better? Or are they a dangerous breed of self-interested sociopath who should be closely watched, lest they invade our privacy, snoop into our emails and try to turn a quick buck on our private information? The more you examine these powerful young men and the way their companies operate, the more troubling the answers seem, as you discover a world of vast political influence, hedonistic partying and shocking disregard for the rights and privacies we all hold dear.
This book explains what’s so unsettling about the current generation of technology firms in California (and their imitators elsewhere in the world), how Facebook and Twitter are subtly changing the way we communicate, altering the fabric of our language – all to serve us more carefully targeted advertising, and why the Googles, Facebooks and Twitters of the world need to be subjected to a renewed level of scrutiny by a newkind of legislature – one with the knowledge and resources to operate on a level playing field with the tech titans.
The result of dozens of interviews with key players in Silicon Valley and the author’s unusual level of access to the technology industry in the US and Europe, The Sociopaths of Silicon Valley throws sunlight on the wild parties, intergalactic egos, outrageous behaviour and questionable moral judgment of the most powerful men in the world – men who, until now, demanded transparency from their users but rarely of themselves – and paints a terrifying picture of what will happen if geeks really do inherit the earth.