3L-3S has been prolific in featuring the growing dominance of big tech, fascinated by its ability to take mankind forward yet concerned about the perils associated with it including threats to competitive capitalism, data privacy, etc. It is only appropriate we feature a TV series titled Silicon Valley (featuring on Hotstar in India) that brings out all that is good, bad and ugly about tech in a ludicrous enough way that it has been much loved across the world. The Emmy award winning series which completed airing its sixth and final season last month brings a lot of authenticity to it with its creator Mike Judge having involved valley bigwigs including Bill Gates, Marc Andreesen, Eric Schmidt, etc for the script. Indeed, Gates makes an appearance in one of the episodes and has indeed blogged saying “If you want to understand Silicon Valley, watch Silicon Valley”. The protagonist is the typical genius programmer but social awkward, clueless about managing teams or scaling up a business yet has his heart in the right place.
“Richard Hendricks, the chief executive officer of Pied Piper, the internet company he started five seasons earlier, is testifying before a Senate committee alongside executives from Facebook, Google, Amazon and, of course, Hooli, run by Hendricks’s archnemesis Gavin Belson. The hearing is about data privacy.
When it’s Hendricks’s turn to speak, he gets up from his seat on the panel and starts pacing (“I just think better on my feet”), grabbing a bulky microphone box so the senators can hear him. Thomas Middleditch, who plays Hendricks, is a master of physical comedy, and the image of him walking back and forth with a big microphone box under his arm is hilarious. But what he’s saying isn’t remotely comical:
“These people up here — you want to rein them in. But you can’t. Facebook owns 80% of mobile social traffic. Google owns 92% of search. And Amazon Web Services is bigger than their next four competitors combined. … They track our every move. They monitor every moment in our lives. And they exploit our data for profit. You can ask them all the questions you want, but they’re not going to change. They don’t have to. These companies are kings and they rule over kingdoms far larger than any nation in human history. They won. We lost.””
Whilst data privacy among others are legitimate concerns about tech, there is no doubt that tech has contributed immensely towards making the world a better place. But the show highlights a point about how even this noble intention has come a farce in the face of hyper competitive megalomaniacal tech entrepreneurs.
“Or, in perhaps the single greatest line in the entire series, the ruthless, platitude-happy Belson, warning of a coming “datageddon,” tells his executives that Hooli’s compression algorithm has to beat Pied Piper’s. After all, he explains, “I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do.”
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