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Silicon Valley Has Lost Its Soul

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  • Idealism & Commercialism

    Stanford’s Leslie Berlin argues that Silicon Valley’s idealism and commercialism have always co-existed.

  • Silicon Valley's Moral Compass

    Dipayan Ghosh argues that Silicon Valley has lost its moral compass.

  • Silicon Valley: Tech That’s Coming After Your Soul?

    The panelists debate how Silicon Valley has changed over time.

  • Hubris

    Is Silicon Valley’s hubris a bad thing? Our panelists debate.

  • Putting the “Silicon” in Silicon Valley

    Leslie Berlin argues that from the beginning, tech founders made changes through commercial markets.

  • The Google Story

    Noam Cohen discusses the Google founders and early idealism in the tech industry.

Debate Details

Silicon Valley once promised to solve many of the world’s problems with a technological revolution. But now, the tech hub is the center of much scrutiny, and for many, that scrutiny is warranted. From privacy violations to flawed business models to a lack of diversity and representation, Silicon Valley has seemingly betrayed its idealism. And though technological progress has notably enriched a few, Silicon Valley has failed to deliver its promise to all. Has the prioritization of profits and conformity of thought corrupted its original “do good” agenda? Proponents argue no: Silicon Valley’s critics are simply overreacting. After all, it is still the center of innovation, and the tech giants have revolutionized the way we think, shop, communicate, and experience our lives for the better. Do big tech’s detractors simply expect too much from lucrative corporations? Or has Silicon Valley lost its soul?


The Debaters

For the motion

Noam Cohen

Noam Cohen

Journalist & Author, "The Know-It-Alls"

Noam Cohen is a journalist and the author of "The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball." From... Read More

Dipayan Ghosh

Dipayan Ghosh

Pozen Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School

Dipayan Ghosh is the Pozen fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center, where he works on digital privacy, artificial intelligence... Read More

Against the motion

Leslie Berlin

Leslie Berlin

Historian, Silicon Valley Archives & Author, “Troublemakers”

Leslie Berlin is a historian for the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford University and the author, most recently, of “Troublemakers:... Read More

Joshua McKenty

Joshua McKenty

Vice President, Pivotal

Joshua McKenty is vice president of the systems advisory group at Pivotal, where he works with Fortune 100 customers who seek to transition... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Rather than living up to the innovation-inspired idealism that Silicon Valley was founded on, tech companies have put profit over people. Engineers design intrusive products intended to capture our attention and our private data. In some cases, people have become the product, in a way that would have been impossible to predict and that constitutes unique harm. 
  • Silicon Valley promised a digital revolution that would empower and connect people around the world. Instead, tech companies have created platforms that disseminate hate speech, foster divisions, and threaten to undermine democratic institutions. 
  • From diversity issues to sexual harassment to political bias, Silicon Valley’s culture has come under fire. Beyond creating toxic workplaces, these biases are manifesting in the algorithms and products tech companies produce and are negatively impacting people around the world. 
Against The Motion
  • For the tech industry – like most industries before it – making money is a key goal. Because of the excitement around innovation and the outsized role major tech companies play in our everyday lives, these companies have been unfairly maligned for practices that are typical in a capitalist society.
  • Silicon Valley has revolutionized the way we work, sell, buy, and communicate with others. Innovative and disruptive tech pioneers are giving people around the world access to a global exchange of goods and ideas, often for free. 
  • Silicon Valley is tackling some of today’s toughest social and political challenges head-on. By empowering employees to speak out and disseminating tools to fight injustices around the world, the tech industry is evolving to be more socially conscious than ever before.

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  • Live Audience
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  • Results
  • Breakdown

The Research

The Research

These are the world's largest tech giants

Jeff Desjardins
July 16, 2018

A list of the world's top tech companies. 

How Silicon Valley lost its soul. And how it can (maybe) get it back.

Tim Wu
May 29, 2018

"Whether its Facebook’s horrific privacy violations, the excesses of Uber’s bro culture, or concerns about Amazon’s labor practices, Silicon Valley’s reckoning is well underway."

Silicon Valley's Demise Has Been Postponed Again

Justin Fox
March 13, 2018

"It's crowded. It's expensive. It's also still growing and creating plenty of good jobs."

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