Silicon Valley once attracted nerdy engineers like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs looking to build computers, semiconductors and other technological innovations that ultimately revolutionized the world as we know it. Will Americans someday look back as fondly at Snapchat's founders?
Yiren Lu, a graduate student in computer science at Columbia University, recently chronicled his and his friends’ experiences in Silicon Valley in The New York Times Magazine. He explains how the Valley has become the preferred hot spot of Ivy League grads in all sorts of disciplines looking to strike it rich working for startups—similar to Wall Street’s appeal in 1980s.
But Lu paints a rather bleak picture. Instead of portraying Silicon Valley as making a huge impact on the world, he says it has become a place where bright twenty-somethings go to work for companies like Snapchat and Facebook, rather than for companies that are improving fundamental technologies like semiconductors and data storage.
“The talent—and there’s a ton of it—flowing into Silicon Valley cares little about improving these infrastructural elements,” Lu writes. “What they care about is coming up with more web apps.” He adds: “Why do these smart quantitatively trained engineers, who could help cure cancer or fix healthcare.gov, want to work for a sexting app?”
Lu, of course, isn’t the first person to complain about Silicon Valley’s changing culture.
Last fall, New Republic wrote about Silicon Valley’s increasing focus on fast money and status and less on true innovation.
“We're in this app economy where there are lots and lots of small business making products of questionable value are getting enormous amounts of money to make these products,” Wired senior editor Mat Honan told New Republic. “These companies don’t even have a product you can put a finger on, when they talk about how they're changing the world.”
Read more articles on Silicon Valley.
Photo: Getty Images