Fatal Flaws

2020, Jun 12    

American news talks about a few things - school shootings, police killing black people, abortion, immigration. Indian news talks about a few things - communal religious conflict, caste conflict, ethnic conflict. I’m exaggerating of course, but the most common topics seem to be persistent bugbears. Little progress is made for any one side in the past few decades. This is, by design, I think.

Every country and every large system has a few assumptions and some goals set out at the beginning. India is very explicitly a social justice state - one meant to correct the injustices heaped on people labeled as ‘born criminals’ during the time of the British administration. For a state to serve all of its citizens, it has to bring everyone into the fold, and so India’s reservation system was created, and Malaysia followed with a similar one under the Bhumiputra law. Now, both countries have to deal with a massive bureaucracy that determines who is forward and backward and who gets the social justice benefits of the state and who doesn’t. Stories of abuse are rampant, of course, and it results in a loss of trust in the government as a whole.

Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and I would argue California in general, were populated by ‘pioneer’, iconoclast, rule-breakers. Hollywood was a collection of stars and writers who wanted to avoid paying Edison the money required to use his equipment. The South Bay and SF area were filled with hippies of all stripes in the 60s, as detailed in the fantastic From Counterculture to Cyberculture.

It’s almost no surprise that we find out that Silicon Valley is filled with companies that bent and broke the rules. We advertise to attract precisely that. Pointless defiance seems to be a great way to mimic individuation. Saying that you’re against the norm of all these people who come to SF and work for tech companies, while working for tech companies, sets you apart, you’re different and yet you’re literally part of the problem.

It’s kind of like the Peter Principle for systems - any system good enough to last, will last long enough to encounter major problems, ones that reveal its incompetence and inadequacy as a system. The really persistent systems will continue to function with the glaring and horrible flaws in them. It’s almost a sign of their power that they can continue to perpetrate vast injustice. It’s like a lion’s mane - something that drags down the experience of the creature but advertises the strength needed to overcome this burden.

I think the base assumptions and great man history that make up the myth of SV will always result in companies that cover up sexual harassment and skirt or violate the law. The base founding logic of the US means that race will never be ‘solved’. India will always struggle with the history of the Criminal Tribes and Partition. The only way these things get solved is when these ideas of US, India, Silicon Valley, get wiped away and replaced with an entirely new order. Until then, prepare to keep talking about the injustices - they’re not externalities, they’re core contradictions to the system. At the least, it’s kinda nice to be in a system where you can talk about it and make some moves.