In her early memoir Abolish Silicon Valley, Wendy Liu recounts her experience as a Startup CTO working 60-80 hours per week. In retrospect she rationalises her behaviour as an attempt to escape the “nameless dread of imprisonment” in a nine-to-five job.
Despite the fact that she and her colleagues earned practically no money, the prospect of an acqui-hire (neologism of “acquisition” and “hiring”) for a couple of million US$ kept them running beyond reason. Celebrities like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk had already proved that it is possible to join the Billionaire class starting with a garage business.
What Liu describes here — the desire to be extraordinarily rewarded for hard work, coupled with contempt for people who don’t try hard enough — is a structural problem in ‘Big Tech’.
‘Big Tech’ and its brand of platform capitalism can only be vaguely described as a business model that includes IT, data and/or the Internet — paired with the promise of a more flexible, smarter, disruptive and intelligent production. Behind the curtain, as a closer analysis shows, lurks a profitability crisis of global capitalism, which only has gained momentum after the 2008 financial crisis. The “techlash” — as the hypothetical backlash of omnipotent tech companies, such as Google or Facebook, was originally coined — went viral for the first time as a result of the Snowden revelations in 2013.