Why We Are Allowed to Hate Silicon Valley

Evgeny Morozov in Frankfurter Allgemeine: “In short, it’s okay to hate Silicon Valley – we just need to do it for the right reasons.  Below are three of them – but this is hardly an exhaustive list….
Reason number one:  Silicon Valley firms are building what I call “invisible barbed wire” around our lives. We are promised more freedom, more openness, more mobility; we are told we can roam wherever and whenever we want. But the kind of emancipation that we actually get is fake emancipation; it’s the emancipation of a just-released criminal wearing an ankle bracelet.
Yes, a self-driving car could make our commute less dreadful. But a self-driving car operated by Google would not just be a self-driving car: it would be a shrine to surveillance – on wheels! It would track everywhere we go. It might even prevent us from going to certain places if we our mood – measured through facial expression analysis – suggests that we are too angry or tired or emotional.  Yes, there are exceptions – at times, GPS does feel liberating – but the trend is clear: every new Google sensor in that car would introduce a new lever of control. That lever doesn’t even have to be exercised to produce changes in our behavior – our knowledge of its presence will suffice….
Reason number two: Silicon Valley has destroyed our ability to imagine other models for running and organizing our communication infrastructure. Forget about models that aren’t based on advertising and that do not contribute to the centralization of data on private servers located in America. To suggest that we need to look into other – perhaps, even publicly-provided alternatives –is to risk being accused of wanting to “break the Internet.” We have succumbed to what the Brazilian social theorist Roberto Unger calls “the dictatorship of no alternatives”: we are asked to accept that Gmail is the best and only possible way to do email, and that Facebook is the best and only possible way to do social networking.
But consider just how weird our current arrangement is. Imagine I told you that the post office could run on a different, innovation-friendly business model. Forget stamps. They cost money – and why pay money when there’s a way to send letters for free? Just think about the world-changing potential: the poor kids in Africa can finally reach you with their pleas for more laptops! So, instead of stamps, we would switch to an advertising-backed system: we’d open every letter that you send, scan its contents, insert a relevant ad, seal it, and then forward it to the recipient.
Sounds crazy? It does….
Reason number three:  the simplistic epistemology of Silicon Valley has become a model that other institutions are beginning to emulate. The trouble with Silicon Valley is not just that it enables the NSA –it also encourages, even emboldens them. It inspires the NSA to keep searching for connections in a world of meaningless links, to record every click, to ensure that no interaction goes unnoticed, undocumented and unanalyzed.  Like Silicon Valley, NSA assumes that everything is interconnected: if we can’t yet link two pieces of data, it’s because we haven’t looked deep enough – or we need a third piece of data, to be collected in the future, to make sense of it all.
There’s something delusional about this practice – and I don’t use “delusional” metaphorically. For the Italian philosopher Remo Bodei, delusion does not stem from too little psychic activity, as some psychoanalytic theories would have it, but, rather, from too much of it. Delirium, he notes, is “the incapacity to filter an enormous quantity of data.” While a sane, rational person “has learned that ignorance is vaster than knowledge and that one must resist the temptation to find more coherence than can currently be achieved,” the man suffering from delusion cannot stop finding coherence among inherently incoherent phenomena. He generalizes too much, which results in what Bodei calls “hyper-inclusion.”
“Hyper-inclusion” is exactly what plagues America’s military-industrial complex today….”