Tagged: Evgeny Morozov

Silicon Valley: Satire and Solutionism

Late to the party yet again, I finally watched the first two episodes of the new Mike Judge–helmed comedy series, Silicon Valley. If you haven’t yet traded for someone’s HBO Go credentials, you can watch the first episode, temporarily, of course, on YouTube.

The series traffics in some of the most well-worn stereotypes of software engineers and Internet entrepreneurs that are familiar to even the most casual observers of the tech-business world. The series centers on three budding software engineers living in an incubator started by a veteran of the Valley. Played by T.J. Miller, Erlich cashed in on his start-up years ago. Housing these engineers is his way of giving back, but not without taking a ten-percent stake in any product they develop while in residence.

The first two episodes of the series portray some of the more ludicrous aspects of Silicon Valley. As I watched it, I kept thinking of Evgeny Morozov’s latest book, To Save Everything Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism. Morozov argues that the titans of tech are guilty of two hubristic sins. Solutionism is the relentless need to solve problems, including those than might not even need solving, and to strive for perfection. The second, Internet Centrism, is the fervent belief that the Internet and digital technologies are the tools to solve every problem. As I am yet to finish the book, it appears that these two function as rhetorical justifications for creating new digital industries that enrich those developing these solutions. In short, it’s about getting paid.

We see the vapid speeches given at a TED Talk where audiences listen in awe of rhetorically flashy speeches on changing the world without much substance. We see an anti-intellectual venture capitalist who, like Peter Thiel, advocates that young people take $100,000 of his money to drop out of college to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas.[1] We learn that an algorithm, properly deployed, can do something as mundane as search through a compressed data stream or something as important as curing cancer, the ultimate human miracle. We also see how spiritual advisors coddle super-rich CEOs are hell-bent on disrupting everything and are out to change the world, provided they make a ton of money doing so. Real money, too, not Bitcoin.

Read the book and watch the series for two contemporary and poignant critiques of an industry that is inflated in just about every sense of the word.

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  1. Evegeny Morozov, To Save Everything Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, New York: Public Affairs, 2013, 129.  ↩

My Take on Morozov’s Net Delusion

Because of Hurricane Sandy, my New Technologies class had to make up the class in some productive way. I assigned the students the Evgeny Morozov book, Net Delusion: The Dark Side of the Internet. In addition to reading the book, each students had to write a 200-word response to a question I posted about the differences between Morozov’s argument about Internet freedom and what Clay Shirky’s utopianism of the creative possibilities afforded by global digital networks.


I recorded a twelve-minute summary of the book’s first three chapters, hoping that I would reinforce the students’ perceptions of what they read. I even recorded my summary as a talking-head video, but then I got the idea about editing the video into short segments, along with titles. However, the video was recorded as H.264 HD video, and it was almost impossible to edit on Final Cut Pro. I tried iMovie, but I kept getting import errors so I gave up. Thankfully, I had also set up a USB microphone to record the audio on my computer. I was able to edit this audio very easily, sadly without the visual chapter markers.

If I didn’t have flu and had more time, I would tried harder to edit the video. But then again, it was just a talking-head video. Aside from my sweaty brow and my gaze directed off the screen, what else could you see from the video? After all, didn’t someone say that they preferred radio to television because the pictures were better?

N.B.: I am way out of practice with speaking to a microphone.

The above links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you buy something through those links, I will earn a commission fee.