Last night I had dinner in San Francisco with an illustrious group of people. Some of them would arguably be perceived as the smartest people around. Yet their worldview was very biased by their life in Silicon Valley.
A lot of the conversation on inequality centered around how zoning laws are pricing a new generation out of the housing market. True here. Not true in Atlanta, Berlin, Miami. Are restrictive zoning laws a problem? Yes, but are they the reason why there is inequality? Only partly, and depends where. I have another explanation for inequality and that is: inheritances, elite education, uneven distribution of talent.
Another Bay Area centric explanation was that pervasive technology is causing violence. Do we believe that Syrians or Libyans are killing each other because they have Facebook or Twitter? Not really. Hutus and Tutsis killed each other without smartphones and with machetes. I see the violence in the Middle East as a resurgence of tribalism, fake us vs them. Religion being used for tribal purposes.
Then there was the belief that education is not what is needed to solve inequality, because many people with college degrees end up serving coffee. Yes this may be true here. But in most of the world access to education is indeed a ticket to the middle class. And less education will give us more Trumpism. As he said it he loves the uneducated. Moreover education is about being part of a culture, not only a way to get what job.
Lastly a very radical view, was that robots and AI are taking over the world, and hence, an experiment in basic income was started in Oakland to simulate a world in which nobody has a job. Could AI and robots leave many without work? Yes. But so did mechanized agriculture.
In short all the problems were real. But the intensity attributed to each one of them and the proposed solutions were very Northern California.
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