Silicon Valley, the industrial area of the San Francisco Bay Area that has produced start-ups and global corporations that have influenced both our online and offline lives, is not in a good place right now. Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta, Apple, and many more firms saw their stock prices fall sharply in 2022, and 120,000 tech workers lost their jobs as a result. Twitter is, of course, the most prominent example of a collapse that has not recovered. Advertising ceased and well-known users left one final tweet that served as a suicide note after Musk dismissed half of the company’s workforce and allowed some of its most contentious banned users (ranging from former president Donald Trump to neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin) back on the platform in November. Twitter’s future is now assured despite lawsuits, potential FTC and EU law infractions, a departing workforce, and a mountain of unpaid invoices. But Musk isn’t solely to blame.
According to The Atlantic, Meta has lost hundreds of billions of dollars and let 13% of its workforce go, or more than 11,000 workers. Just weeks before it was revealed that the Justice Department was considering filing a significant antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant, the launch of Apple’s new iPhone fell short of expectations. In addition, Google search quality has gotten so bad that the younger generation is switching to TikTok and Instagram instead for web searches. After years of unrelenting growth, Amazon is now fighting unions as a lawsuit against the National Labor Relations Board and further budget cuts loom (one example of this is the general strike by warehouse workers at a Staten Island logistics facility). The numerous inventions that were expected to increase spending are failing, with Alexa being called a “colossal failure” and Amazon’s prototype delivery drones routinely crashing during flights and even starting a forest fire in Oregon.
Add to this the significant news stories that have contributed to shattering the media idea that Silicon Valley is a utopian place where human possibilities are realized to their fullest extent: Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the start-up Theranos, who was once seen as the future of modern science, was given a sentence of more than 11 years in jail in November for cheating her company’s investors by marketing a product that was never really developed. Sam Bankman-Fried, a former supporter of crypto-wonder for the Democratic Party, ended the year insolvent, was released on bail after being charged with numerous charges of fraud, and then Musk reappeared. Sam Bankman-Fried, a former supporter of crypto-wonder for the Democratic Party, ended the year insolvent, was released on bail after being charged with numerous charges of fraud, and then Musk reappeared. He is the first person in history to lose $200 billion, the symbol of a man with big ambitions, consumed by greed, and miles away from the ideals he professed at the start of his career. He was the man who served as the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man, the superhero who wanted to live on Mars. On the verge of an era of epochal upheaval influencing the nature of social networks and the future of technology, perhaps it is not just Big Tech that is in crisis.
The issue is the failure of a business where visionaries are given millions to create a future that ultimately proves to be constantly identical to the past. Businesses established with the goal of uniting people, democratizing technology, and linking the world have spent the majority of the past ten years adjusting to the very system that they set out to challenge. The Silicon Valley ideal appears to have passed its expiration date, now being dominated by monopolies and characterized by a poisonous and antiquated business model.