the castes of San Francisco

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Wired's look at Silicon Valley's informal caste system by Antonio García Martínez suggests that we "examine the socioeconomics of the "City by the Bay" as a harbinger of what's to come." Martinez writes that "San Francisco residents seem to be divided into four broad classes, or perhaps even castes:"

  • The Inner Party of venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs who run the tech machine that is the engine of the city's economy.
  • The Outer Party of skilled technicians, operations people, and marketers that keep the trains belonging to the Inner Party running on time. They are paid well, but they're still essentially living middle-class lives--or what lives the middle class used to have.
  • The Service Class in the "gig economy." In the past, computers filled hard-for-humans gaps in a human value chain. Now humans fill hard-for-software gaps in a software value chain. These are the jobs that AI hasn't managed to eliminate yet, where humans are expendable cogs in an automated machine: Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, TaskRabbit manual labor, etc.
  • Lastly, there's the Untouchable class of the homeless, drug addicted, and/or criminal. These people live at the ever-growing margins: the tent cities and areas of hopeless urban blight. The Inner Party doesn't even see them, the Outer Party ignores them, and the Service Class eyes them warily; after all, they could end up there.

Martinez's conclusion is fairly brutal:

The pessimist in me, however, thinks San Francisco can only continue further down this path, with the old-money propertied class dying or cashing out, the non-techies getting squeezed, and everyone getting pushed into the four-level hierarchy. In case there's any doubt, I find the growth of this rigid caste system horrifying, and antithetical to both liberal democracy and the American project. It also seems that, at least in San Francisco, we're close to a point of no return. Whether that's true elsewhere remains to be seen.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on July 10, 2018 11:09 AM.

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