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Don’t Expect Tech to Care About Your Problems

June 1, 2017

I ranted against Silicon Valley “entrepreneurs” in my latest Bloomberg View column:

Don’t Expect Tech to Care About Your Problems:

Interplanetary travel is way more fun than accountability.


See all my Bloomberg View columns here.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. June 2, 2017 at 10:30 am

    “Theranos, which was supposed to solve the problem of people who don’t like getting blood drawn. Even as someone who regularly faints at the doctor’s office, and whose veins are tricky to find, I don’t think that rises to the level of a real problem.”

    Trust me, when you have recurring cancer and you get blood drawn quite frequently, hence lots of dry wells, and inexperienced nurses, what Theranos promised, but did not deliver, would have been a godsend for my late wife. It’s not that she didn’t “like” getting her blood drawn, but it was painful and the worst were nurses who refused to listen about first using a hot compress over the area to be pricked, and thus caused her undue pain as they had to call on experienced nurses after their unsuccessful painful prickings. (The best are NICU nurses because they have experience with tiny babies. The worst are inexperienced wisenheimers.)


  2. comment123456789
    June 4, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    If Silicon Valley grows too detached from what people want (and are therefore willing to pay for) and starts wasting too much cash on things that arent useful enough, eventually it will fade and some other center of innovation and business will take its place.

    It’s a tale as old as time. Rise and fall. But it also means that Silicon Valley has a powerful financial incentive to keep itself in check. If it allows itself to become too undisciplined, it will simply stop being successful.


  3. Tech 17
    June 5, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Tried to comment on Bloomberg but apparently either the tech defeated me or someone blew it away … here’s the comment:

    Unlike some of the others commenting here, I didn’t take Ms. O’Neil’s article as any type of attack on business or technology – and if I misunderstood what she wrote, please forgive me. What I read in her writing was simply a warning that technology businesses, and in particular the leadership plus investors behind them, don’t really care about being socially conscious businesses. Having spent a good deal of my life creating, advising or sitting on the boards of such businesses, I have to agree with Ms. O’Neil.

    A business gets created when a person sees an opportunity, has a brilliant idea or simply sees how to scale and execute better than the next gal or guy. Nothing in that formula says “socially conscious”. In fact, the constant message that you “can’t solve world hunger” tends to drive people into thinking about niche businesses or businesses that scale “without solving world hunger”. Few VCs or Angel Investors would ever consider a business that tried to take on something as big as “world hunger” – that’s what they believe foundations do, or NGOs (non-governmental agencies – because we know governments can’t do it alone).

    Should the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. (pick your favorite titan) take up real social causes? IMHO, yes they should. Google should be more transparent and honest (after all, that would truly be “doing no evil”) and even redirect some of its ridiculous moonshot funding into more practical down to earth ways to help struggling nations in need of data and education. Facebook should stop wasting shareholder value on prototype mind reading, or other moonshots, and get down to fighting the true evil of hate posts, child prono rings, terrorism, etc. – all activities that it has provided the perfect soap box for. Oracle should stop holding the customer’s data hostage every time it hikes licensing prices and work with NGOs on how better to use data to help those in need. Microsoft could similarly apply its amazing technologies and stop trying to become an ad revenue driven company by losing the excellent transparency it previously has had as a matter of policy – in other words, stop trying to be Google. Apple too could really help the world as it controls the high end of the device market and has the mind share of those truly influential people in the world, oh, and also of the hipsters who are up and coming and who, when they get old enough to lose their man-buns and whatever the female equivalent of those are, will become the influential next generation.

    Can you legislate that into an investment strategy for technology VCs and Angels? Not a chance. Can we expect more socially conscious entrepreneurs? Unlikely – just use the CEO of Uber as an example: he created an amazing business that scaled rapidly, became a part of people’s lives (at least in the 1st world countries) and allowed a huge – truly huge – number of people to make money in a totally flexible way. Do you admire him? From an investment/innovation point of view, sure – what he came up with was truly awesome. From a social consciousness point of view?? Extremely unlikely anyone would admire him in that dimension … not only does he not care about people in general, he doesn’t even seem to care to establish an equal opportunity, harassment free environment for his employees.

    Our system does not allow such social causes/consciousness as a major consideration for investment. So the early stage start ups and even post IPO startups won’t get a social conscious soon and certainly wonderful social cause technologies have to battle it out for funding with the likes of awful businesses like overpriced, totally useless juice squeezers or even blood sampling businesses that in fact don’t even correctly sample blood. It is truly a jungle and everything has to fight to survive – unfortunately free passes are few and far between.


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