Silicon Valley decline

A good read from The Economist about signs that Silicon Valley is declining, suggesting that it’s not just about the rent:

The second way in which innovation is being levelled down is by increasingly unfriendly policies in the West. Rising anti-immigrant sentiment and tighter visa regimes of the sort introduced by President Donald Trump have economy-wide effects: foreign entrepreneurs create around 25% of new companies in America. Silicon Valley first bloomed, in large part, because of government largesse. But state spending on public universities throughout America and Europe has fallen since the financial crisis of 2007-08. Funding for basic research is inadequate—America’s federal-government spending on R&D was 0.6% of GDP in 2015, a third of what it was in 1964—and heading in the wrong direction.

These are good points. I think they’re underestimating the cultural effects, though: Silicon Valley is a super-white, super-male environment that a lot of bright people (including white male people) don’t find particularly hospitable. Frankly, having lived in far more functionally diverse places (the DC area and here in Houston) I find the Valley a bit creepy.

And it’s hard not to note that the big business of the Valley has shifted over the years from building the infrastructure of IT to figuring out how to make people click on memes. Yes, that’s a broad generalization, but there’s some truth there. Do we want the brightest minds of the next generation figuring out how to optimize your Facebook feed to make you click on more things?

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