Silicon Valley’s monoculture

Jessica Powell, formerly Head of Public Relations at Google, has published a satirical novel about the tech industry. I haven’t read it yet, but noticed that Farad Manjoo of the New York Times had, and was struck by his commentary on it, especially this bit:

Ms. Powell smartly recognizes a truth that many in the industry elide: A lack of diversity is not just one of several issues for Silicon Valley to fix, but is instead the keystone problem — the source of much else that ails tech, from its recklessly expansionist zeal to the ways its brightest companies keep stepping in problems of their own making.

In short, Silicon Valley’s problem is sameness, stupid — and in Ms. Powell’s telling, we are not going to get a better, more responsible tech industry until we get a more intellectually diverse one.

“I don’t think that everyone has an equal voice,” Ms. Powell said in an interview. “Even putting aside broader issues around gender diversity, ethnic diversity or class diversity, there’s also an issue around people’s educational backgrounds. If you have a hierarchy where engineers are at the very top and the people who are interfacing with the outside world are a couple rungs below that, you really miss something when those people don’t have an equal voice at the table.”

She added: “It’s a monoculture of thought, and that’s a real problem.”

It is. I’ve long thought of Silicon Valley as a Reality Distortion Field, inhabited by rich male nerds who think that Palo Alto is the Florence of Renaissance 2.0 and they are the Medici. It’s all baloney, of course, but it’s amazing how sudden wealth insulates people from reality.