[re]CodeCommerce & #InclusionSV: time to team up
As we near the end of this god-forsaken year entitled 2016, there is certainly a lot to reflect on (or retract from depending on your disposition). This month has felt pretty surreal if not 100% in-conflict coming off last. I mean how is one supposed to feel merry with cheer given the defacement that is now set to be in control of America, not to mention all the other horrible developments around the globe? Santa is 100% happy he lives in the non-nationalized North Pole, except of course all his polar bear friends are dying from starvation due to climate change. There is that. Nonetheless (or perhaps despite the lessening), the two events in about as many weeks that caught my attention and subsequent attendance were reCode’s latest installment of the CodeCommerce Series and the Atlantic’s #InclusionSV Workshop. What do these two events have in common might you ask? Not much, and that’s exactly my point. Perhaps they should.
ReCode’s event was an e.commerce showcase of Kate Hudson, Jack Dorsey, the Head of ApplePay, and Wish’s CEO held at the Bespoke venue inside SF’s retail center, and the Atlantic’s, more of a think-tank gathering at the Computer History Museum to address how Silicon Valley’s opportunities can be shared by more people. The lack of commonality in these two events is what I would like to bring attention to, in the name of doing things differently here in Silicon’s Valley and City. We NEED to come up with our OWN plan. Last week’s embarrassment of a #techsummit conducted by the President Elect (by way of Mr. Thiel) was beyond embarrassing, it was offensive. Seeing the founders of Amazon, Google, Tesla, Palantir, among others making nice with the hairflap-in-chief made me sick to my stomach. I suppose if the President-to-be of the United States calls, you have to answer. I suppose. But kudos to Zuck for NOT attending.
Jack Dorsey was not invited to that summit for reasons I do not respect. And while I cannot stand that tech’s finest simply came running when that poor excuse for a human-being came calling, in principal I question why @jack was overlooked. If the intended outcome had included even a splash of SV’s heart-and-soul to complement the lion’s share of its income, then call me crazy, inviting THE web startup founder responsible for launching not one but two different $B companies makes a lot of sense. It certainly warrants a spot at the tech table in my mind, not to mention Drumpf’s self-serving infatuation if not obsession with tweeting even the most incomprehensible falsities that ooze out of that psychotic abomination he calls a mind. But no, Twitter and Square apparently do not make the revenue ranks to appease Trump and his newfound bestie Thiel. There is no one that better represents the trial-and-tribulations that define Silicon Valley than Dorsey however. He should have been sitting among the tech titans if for no other reason than to be the David amongst Goliaths, and to capture the essence that is this anomaly-loving, underdog-rooting, against-all-odds inspiring place we call home. [And it may seem hypocritical to in one paragraph commend one founder for not attending, and in the next provide support for why another should have been invited; but so be it, these are the conflictive times in which we live. It doesn’t necessarily make sense, and therefore the path to a solution doesn’t either.)
The question then becomes, if we’re so damn smart and capable, how have we allowed this to happen?
As showcased at Code.Commerce, it is true we have our share of cel[w]ebrities, phenoms, geniuses, visionaries, and outright game-changers here in the Bay-Area. More than our share in fact, we probably have more than anywhere else on Earth, perhaps ever. The question then becomes, if we’re so damn smart and capable, how have we allowed this to happen? Here in the highest realm of the great Equalizer that is and must be the Internet, SF is the bluest of blue politically and yet also has the greatest income disparity in California. Why is that? What does it mean? How can we do something about it? And let’s extend it out further, why is it that on the whole, the tech industry that we all serve is often alienating and demoralizing people more than bringing them together? We are constantly connected but completely isolated. What used to take 1,000 people now takes 100 moving towards 10. So what happens when there is only 1? Along these lines, someone at my table at #InclusionSV stood up during the ‘What’s Next for the Valley and the Country?’ panel and pointed out the very pertinent and obvious: many employers can do more and more with less and less forcing people to go it alone, but it is well established that not everyone is an entrepreneur. So WHAT ARE we to do?
We are constantly connected but completely isolated.
A good start may be joining the forces of efforts like CodeCommerce and #InclusionSV. Imagine if it had been Kara Swisher on stage at an Inclusion conference asking Jack Dorsey about what his companies are doing to improve upon the status-quo. Or if it were an Apple executive commenting on the last mobile-home park(s) in Silicon Valley, THAT would actually have an impact if there were concrete actions and results behind the fluffy ‘we love everybody’ language often heard at these types of events. The 2016 Election marks a deep dysfunction within our democracy and nation, but it is also an insanely close shot over the bow of tech. To some extent the have-nots being created in this newer, digitally transforming, information economy spoke on November 8, 2016, they voted for the despicably inadequate candidate simply because he mouth-offed about change. We need to convert far more of his desperate (often ignorant) supporters to tech-enabled ‘haves’. The tech sector leads the United States and the World in so many ways, surely we can provision some creative instances to contribute if not achieve that goal. Perhaps a healthy dose of collaboration between the new-school Vox’s of the world and old-guard publications like the Atlantic is well overdue. Perhaps it is exactly that, dare I say, synergy which we so desperately need to navigate these turbulent if not explosive waters we are all setting sail upon.
On a more personal note, a distant family member passed away this year, and I was allowed to select a few books from his collection. One of which was ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, and the more I look out into the World (wide.web or otherwise), the more I see “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” coming to fruition. That concerns me here at home in the United States most of all, not only because it’s where I live, but also because if we’re weakened, who then is strong enough to stand up for all the rights and liberties we hold dear? We have to stand up and fight for what we believe in, not just concede to this pitiful excuse of a president because he won on election night. He may have corruptly and grotesquely taken the White House, but he also weakened a nation if not planet. The magnitude of that weakening is left to us over the next 4 years. Our position in Silicon Valley and tech to help mitigate these circumstances is disproportionately high, we need to see it as such. That starts at home, local issues amongst the most global of impacts, and starting at home can very well begin by changing what it means to go to a tech event. Let us recode inclusion, debug inequality, and stop pretending face-to-face interactions aren’t important, if not absolutely imperative. Information can be up- and down- loaded, not meaning.
Happy holidays are made, not assumed, and a Happy New Year is EXACTLY what we stand to start.