The UK’s Guardian is on a Tech Roll

Business sign for Tech Mission

A new business appropriately named Tech Mission is opening on Mission Street. Photo by Emily GIbson.

On Sunday a story about tech in SF led the UK Guardian’s website. The top repeats much of what has been said, but toward the bottom of the story, there are some different people interviewed including Chris Carlson, Fred Turner, an American cultural history professor at Stanford University who wrote “From Counterculture to Cyberculture” and Steward Brand of the Whole Earth Catalogue.

You can read the piece here. 

Filed under: Mobile, Today's Mission

15 Comments

  1. Andy

    “Fred Turner, …. argues that gentrification driven by white, middle-class newcomers to the city is nothing new, and has even underpinned its famous counter-culture movements….. ”

    It’s tempting to equate one middle/working class group moving into a territory formerly occupied by another middle/working class group with the current tech influx. The two are not comparable.

    The Boheniams were broke. The hippies were broke, the Latinos that “displaced” the Irish in the mission were broke. The working-class artist/hipsters who moved to the mission next were also broke.

    This change is far more insidious, as it involves people who, on a national scale would be considered upper-middle class or wealthy moving into San Francisco and economically displacing almost everyone else to the extent that the median income, Ed Lee’s “middle class remark” has shifted way the hell up to the $80,000-100,000 level.

    • John

      I think Brand, who has a reputation for insightful long-term predictions, has framed the issue well here. If you look beyond the arbitrary borders of SF and instead see SF as just the nexus of the entire Bay Area, then much of the problem goes away.

      The article noted Quan’s description of Oakland as Brooklyn to SF’s Manhattan and, other than the historical accident of our “Twin Cities” being separate jurisdictions, the symbiotic nature of their inter-relationship is powerful, and is an indicator of how the New SF and the Old SF can co-exist.

      SF has long been regarded as a leading indicator of what happens elsewhere. And this transition will be exported. The good news is that the newcomers are far more diverse than the “old white male guard” of the former corporate giants, and these are small businesses pushing back the frontiers of knowledge – surely far more ideologically acceptable than the BofA and Wells Fargo of old.

      Don’t fear change. Embrace it. We are fortunate to live in the cutting edge of a new world.

  2. nutrisystem

    Good read.

    The Stanford professor Fred Turner who is quoted shows himself to be a total idiot (or on the tech payroll) with the statement: “The same logic that was driving the counter-culture – and that continues to drive much of San Francisco today – is the very logic that drives Google”

    Equating the motives of counterculture and big Tech? Is this guy joking?

    The tech “culture” is motivated by nothing more than profit-maximization, by any means necessary, including ultra-sleazy and dangerous mass spying. The worker-bees of this world tend to be happily clueless as to the larger implications of what they are creating, and motivated largely by the large paychecks.

    Countercultures are motivated by a desire to improve the human condition, and populated by UNPAID people.

    • John

      I think what you’re missing there is that the criticism that you are making apply to a large corporation, say Google. You can probably level that criticism at any large corporation, whether tech or non-tech.

      But the large tech companies are relatively few in number, and usually not located in SF. What are in SF is a large number of tiny start-up’s – the article mentioned that there are several thousand in SF right now.

      And those small “craft” tech companies are small enterprises at the edge of the technology front that is changing the world. And they are populated by iconoclasts and creative thinkers, which is much closer to the (over-hyped IMO) leaders of the counter-culture.

      Brand bridges the gap between the two. He was radical as anyone back in the 1960’s and here he is embracing this trend and encouraging people to think in broader terms.

      For the UK Guardian, this was actually a fairly balanced piece. More than I’d usually expect from them.

      • nutrisystem

        Yes, those “craft” Tech companies are really changing the world.

        A generation ago, who would have thought it would be possible to take a clear photo and make it look old? That’s freakin amazing!

        And to think that now even people in the farthest reaches of Africa can get into debt thanks to “micro-lending” apps. I’m humbled by it all… Technology really IS changing the world!

        • John

          Aren’t you using technology to make the point that you don’t like technology?

          Why not become a true Luddite and throw away that computer and mobile device? Rather than funnel your doubtlessly hard-earned income into the grubby hands of those nasty tech plutocrats?

        • poor.ass.millionaire

          Sorry nutri, but that is ridiculous. The micro loans have been an incredible boon to small third world business people. This is just another example of how disruptive technologies like crowd sourcing have helped make the world a better place.

          This article was a good read. It illuminated both sides of the debate. I also think that the correlation between the counter culture of the 50-60’s, and the tech spirit of disruptive technology have significant overlap in ideology, radical energy, and the desire to live freely, outside of default societal constraints. Furthermore, SF’s very founding in the mid 1800’s is predicated on gold, so the wealth element of tech start ups has a deep founding here as well.

          There are just way too many sour grapes, regressive old time thinking, etc. coming out of supposedly radical, free thinking liberal groups. You guys have become the old, boring guard! Might as well be dead as far as I’m concerned.

          • nutrisystem

            Admittedly, there is a “60’s era free-love resonance” to the ability of teenagers to send nude photos to each other.

            But what’s starkly different is that a corporation now snags a copy of said photos and keeps them. Forever. And for whatever purposes they desire.

            This isn’t exactly “countercultural”, and it’s not sour grapes to point out that the primary mission of Web2.0 is the industrial-scale harvesting of personal information.

          • nutrisystem

            And btw, loans (micro or macro) are always a boon at first. It’s later, after the donkey courier service business fails and the loan comes due, that the onerous burden of debt service begins.

            After the adoring early coverage of the micro-loan topic in the press, I have not seen any coverage of how it’s all worked out.

            This is similar to how the “Twitter Revolutions” were celebrated endlessly in the press for the way technology had empowered the little guy, and now that the results are in (society collapse), we get zero follow-up stories.

          • landline

            In addition, micro loans tend to have very high interest rates, a fact often glossed over in press coverage, which more resembles public relations rather than journalism.

        • poor.ass.millionaire

          Why is it that lefties of your ilk are always such downers? Doesn’t sound like a healthy way to live. Not saying you have to be like John Galt all the time, but shees, really Debbie downers here this morning :(

          • marcos

            Smiles on Fantasy Island, everybody, Smiles!

          • John

            Yes, PAM, one consistent correlation I’ve noticed is that leftists are invariably pessimistic and lack faith in our nation and institutions.

            Part of this has to be that left-wing politics are more appealing to those who have less intellectual and emotional capital with which to deal with the world.

            But I think it goes further than that. To be in a constant state of whining takes a level of negativism that a normal, well-balanced person would find it intolerable to maintain.

            To paraphrase, those who can, succeed. Those who cannot, become activists. They want to change the world but the real agenda is that they need to change themselves but cannot accept responsibility for it.

          • nutrisystem

            So John, you’re calling poor.ass.millionaire PAM now! Do I sense a little bromance in the air?

          • John

            Keep your pants on, nutrisystem. If you’d been following here, you’d know that he prefers to be called by the acronym PAM.

            For the record, I’m a full-on, red-blooded heterosexual.

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