The Shaky Moral Compass of The Silicon Valley

When I lived in Silicon Valley, I was struck by not just the region’s income disparity, but also by the lack of compassion that wealthy tech workers sometimes displayed toward the poor.


I would overhear tech employees complain about the homeless in degrading ways — at coffee shops, bars and in parks. Sometimes their disgust spread online. One notorious example took place in 2013, when Greg Gopman, then the chief executive of AngelHack, a code start-up, lamented on Facebook, “why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue.” (He later deleted the post.)

This is not exactly in keeping with the Valley’s self-designated catchphrase: “We’re making the world a better place.”

Paul K. Piff, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, believes all the money sloshing around the Valley could make some tech executives unaware of their surroundings. He has conducted several social experiments that consistently show that when people gain access to money, their empathy toward the less fortunate falls and, at the same time, their sense of entitlement and self-interest rises.

“With money comes a decreased level of compassion towards other people and an increased focus on yourself,” Dr. Piff said. “It isn’t that it is making people bad. It just makes them more internally focused.”

Source: NY Times

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