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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Twain and Tech

Prefiguring a Critique of Silicon Valley

Irina Raicu

Irina Raicu is the director of the Internet Ethics program (@IEthics) at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Views are her own.

Writing in Roughing It, in 1872, looking back at the gold rush period in California, Mark Twain prefigured some of the later criticisms of Silicon Valley tech culture.

He described an "assemblage" of "young men [from many places]... No women, no children, no gray and stooping veterans....” And he added, "It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and recklessness of cost or consequences which she bears onto this day..."

And what had happened to that population, by the time he was writing? He says they had become "victims devoted upon the altar of the golden calf."

Photo: “Elmira NY – Mark Twain Study 1874 – Elmira College – Historic Visitors Center” by Onasill ~ Bill, cropped, used under a Creative Commons licence.

Mar 31, 2022

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