WASHINGTON — Technology CEOs are “arguably the most powerful group in the country” and they aren’t humble when it comes to making their positions known, according to an expert on Silicon Valley. Advocating for free markets, less regulation and more innovation, the tech giants also pull out their opinions, and wallets, to help solve social problems.
Silicon Valley CEOs like investing in education, author Greg Ferenstein told a Brookings Institution audience Tuesday.
“Most grew up in cities, most are U.S.-based,” said Ferenstein. “They have this money and they try to fix these problems they know about. The tech industry gives money to where they see problems.”
Most Silicon Valley elites are supporters of equal opportunity, which is why they choose to spend money on improving education. Tech billionaires such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates support nonprofit and for-profit ventures in local charter schools, according to Ferenstein.
Ferenstein’s new e-book, “The Age of Optimists: A Quantitative Glimpse of How Silicon Valley Will Transform Power and Everyday Life, ” is credited by Brookings as offering the first systematic study of the Silicon Valley elite’s rise to power.
Ferenstein used Silicon Valley’s main tenant of optimism to explain its political motives, saying that tech companies believe that change makes things better. Tech thus opposes anything that would slow down technological advancements.
“The quickest way to get a retweet from a tech billionaire is to write news about how the world is getting better,’ said Ferenstein. “They are obsessed with the idea that the future inevitable gets better.”
Ferenstein doesn’t think “humility is how you become a billionaire” and that there is a lot of “bravado” in Silicon Valley.
“There’s this sense they can use their wits to solve social problems,” said Ferenstein.
Their wits, and their money.
According to Ferenstein, Silicon Valley gives more in campaign contributions than either Hollywood or Wall Street. The industry gave about $60 million to campaigns over the last 20 years to prove it.
While campaign contributions may not go directly to an area of social concern, often giving to one party will ensure support for a specific issue.
Silicon Valley is overwhelmingly liberal, yet will fight against allowing labor unions into their businesses, typically a conservative ideal. Tech CEOs are huge fans of the government not as a regulator, but as an investor in citizens, according to Ferenstein.
“While Silicon Valley is avidly pro-market they are not individualists, but extreme collectivists,” said Ferenstein.