Much of the current hysteria about the technology industry is due to its highly ambiguous relationship with its users. Driven by the logics of both compassion and indifference, this relationship has always been erratic yet functional. These two clashing rationales, for example, allowed technology companies, frequently painted as Dr Evil, to claim the mantle of Mother Theresa. However, as the unresolved contradictions of these logics pile up, we can’t fail to notice the incoherence of the industry’s overall social vision.
The compassion story has some truth to it. Tech giants have pegged their business models on our ability to consume. Thus, their interests are somewhat aligned with ours: we need a paycheque to buy what’s being advertised. A charitable comparison might be to Henry Ford paying his workers enough to buy his cars; a less charitable might be to slave owners keeping slaves fed not to lose them to exhaustion. However, unlike Ford or slave owners, our tech moguls want someone else to fund their preferred solutions (eg the universal basic income).