The headlines in the tech and startup world have not been good over the last couple of years. As it turns out, the “move fast in break things” culture was itself pretty broken—full of discrimination and harassment. On top of that, the rise of tech is exacerbating wealth inequality, creating some serious data privacy issues, and allowing hate and misinformation to grow rampant on its platforms.
For all its promise of moving humanity up and to the right, the tech industry boom has had some nasty side effects, and as we saw in Amazon’s HQ2 fight in NYC, a lot of people aren’t taking it anymore.
It’s not surprising. When wealthy tech leaders seem, at best, disconnected from the rest of the world’s issues and at worst totally unsympathetic and wrapped up in their privileged little bubbles—it’s easy to be against them.
Perhaps if tech suddenly made housing, healthcare, transportation, combating opioids AND fixing climate change super cheap, AND enabled underemployed and displaced workers to survive on a living wage, AND provided childcare and education, I’m sure @aoc would give you a refund. https://t.co/40lMhxtOLu— Charlie O'Donnell (@ceonyc) February 18, 2019
I hope we can take a different path in New York City. As the local ecosystem matures and gets more and more politically active, I hope our activities coalesce around the following single issue:
How can the technology community make life in NYC better for everyone?
I don’t ever want to hear any issue ever brought up by anyone in NYC tech unless it has that as its lens. No more “How can my company get faster internet?” It should be “How can everyone get faster internet?”
Imagine if it wasn’t “Should we have Airbnb or not?” but instead Airbnb was seen as an active proponent of expanded affordable housing construction. Imagine if WeWork refused to take more space with a commercial landlord unless that landlord was seen as friendly to small retail businesses.
The New York City tech community has the opportunity to be seen as a very public and influential champion of fairness and equality within our city—and it’s in the community’s best interest as well. If NYC was a place of access to affordable healthcare, childcare, working transportation and fair wages, as well as the kind of place where you could grow up and not get displaced when the economy performs well, every single company would want to be here.
So, while we’re debating the best way to get kids coding in school—which I do think is important—let’s make sure no one ever gets arrested for marijuana possession in New York ever again and thrown into the incarceration cycle. When we’re writing up the scooter regulations, let’s make sure renters have adequate protections against increases and harassment by landlords looking to clear buildings. As we’re busy building a world class educational institution using public land, let’s make sure everyone in the city has a home to call their own.
New York City residents will get on our side when we get on theirs first.