Silicon Valley’s countercultural aura is gone now that Google develops AI for China and Palantir helps monitor immigration
If there was one thing that united the founders of today’s tech giants in their early days it was contempt for politics, manifested as suspicion of government and a pathological aversion to regulation (not to mention paying taxes). In part, this was a product of their origins in the counterculture of the 1960s. But the aversion endured as the companies grew. One saw it, for example, in the US poet and cyberlibertarian John Perry Barlow’s 1996 Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. “Governments of the Industrial World,” it began, “I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”
For many years, Silicon Valley companies didn’t even bother to have lobbyists in Washington. As late as 2015, Eric Schmidt, then the executive chairman of Google, was predicting that authoritarian governments would wither away in a comprehensively networked world, which made some of us wonder what exactly Dr Schmidt was smoking.
Google’s bosses were running a secret project to build a search engine that would be acceptable to Xi Jinping and co. Eventually, it was scrapped