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“Companies in Silicon Valley are wonderfully fond of describing themselves as “mission-driven.” Palantir has raised nearly $2 billion “working for the common good” and “doing what’s right.” At Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes promised “actionable information at the time it matters.” And for the past four years, Google and Facebook have occupied top spots on Business Insider’s annual list of the “Best Places to Work,” not merely because they dispense such perks as free laundry and subsidized dental care, but also because they claim to offer their workers the chance to be part of a meaningful project of global scope.
In that sense, mission statements are as much directed internally, at employees, as they are externally, at the public. The hours may be long and the competition fierce, the implicit message goes, but it’s worth it because the reward is spiritual as well as tangible. At some tech companies, faith in the mission is encouraged to the point that it resembles religious belief. Employees are invited to see themselves as proselytizers for the transformation of society, spreading the ideas of a company and its leaders around the world.
What happens, though, when the mission doesn’t accord with the behavior of a company or the values of its employees? For many, it has become increasingly impossible to believe that tech firms are working disinterestedly in service of some larger social good. Employees at Google have staged walkouts to protest sexual harassment and petitioned the company to halt its plans to develop a search engine that supports Chinese government censorship. Workers at both Google and Microsoft spoke out against providing cloud services for the Department of Defense, and Amazon employees posted an internal letter protesting how Amazon Web Services provides facial recognition technology to police.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"Political leaders from all French parties, including former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, joined Jews and non-Jews in Paris’s Place de la Republique to condemn antisemitic acts."
"Eighty years ago tonight, thousands of Americans gathered in New York to rally behind the Nazi Party and its ideals. An Oscar-nominated short documentary retrieves footage of the event, but leaves out the context that gives it meaning."
"The PM has persuaded the religious-Zionist Jewish Home to partner with the Kahanists of Otzma Yehudit. It makes cynical political sense for his interests, but what of Israel’s?"
"IFC’s series Documentary Now! began as an affectionately parodic tribute to the classics of nonfiction cinema. Its first episode, “Sandy Passage,” was a note-perfect evocation of the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens..."
"Making our choices count is, however, far from straightforward, and this is the subject of Martin Hägglund’s book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom."
"Teens in the United States are coming of age at a time when digital technology is truly ubiquitous, where smartphones are all of our “constant companions.”"
"...the Smollett story, if the “trajectory” leads to evidence of fakery, would actually reveal something else modern America is about: victimhood chic."
"Cool in the humanities isn’t that different from cool in other areas of cultural life, like planking, hotdog-legs photography, mason jar rehabilitation, and novels whose main character is a city."
"It’s true that high-octane, hardworking child-rearing has some pointless excesses, and it doesn’t spark joy for parents. But done right, it works for kids..."
"Cape Town in South Africa is a foodie destination. Some people in its renowned restaurant industry are trying to spread the food wealth citywide."
"...for many “space expansionists,” escaping Earth is about much more than dodging the bullet of extinction: it’s about realizing astronomical amounts of value by exploiting the universe’s vast resources to create something resembling utopia. "
"After facing persecution in the former Soviet Union and a new wave of antisemitism in the United States, Marya Zilberberg decides to put her Jewishness on display."