I was really happy to see the guest editorial by Johnny Koch in this week's Bay Guardian arguing that "Tech Workers Aren't All Evil". I'm sick of all the bitching lately about some lumped together stereotype of a "tech person." It's easy to create a straw man based on everything pissing us off about urban living and set it all ablaze at once. Yes, the rents are insane, as are the prices of some shops and restaurants in The Mission. But the inflated housing bubble is also a national issue. And if you're on a budget, there still are plenty of cheap things to do in San Francisco.
I don't blame an entire industry (and every single person who works within it) for a city growing expensive, and I'm getting tired of hearing complaints from friends and strangers who make mass generalizations about people they likely have never met or worked with. I know we've done our own stereotyping on TBI of tech folks too, but our writers have approached the topic as parodies. It's hard watching the very serious hatred for people who have tech jobs grow stronger in posts and forums. It's not like these folks are making assault weapons for a living. Most of my friends who work in startups are helping build information systems that benefit universities, organize and label your iTunes music collections, and help get the bands you want to see to your city. You can't lump all tech work, or people using the medium to push out new ideas, as evil.
This isn't to dismiss the challenges of living in San Francisco. It has been and continues to be incredibly expensive to live here. As the Bay Guardian also shared, evictions in this city are up. But I wonder what are these "tech people" supposed to do? Not live in San Francisco? And how do we know where every person with a tech gig eats, drinks, or shops? There are other industries – and old-money families – that have gotten people rich in this town.
We also are living in a time when technology is allowing us to innovate and share ideas so differently than we've done in the past. I see the most ranting and generalizations about the tech sector on Facebook, which, I hope these ranters realize, is a product created out of the tech sector. We text and listen to music and post ideas and images at a speed that was unfathomable before, and for that we can thank those who spend their days behind computers. Even The Bold Italic is a product of new technology. I spent 10 years in the print industry before TBI, and I can tell you in that world, ideas move at the speed of old white men with big egos (which is to say, they move with little innovation or openness to shaking things up). It's exciting to be able to act on our brainstorming sessions in a timely fashion and to work for an agile media outlet, thanks to the medium in which we share our work here.
There are organizations working to use technology for good, to make interesting things happen in San Francisco. The tech industry is more than the buses that take its employees to work, and it's more than the amount someone may or may not pay a landlord. The hate being spewed about people who work in tech is getting ridiculous because it discounts so many new ideas and ways to engage with people, cities, and information.
I don't want to go the other extreme and say tech companies are by nature blameless. If a specific company takes advantage of city laws and relationships in a way that hurts San Francisco, that company should be questioned. But I am arguing, as the SFBG editorial did, for focusing frustration about the changes in this city on the very policies causing our pain, and looking forward to solutions for effective fixes. Creating a very general good guy/bad guy scenario based solely on an industry does little to move the conversation – or the future of San Francisco, for that matter – forward.
Illustration by Brad Amorosino