A bonus deep-dive episode into the culture and politics of Big Tech and Silicon Valley!
Today Andy chats with the writer Wendy Liu (no relation) about her recent book, Abolish Silicon Valley.
A programmer, former Google intern, and startup founder, Wendy has written on a host of political-economic questions swirling around Silicon Valley today: how to organize contract workers in Silicon Valley; Andrew Yang and UBI; and why we should socialize Amazon.
Above all, she is interested in spoiling the myths that Silicon Valley tells itself and sells to the public. This episode focuses on her individual reckoning with the reality of Big Tech and capitalism: her distaste for corporate identity politics, how her social position (second-generation Chinese-Canadian woman) shaped her growth, the contrast between STEM and political education, and the mythology of meritocracy.
0:00 – Wendy’s own trajectory from youthful adherent of the cult of Silicon Valley (Elon Musk, Elizabeth Holmes) to disillusionment and critique.
19:30 – Wendy’s thoughts on entering the tech world as a woman and an Asian-(North) American—from minimizing her feelings of difference in order to fit in to gaining a structural understanding of gender and race. Some choice words for White Fragility-style corporate diversity measures. And a brief discussion of the mind-blowing history of Chinese labor migration to the West Coast.
41:30 – Our thoughts on a previous listener question: why so many Asian-Americans opt for STEM education and career paths. Parental pressure? Culture?
48:00 – We discuss friend-of-the-show Immanuel Wallerstein’s classic, Historical Capitalism (Verso, 1983), and his criticism of the concept of meritocracy. Why is Silicon Valley’s cult of meritocracy a “sham”? How should the rest of us try to process and make sense of this critique?