The tech industry is facing its biggest challenge in decades. It's "next big thing" can't arrive too soon.
Fifteen years have gone by since since Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone at MacWorld in San Francisco. The product turned Apple into a US$3tril (RM12.7tril) company and helped pull the nation out of the Great Recession of 2008. It further cemented the Bay Area's reputation as the innovation capital of the world, creating tremendous wealth and goodwill for the industry.
Tech innovation hasn't completely dried up. Nor does the industry get the credit it deserves for helping the world survive the pandemic without greater loss of lives. But the promise of transformational products to come – self-driving cars, advanced artificial intelligence and virtual reality – has taken far longer to develop than originally promised. And no game-changing product looms on the immediate horizon.
Meanwhile, Big Tech's challenges continue to mount. Inflation. The threat of a recession. Widespread layoffs. Calls for government regulation. Growing data privacy threats. Loss of public trust.
The latter is the most concerning for the industry as it works to develop the next game-changing products.
Product development demands financial backing for great minds with great ideas at precisely the right time. But it also requires substantial public investment. Many of the tech industry's greatest breakthroughs originated from government funding of scientific research. That's why the bipartisan Chips and Science Act signed into law by President Biden last year is so critical. The US$100bil (RM424.3bil) investment in the National Science Foundation is a godsend for the tech industry. But only if the money is used responsibly.
Silicon Valley founders did just that. David Packard's sense of integrity, respect, and compassion for individuals and their capabilities formed the basis of his business philosophy. Google's leadership crafted its original "do no evil" motto to remind everyone of its responsibility to the public.
Today's faces of Silicon Valley too often do the opposite.
Elon Musk recently testified in a securities fraud trial stemming from his 2018 tweet "funding secured" that "just because I tweet something does not mean people believe it or will act accordingly." It's hardly the first time that Musk made empty promises to investors. At issue is whether people can trust what they read on Twitter and other social media sites. A Pew survey prior to Musk taking over Twitter showed that 55% of people on Twitter get their news from Twitter, and "nearly two-thirds trust in the accuracy of news there."
Mark Zuckerberg's Meta announced Wednesday that it will reinstate Donald Trump on Facebook and Instagram. A Meta spokesperson told CNN's Oliver Darcy that Trump will be permitted to attack the legitimacy of the 2020 election, which is precisely what got him banned two years ago after the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol.
It's this type of behavior that causes the tech industry to lose public trust.
Entrepreneurs throughout the Bay Area are working to create the next big thing in the tech industry, hoping to cash in as so many did before them. But with that wealth creation comes a responsibility to craft products that benefit society. – East Bay Times/Tribune News Service