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A Better World Through Tech

  • by Tim Ritchie on February 6, 2014

    Rising tensions over tech workers' impact on neighborhoods leads Tim Ritchie to imagine a better way.



    Sri Lanka:  what a fitting place to read about the growing fervor against Silicon Valley's tech companies. I was there last week as a part of a delegation to help create a national science center. Sri Lanka is doing all it can to overcome its long civil war.  Its leaders believe that prosperity lies in indigenous innovation fueled by science and technology. There are a growing number of young entrepreneurs who would love to do business with the likes of Google, Apple and Intel.
     
    Quite the opposite view of tech companies is taking root here. Wealth disparities, fears about privacy and the gentrification of neighborhoods have angered people to the point where they feel justified in making personal attacks on people working for tech companies. Harassment is on the rise. Violence could be close at hand.
     
    The anti-tech sentiment is short-sighted in a world that needs tech innovation to flourish. Without new technologies, we will not have enough water, power, healthcare or economic development to meet the needs of over seven billion people. So, we must safeguard the markets and celebrate the companies that bring us breathtaking innovations.  
     
    On the other hand, the seeds of our own destruction lurk in the wealth created by our useful technologies.They might make us powerful and rich, but they won't make us wise or brave or generous or good. A society where people don't use their wealth to build a better community is a society that will be doomed by rising poverty and class warfare.
     
    This could become the Bay Area's wake-up call, where an entire community learns that wealth is multiplied when it is shared. Imagine if this were to happen in the innovation capital of the world. It would be our finest innovation and greatest gift to countries like Sri Lanka which needs to both create a flourishing tech sector and wisely use the wealth it creates.  
     
    In the end, the community we save will be our own.
     
    With a Perspective, I'm Tim Ritchie.
     
    Tim Ritchie is president of The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.
    This article was originally published on KQED radio. A simliar article by Tim Ritchie was also published in SFGate.