NYTimes on Technology and populist revolt: “We may have seen nothing yet”

Unexpected and unexpectedly good piece in The New York Times today, profiling the economic and social theories of Vinod Khosla, Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist (and, the NYT suggests, wannabe celebrity), who is going “gung-ho on disruption and [is] an investor in start-ups that are building technology to take away people’s jobs.”

We love several of Khosla’s quotes in this piece:

  • “If you’re doing anything disruptive, you’re disrupting somebody, and somebody’s getting hurt.”

  • “Revolutions are hard on people. People get killed. People get hurt.”

  • “It seems likely that the top 10 to 20 percent of any profession — be they computer programmers, civil engineers, musicians, athletes or artists — will continue to do well.”

  • “I worry a lot about how do you keep humans motivated to live.”

  • “Does capitalism need to be reinvented for modern technology? I’m absolutely convinced it does….Capitalism is interesting, because capitalism as a system is by permission of democracy, right?”

  • “Imagine 10 times as many people were unemployed today than are [because of robots and other further tech advancements].”

Some of it sounds like cliche, but they really aren’t cliches we’re hearing enough in the perpetually sunny world of PR-driven startup speak in too much of the media.

Khosla says a lot of the things we agree with, and even the ones we don’t agree with we think deserve discussion.

The piece closes by suggesting in a roundabout way that as a disrupted workforce gets increasingly restless, the bread and circuses of distraction will likely escalate. 

It speaks of “a new social contract,” where an “undisrupted few assume new obligations to the disrupted many, in order to be freed to go back to their disruptive works.”

At least Khosla has the guts to say what this really is, and why: “To put it crudely, it’s bribing the population to be well-enough-off.  Otherwise, they’ll work for changing the system.”