And yet, many programmers who had “made it” in Silicon Valley were scrambling to promote themselves from coder to “founder”. There wasn’t necessarily more money to be had running a startup, and the increase in status was marginal unless one’s startup attracted major investment and the right kind of press coverage. It’s because the programmers knew that their own ladder to prosperity was on fire and disintegrating fast. They knew that well-paid programming jobs would also soon turn to smoke and ash, as the proliferation of learn-to-code courses around the world lowered the market value of their skills, and as advances in artificial intelligence allowed for computers to take over more of the mundane work of producing software. The programmers also knew that the fastest way to win that promotion to founder was to find some new domain that hadn’t yet been automated. Every tech industry campaign designed to spur investment in the Next Big Thing – at that time, it was the “sharing economy” – concealed a larger programme for the transformation of society, always in a direction that favoured the investor and executive classes.
Profit-hunger, philistinism and misanthropy are and always have been at the core of the enterprise. The new breed of Silicon Valley billionaires knew exactly what they were doing. The plan was to take all the money and run – to Mars, if necessary.