Silicon Valley Should Build a Wall — and Pay for It
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because we build too many bridges and not enough walls.
By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
To outsiders, Silicon Valley may sound like a Shire for nerds, a paradise for frolicking around the harvests of venture capital. But to the commoners on the inside, hell hath broken loose — sinister self-driving cars are stalling traffic, Soylent dust is blotting out the sky, and families are fleeing the specter of skyrocketing rents. It’s only a matter of time before the cyber elite unleash their killer robots to “disrupt” the rest of the world. Mark your iCalendars, folks.
The fix is simple. Take a page from the Donald Trump playbook and erect a wall around Silicon Valley — and build quickly, before this high-tech heartland gains more territory. While some walls are meant to keep people out, these will be built to keep techies — their riches, high rents and strange startup-isms — in. Think of it like a quarantine, keeping affluenza and Teslas within a confined space. The divide is already palpable, so why not construct something more, say, concrete?
Survey the wreckage before you scoff: High-flying startups and their well-heeled employees have sprouted along the peninsula like a fungus, jacking up the price of housing, gas and food for the rest. “Tech leads to displacement,” says Erin McElroy, co-founder of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. Already, Silicon Valley has wreaked havoc across the Bay Area, infiltrating parts of Oakland and Berkeley while threatening to swallow San Francisco whole. In the city, monthly rent for a typical one-bedroom apartment starts at $3,330 and eviction notices are up 60 percent since 2011.
Cordoning off Silicon Valley could stem the flow of misfortune into other parts of the country. Of course, techies can set up their gilded castle inside these walls. Their mythical, fully wired Camelot could code up a techie’s wildest dreams — robot dog-walking services, a concierge desk powered by Siri, an elaborate virtual-reality game center, on-demand driverless Ubers, and drones that deliver GrubHub orders right to your doorstep. The only caveat? No one is allowed to leave this private community.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is thrilled about constructing a wall around Silicon Valley, most notably the digerati who would be confined within it. Silicon Valley puts a yuuuge $535 billion into the country’s economy, and the industry’s reach is not only national but also global, with brands like Google, Facebook and Twitter that already cross borders. “A good economy should be able to expand. I can’t think of anyone [the wall] is good for except the people hired to build the wall,” says Tim Draper, a billionaire venture capitalist who’s a household name among Silicon Valley’s technocrats. Plus, few walls — no matter how sturdily built — are impenetrable or, quite frankly, solve much in the end. As a cautionary tale, consider the mighty, albeit porous, Great Wall of China, which suffered from repeated invasions by the Manchu and Mongols over the centuries.
All told, building a wall around Silicon Valley would be bogged down by legal challenges, logistics and infighting before the project even began. Then again, Trump didn’t exactly spell out the specifics of his so-called big, beautiful wall either.