Silicon Valley Needs a New Drumbeat

Back when I was in school we had, what’s called a moral science class. The lessons taught in this class were about respect, honesty, integrity compassion, kindness etc, and the importance of them all in the scheme of human existence and happiness. We were all required to take the class K through junior high, no exceptions. Every day for twelve years of my life the same things were taught over and over. Like a drumbeat. It was hard not to question one’s intelligence. Viewing it from a different perspective I realized – human beings are creatures of habit and it takes time and practice to form good ones. Thus it dawned on me that while we were cultivating our minds, the ‘drumbeat’ was about not forgetting the things that make us human.

Over the past few months, many abhorrent aspects of silicon valley culture have been brought to light. These have been like the drumbeat- but a cacophonous one. For all the differing views we may hold about politics, race, culture, and diversity the one thing we can all agree on is this drumbeat needs to change.

Flashback to my first rendezvous with Silicon Valley- I was here as a tourist, for a paltry five days. I was relocating to a different continent and this visit was borne out of a desire to see the ‘other’ coast as I was bidding adieu to America. There was a city across the pond, I would soon call home and I was prepared to fall in love with it what I didn’t realize at the time -I had given my heart away to Silicon Valley. What I also didn’t know at the time was that I will be back a year later.

Over the years Silicon Valley has endeared itself to me, by its energy, freshness, excitement, culture, and diversity. So I write this not to bruise an already battered Valley (for its culture) but to remind myself of how much I love this place, and to find resonance, even if a feeble one, in others like me, who share the same passion for the Valley, have decided to call it home, and want to see it do better, be better.

Whether or not we like it Silicon Valley has the most fortunate destiny to change the world for the better through the work it gets done every day. Not many have that privilege. It’s quest for the next moon shot and a single minded focus on that task is not only essential but critical. And precisely because the world expects much of us, we can not forget that excellence is a goal both for ourselves and the technologies we build.

It’s people who make the culture of a place and thus it’s people who can change it. Small changes can have a big impact. If we were to start and sustain a new drumbeat what should it sound like? I think a generous sprinkling of notes of mutual respect and kindness, grounded in the gravity of our shared mission would be a good place to start. What do you think?