The scent of the post-tech era in Bay Area

Summer is a thinking season.

I think everybody agree on this. This year I traveled a lot with my family doing a “grand tour” in California. So, a lot of time to think and a lot of things to see related to technology and how it is changing, perhaps, our life in next future.

I remember as it was today when 15 years ago during a period of work in Silicon Valley with a colleague of mine we traveled to San Francisco close to Peer 39 to buy an MP3 reader. It was a novelty for that time a revolution for storing digital content. 🙂

At that time you were at the center of technology world with the possibility to easily access to devices that in other parts of the world you needed to spend a lot of money.

Of course, it was not only a matter of money but it was also connected with the possibility to easily access and experiment tech novelties.

During this summer I was walking along the same streets, perhaps with a different spirit having as companions of my trip a wife and two kids that during my first trip did not exist yet.

Things changed a lot. More or less the Chinese managed electronics shops are still there, packaged with a number of new things but the overall context in which that shops operate changed. It is not an apparent change, you need to pay attention to note the changes. Those changes are also around the city as well.

The change, is the incredible number of homeless.

They are not only a lot, more or less at every crowded corner or plaza or mall or large gardens you are able to note a number of them, but apparently their presence was in such a sense natural, as part of the landscape. Nobody, apparently at least, was paying attention to them or the actions they were carrying on.

How this, an high homeless level, is related with the technology and my original trip to San Francisco to buy one of the first MP3 readers?

A simple lateral connection with articles that I quickly scanned during last months but, honestly, I read them superficially as this one: “Why Silicon Valley is embracing universal basic income” appeared on the The Guardian few months ago: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/22/silicon-valley-universal-basic-income-y-combinator

In this article it is described the pilot experience that startup incubator Y Combinator is going to sponsor that aims to hand over cash monthly to 100 families in Oakland, a short hop over the San Francisco bay, for between six months to a year, to be spent on anything anywhere. In this article is reported that Y Combinator says, is

“a city of great social and economic diversity, and it has both concentrated wealth and considerable inequality”.

It might earn the tech sector some goodwill from locals suffering Oakland’s gentrification by invading techies, but Y Combinator also hopes to collect valuable data from the pilot on how to implement, manage and scale further Universal Basic Income initiatives.”
Ten years ago, the world was a different place. It was interesting to observe recently that for a brief period of time tech companies were the most valuable traded companies in the world. We shifted from a top list dominated by big oil and multinational conglomerates to tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon dominating the headlines, see picture here under from Statista.https://www.statista.com/chart/5403/most-valuable-companies-2006-vs-2016/

At the age of sharing “everything” (actually I read about Omni a Bay Area start up that wants you to share more that car or houses: everything you own http://www.siliconbeat.com/2016/08/10/san-francisco-startup-omni-wants-make-everything-part-sharing-economy/), it is straightforward to think that the capital of the tech world is entering and experimenting a sort of post-tech era and how our cities, communities and society in general could change.

Once again SFA is experimenting for us possible future society models.

Pietro Leo is an Executive Architect in IBM, CTO for Big Data Analytics in IBM Italy, a well-known Innovation Agitator and Analytics maker. Member of the IBM Academy of Technology Leadership Team (#IBMAoT). You can also follow him on Twitter (@pieroleo)

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