Former Manager Facebook Antonio Garcia Martinez wrote for the publication Wired about how in San Francisco and the surrounding area has developed a rigid caste system, which can result is not something revolutionary, not something worse.
California is the future of the United States, says a popular cliché. What the US is doing now, Europe will do in five years, says another stereotype. Given these allegations, let’s look at the socioeconomics of the “City by the Bay” as a harbinger of what was to happen.
Data show that technology and services are a significant part of the urban employment. They also say that unemployment and housing prices follow the booms and recessions of the technological industry. In the current boom, an income of $117 400 for a family of four is considered low. Some readers were laughing at my remark in the memoirs about work in Facebook that six-figure compensation made me “barely middle class”. As it turned out, I wasn’t far from the truth. Look at those reflections on the bourgeois life in the bubble of San Francisco, which seem to correlate with data and technological experience of other cities.
Residents of San Francisco, it seems, is divided into four broad classes or perhaps even caste:
- Internal caste of venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs, managing technological machine motor city economy.
- External caste of skilled technicians, operating specialists and marketers who are responsible for ensuring that the mechanisms belonging to the Internal caste worked like clockwork. They pay well, but they still live a middle-class life, or what we used to be considered middle class.
- Caste of service, working on freelance. In the past computers have filled in the gaps in the human chain where people have had difficulties. Now people fill in the gaps in bottlenecks of the software. This is the work that artificial intelligence has not yet been eliminated, where people are simply disposable cogs in an automated car: the Uber drivers, Instacart customers, artists handmade on TaskRabbit, etc.
- Finally, there is an untouchable class of homeless, drug addicts and/or criminals. These people live on the side of the constantly growing: in campsites and in the areas of hopeless urban decay. Internal caste didn’t even see them, ignore, and cast service looks at them with caution, because in the end they can be in their place.
Mobility among castes seems minimal. The External member of the caste can reach Internal by going to work in a winning company (e.g. Facebook or Google) or becoming a successful entrepreneur. But this is rare. Most of the outside castes prefers to work on the inside, gradually accumulating capital through stock grants and buying property.
Cust service will probably never be able to drive/ buy/make to rise on a step Exterior castes, at least without additional training or skills. They first and foremost try not to fall into the caste of untouchables. Uber, for example, does not hide his intention to replace the drivers with robots. Bots couriers that have already appeared on city streets, though later their use was restricted.
Of course, there are people outside this classification. Longtime property owners (and tenants) who carefully look at the technological boom, even if their gains from growth in real estate prices high. (Peter Thiel, the investor, this bright, recently fixated on how his tough acquired capital disappears in the greedy vents “slumlords”).
There are also workers in more traditional, non-technological industries. In cities with more diverse economies such as new York, they inhibit the effect of technology development. However, in San Francisco, their life becomes more impossible, because the city is captured by the technologies that support it socio-economic stratification. I was shaky a member of the Outer-caste and my wife is a relatively well-paid non-technological expert, but we probably won’t be able to stay in the Bay area, especially with a baby.
Economy beyond the 49 square miles of San Francisco, for example, in Europe, have a system of social protection that mitigate the difficulties of the lower classes. They also protect traditional industries and working conditions, trying (perhaps in vain) to stop the threat of automation. Uber banned in some places in Europe, as taxi drivers sometimes engage in violent protests against the replacement of people by computers. Barcelona, one of Europe’s largest markets, Airbnb, tighten the nuts against the company, fearing that large parts of the old city centre will be a great Airbnb hotel.
This idealism is needed so that the city remained a pleasant place to live. One of the most important things in Europe (or in smaller towns in rural areas of the US) is the realization that the poor are not absolutely doomed to marginal and low-life. Your place in the world is not determined by his wealth.
In San Francisco a completely different story.
Here, External caste, whose consumer life is to say mobile apps that should make people another connection with the caste of service. For example, being a user of Instacart, you will often see a colored person coming to you with a bunch of products that you were too lazy to buy their own. The total cost of your order is likely to be higher than his entire earnings for the day. Often the order will error, indicating that the buyer did not quite understand what to buy (fancy cheeses especially risky). You click in the app and leave a tip to soothe their conscience and not think about the staggering profits, which are the owners of technology and capital.
This, of course, a nightmare. But this vision of the future that offers San Francisco: strong stratification, low social mobility. It is feudalism with a more advanced marketing. Today’s economy of “sharing” is reminiscent of “rental farming” from past years, and the serfs now respond to the instructions of the phone, and not on the team of the beholder.
Inequality is rarely reduced, and if this occurs, it is often as a result of wars, revolutions, pandemics or the breakdown of States. If there is possible to find hope in peaceful political change, it is likely that among the Exterior castes. Internal caste lives in my heart from reality. But outside of the caste still have to teach children not to pick up syringes on the street and from time to time to deal with violence or theft (our family has experienced both over the past few months). The members of the Exterior castes is almost no collective identity, but there are common interests in terms of cleanliness of streets, crime, schools and traffic. These interests manifested themselves in the recent mayoral election, where the darling of the External caste brides in London, advocating for the development and technology, barely defeated two other candidates. Brides have moved away from the typical progressive politics in San Francisco, proposing to eliminate the homeless camps with the help of state of preservation (which, in fact, forced institutionalization).
However, the pessimist in me believes that San Francisco will continue to develop in the same spirit as the previous monetary class dies or loses money, people that are not related to technology, is getting smaller, and all fall into a four-level hierarchy. I believe that the growth of this rigid caste system is appalling and contrary to both liberal democracy and American interests. It also seems that at least in San Francisco we are close to the point of no return. Is it the same situation in other places is not clear.