By Vivek Wadhwa, Tarun Wadhwa

由维韦克 沃德瓦,塔伦 沃德瓦著

Vivek Wadhwa is a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program and co-author of From Incremental to Exponential: How Large Companies Can See the Future and Rethink Innovation. Tarun Wadhwa is the founder and CEO of Day One Insights and a visiting fellow at Emory University’s Department of Political Science.

本文作者维韦克.沃德瓦是哈佛法学院《劳动,工作和生活》项目的杰出研究员,也是《从增量到指数:大公司如何看到未来并重新思考创新》一书的合著者。塔伦.沃德瓦是Day One Insights的创始人兼首席执行官,同时也是埃默里大学政治科学系的访问学者。

December 30, 2020

2020年12月30日

The coziness between Washington and Big Tech is over.

美国白宫和大型科技公司之间的亲密关系已经结束。


President Donald Trump with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (center) and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the White House in 2017. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford.

2017年,唐纳德·特朗普总统与微软首席执行官萨蒂亚·纳德拉(中),亚马逊首席执行官杰夫·贝佐斯在白宫。 图片来自《华盛顿邮报》,杰宾 博茨福德拍摄。

So far, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden seems like business as usual for Silicon Valley. The industry’s upper class bankrolled his campaign, and several tech executives are likely to take senior positions in the incoming administration. After four unpredictable years, policy discussions are back on familiar ground—and companies are dusting off their tried-and-true lobbying techniques. But while this may look at first glance like a return to the past, it is not: The mood and context have changed utterly, and the traditionally cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and Big Tech is on the brink of turning much more contentious.

到目前为止,美国当选总统拜登对硅谷来说似乎一切如常。该行业的上层阶级为拜登的竞选提供了资金,几名科技高管甚至可能会在下届政府中担任高级职位。在经历了特朗普政府的不可预测的四年之后,政策讨论又回到了熟悉的领域,各公司正在重新使用它们久经考验的游说技巧。然而,虽然乍一看,这可能像是回到了过去,但事实并非如此:气氛和背景已经完全改变,民主党和大型科技公司之间传统上的亲密关系正面临着走向更具争议的边缘。

The Dec. 10 anti-trust lawsuit brought against Facebook by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of New York and other states is likely just the start of the long-expected crackdown on Silicon Valley, no matter which party controls the White House.

12月10日由美国联邦贸易委员会和纽约和其他州的检察长对脸书提起的反垄断诉讼可能只是对硅谷的打击的开始,这一行动对于华盛顿来说是预谋已久的,无论哪个党派控制着白宫都会发生。

Here is why Big Tech is in for a rough time over the next four years:

以下是硅谷大型科技公司在未来四年将面临艰难时期的原因:

1. Self-regulation has failed. One of Silicon Valley’s most valuable assets until now has been the cultural permission to try new things. The public has put up with arrogant rhetoric and a lax attitude toward the law in exchange for innovative ideas that meaningfully improved upon the status quo. But it was a Faustian bargain, with untrammeled innovation raising the specter of uncontrolled growth.

失败的自我管理。迄今为止,硅谷最宝贵的资产之一是尝试新事物的文化许可。一直以来,为了换取有意义地改善现状的创新想法,公众忍受着硅谷傲慢的言辞和对法律松懈的态度。但这是一场浮士德式的交易,硅谷不受约束的创新引发了对不受控制的增长的担忧。

When we learn about Airbnb endangeringneighbors, Twitter failingto stop rampant harassment, or YouTube radicalizing its viewers with an algorithm that recommends extremist content, we see the destructive harm technology companies can do and their unwillingness to rein in their greed. The narrative has shifted from a question of whether there will be regulation at all to the fight over who should make the rules—and how tough those rules should be.

当我们得知Airbnb(爱彼迎)正在危害邻里、Twitter(推特)未能阻止猖獗的网络骚扰、YouTube(油管)通过推荐极端内容的算法而让观众变得激进时,我们看到了科技公司所能造成的破坏性伤害,以及他们不愿控制自己的贪婪的事实。最后争论的焦点已经从是否他们应该接受监管的争论转变为应该由谁来制定规则,以及这些规则应该有多严格了的斗争。


Even within the company, internal surveys showbarely half of its workforce thinks its products are having a positive effect on the world. Zuckerberg, who once symbolized hope for a better future, has instead become Silicon Valley’s Darth Vader. It has come to the point where the city of San Francisco, where Zuckerberg has a residence, is workingto remove the Zuckerberg name from its General Hospital, citing him as a risk to public health.

即使在其公司内部,内部调查也显示,只有不到一半的员工认为其产品对世界产生了积极影响。扎克伯格曾经象征着美好未来的希望,现在却成了硅谷的达斯·维达(假面人)。目前,扎克伯格居住的旧金山市正在努力将扎克伯格的名字从其综合医院中删除,理由是他会对公共健康造成威胁。


Though the industry’s products remain popular with consumers, a consensus seems to be growing that concentrating so much decision-making power in the hands of a few billionaires is dangerous for society and democracy. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s call to regulate and break up Big Tech was just the opening shot; taking on these massive corporations will become a much more common exercise in economic populism.

尽管该行业的产品仍很受消费者欢迎,但民众有一种共识,即将如此多的决策权集中在少数亿万富翁手中,对社会和民主来说是危险的。而且这种共识似乎正在增长。美国参议员伊丽莎白·沃伦(Elizabeth Warren)曾呼吁监管和拆分大型科技公司,这只是个开始;在经济民粹主义中,与这些大型企业的较量将变得更为常见。

4. Scrutiny is increasing inside Silicon Valley. Google used to promise to do no evil; now it appears to be suppressinganyone who suggests it may be doing harm. A recent controversy over the removal of Timnit Gebru, a well-known Google artificial intelligence ethics researcher, shows just how bad this has become. Gebru co-authored a paper that warned about the societal risks of using large language models, a machine-learning approach the company commonly employs, and was subsequently removed from her position in a cloud of controversy.

硅谷内部的审查越来越严格。谷歌一度承诺不做坏事;现在,它却似乎在压制任何认为它可能有害的人。最近谷歌知名人工智能伦理研究员蒂姆尼特·格布鲁(Timnit Gebru)被撤职一事引发的争议,进一步显示出这种情况已经变得多么糟糕。格布鲁与人合著了一篇论文,文中对使用大型语言模型的社会风险提出了警告,而这是该公司通常采用的一种机器学习方法。随后,格布鲁在一片争议声中被撤职。


5. The entire Democratic Party has moved to the left. Silicon Valley’s executive class includes some prominent Trump supporters—but there are few in the industry’s rank and file. The Valley’s predominantly liberal population—along with the rest of the Democratic Party—has moved to the left on key issues such as workers’ rights, wealth disparities, immigration, justice, and policing. The coziness that former President Barack Obama showed with Google and other industry giants would not be tolerated by today’s activist wing.

整个民主党已经向左靠拢了。硅谷的高管阶层包括一些杰出的特朗普支持者,但这些高管很少是从这个行业的普通员工做起的。以自由派为主的硅谷人,以及其他民主党人已经在诸如工人权利、贫富差距、移民、司法和治安等关键问题上转向了左派。美国前总统巴拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)与谷歌和其他行业巨头间那种亲密关系,不会再被如今的维权人士所容忍。

In the Bay Area, technology companies are being pushed to take more progressive public stances on the issues that matter to their workforce, such as the recent controversy over cryptocurrency startup Coinbase’s attempts to quash discussionof discrimination and issues surrounding race. At the same time, the Trump era has led to heightened tensions, with supporters such as Peter Thiel having left the Bay Area, declaring it ideologically inhabitable. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has amassed a record for workplace violations, unx busting, and COVID-19 denial in California, has moved his residence to Texas.

在旧金山湾区,科技公司正被迫在对其员工相关的重要问题上采取更积极的公众立场,例如最近关于加密货币初创公司Coinbase试图平息有关歧视和种族问题的讨论的争议。与此同时,特朗普时代也加剧了紧张局势,彼得·蒂尔(Peter Thiel)等支持者已经离开旧金山湾区,表示这个地方在意识形态上不适合居住。特斯拉首席执行官埃隆·马斯克(Elon Musk)在加州创下了违反工作场所规定、破坏工会和否认新冠状病毒的记录,之后他已经搬到了德克萨斯州的住所。


Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer

谷歌首席执行官桑达尔·皮查伊周二在华盛顿举行的众议院司法委员会听证会上发表讲话。
图片:彭博社摄影:安德鲁·哈勒

6.The public has a better understanding of tech’s dark side. For a long time, the benefits offered by smartphones, slick software, and constant connection were so obvious that any costs seemed negligible in comparison. But a decade of being glued to our devices has caused many people to call into question whether this equation still holds. Though device usage has only increased, satisfaction with a digitally connected lifestyle seems to have decreased.

公众对科技巨头的阴暗面有了更好的了解。很长一段时间以来,智能手机、灵活的软件和持续的互联网带来的好处是如此明显,相比之下,任何成本似乎都可以忽略不计。但是,十年来人们的沉迷于设备,让许多人开始质疑这一等式是否仍然成立。尽管电子设备的使用增加了,但人们对数字化生活方式的满意度似乎下降了。

Abstract issues such as loss of privacy and the power of network effects now feel real and personal: We’ve all seen our actions online lead to intrusive ads that follow us on Google and Facebook; we’ve all seen main-street businesses shut down through their inability to compete with e-commerce platforms’ massive logistical and economic advantages, including the tax and regulatory favors they’ve been able to buy.

诸如隐私的丧失和网络效应的力量这样的一些抽象的问题,现在越来越真实和个人化: 我们都经历过自己的在线行为被谷歌和脸书跟踪并投放针对性广告的事件;由于无法与电子商务平台拥有的巨大物流和经济优势(包括税收和监管方面的优惠)竞争而导致主流企业纷纷倒闭的事情更是屡见不鲜。

7.The future of labor and inequality is at stake. Few issues animate the Democratic voter base as much today as keeping corporate power in check and obstructing tax avoidance by the rich. Companies such as Amazon have come to symbolize everything they were traditionally seen to stand against: poor treatment of workers, monopolistic power grabs, and a concentration of wealth that would make a robber baron blush. And these issues are being exacerbated at a much faster pace than you’d expect: Amazon’s size has exploded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the robot technology that may soon replace the company’s workers is advancing exponentially, and Amazon is eyeingeven more sectors of the economy to enter.

劳工和不平等的未来岌岌可危。在今天,几乎没有什么能像限制公司权力和阻止富人避税那样能给民主党的选民基础带来活力的事情了。像亚马逊这样的公司已经成为了他们传统上所反对的一切的象征:对工人的恶劣待遇,垄断权力的攫取,以及会让强盗大亨脸红的财富集中。这些问题的恶化速度远快于人们的预期:自新冠状病毒大流行开始以来,亚马逊的规模呈爆炸式增长,可能很快可以取代该公司员工的机器人技术正快速发展,而且与此同时亚马逊正在考虑进入更多的经济领域。

Tomorrow’s rising political stars are going to make their name standing up to Big Tech. The next presidential candidates won’t be people like Zuckerberg—instead, they may be drawn from the attorneys general pushing anti-trust lawsuits, senators curbing the power of social media companies, and House members interrogating tech CEOs in Congress. Long before then, the public will have become disillusioned with the tech giants’ claims about changing the world for the better—and become hostile toward the industry’s destructiveness instead.

明日冉冉升起的政治明星将在与大型科技公司的较量中扬名立万。下一任总统候选人不会是扎克伯格这样的人,相反,他们可能是来自推动反垄断诉讼的司法部长、限制社交媒体公司权力的参议员,以及在国会质询科技公司首席执行官的众议院议员。在那之前很久,公众就会对这些科技巨头关于让世界变得更好的说法不再抱有幻想,反而会对该行业的破坏性产生敌意。