ASK NOT WHAT
the government can do for Silicon Valley; ask what Silicon Valley can do for the government. That’s President Obama’s tack, anyway. He presented WIRED with six challenges he feels the tech industry needs to address—just a few earthshaking problems the country could use some help with, that’s all. We reached out to six of the biggest names in the WIRED world, and we gave each of them a challenge from the president’s list. Then we asked: To get this done, what’s the industry’s best play?
1. TACKLE INEQUALITY.
Tim O’Reilly, investor and founder of O’Reilly Media
Silicon Valley runs on stories. So does the economy in general. We create what we believe in. If we believe we can use technology to identify and solve big problems, then that’s what we’ll do. Unfortunately, right now too many people think of technology as something that eliminates jobs through efficiency—capturing the money that used to go to workers.
The tech industry can actually be a force that decreases inequality, but not enough people in Silicon Valley see that. Paul Graham, one of the founders of Y Combinator, once worried that by funding startup companies he was inevitably widening the gap between rich and poor—because he was helping a few founders get very wealthy. That’s wrong. If a company creates more value than it captures, it decreases inequality—no matter how rich the founders become.