Tech Exceptionalism

I respect Cory Doctorow a lot. I just read his article Twiddler from February discussing what he calls the “enshittification” of tech. He lays out a lot of good points, and it’s worth reading or listening to his full article.

Twiddler – Configurability for Me, But Not For Thee.

Why are digital businesses more prone to this conduct than their brick-and-mortar cousins? One answer is tech exceptionalism: namely, that tech founders are evil wizards, uniquely evil and uniquely brilliant and thus able to pull off breathtakingly wicked acts of sorcery that keep us all in their thrall.

Cory Doctorow, February 19, 2023,

Doctorow also published the article as a podcast on his website.

I have many thoughts. The below is adapted from a Medium comment I left on Doctorow’s article.

After many years of dealing with startup bros. I think, the issue is almost completely perceived tech exceptionalism.

The tech boys buy into their hype. After all, a billionaire just gave them several million dollars to create something new. Because of this they see themselves as not just exceptional, but the exception to rules.

Startup media as you say plays into this, in part by saying “these are evil wizards” and in part with models that depend on application fees to lists. Inc. Magazine is a major offender in this regard.

But where I blame the anti tech media the most, is what goes without coverage. This article about how Peter Thiel sued Gawker out of existents covers a lot of what I mean to say. Media that covers tech doesn’t get negative until huge amounts of money are involved. Also generally until guilt is well established for companies (and people) almost always able to weather negative coverage.

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Sam Bankman-Fried was stiffing over contractors, and acting like a raging ass long before the fraud claims. But no one would cover it. Media hyped him up, put him on the Forbes 30 under 30, and did everything they could to make him feel like rules didn’t apply to him.

The lack of regulation, and logistical barriers Doctorow highlights serve to further enforce a god complex. The CEO of Walgreens cannot fuck with prices the way a random tech boy may. And because they can, they have a power the CEO’s of major retailers do not.

They are in some sense literally exceptional.