Ro Khanna on Why Silicon Valley Could Use Some Humility and the Future of Work

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Answers by Ro Khanna, Candidate for Congress from Silicon Valley, on Quora.

A: This is the question of our time. Race Against Machine is the best book on the subject. There are two fundamental trends --automation and globalization. Automation is making routine jobs obsolete. Globalization is incentivizing low wage jobs to go offshore. In many ways, we are facing similar changes as the Industrial Revolution, privileging those who have a facility and competency in new technology. We need to make sure that we are educating folks with the skills to compete given these trends. That means everyone needs a basic competency and fluency in technology. We don't need a world of coders. But, even artists and lawyers will need a facility and ease with technology. It also means an emphasis on creativity, collaboration, communication and lifelong learning. We need individuals who will understand how to create value and manipulate machines to solve human problems. So, having a holistic approach to education is going to be critical.


A:We need more humility in Silicon Valley. I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and have spent a lot of time in the midwest. My wife grew up in Cleveland. Sometimes, in Silicon Valley, there is this attitude that we know best and we can change the world. The boldness allows us to invent the future. But, we need more empathy for those who are left behind and a recognition that Silicon Valley can't just call the shots and expect change. We need to think about what Silicon Valley can contribute to the country --not just that somehow government bureaucrats should listen to our way. More concretely, tech companies can and should do more in the local community. We have so many schools here that don't have adequate technology or kids there that don't have opportunities to work at companies a few miles away from where they live. I would love to see tech companies partner with DeAnza, Ohlone, Mission and local high schools to offer internships, to participate in job fairs, to recognize that we need to do a better job providing everybody with the opportunity to succeed.


A:Yes, people are fascinated by Silicon Valley. But, it hasn't achieved the influence it should. We are like Athens, Greece or Florence, Italy. We are the hotbed of innovation for the world. Many politicians have figured out that Silicon Valley is an ATM for political contributions. But, we need it to be a hotbed for ideas. Silicon Valley can help shape thinking about what type of higher education is needed for the jobs of the future. Silicon Valley can help our government understand policies that will allow America to be the most competitive. Silicon Valley can help us understand what investments are needed in basic science and research. Silicon Valley can help deal with income inequality by making sure that every child has the basic education to contribute. But, all of this will mean that folks have to care more than just about their own companies, or building the next big thing. They need to engage politically. They need to vote. They need to serve in some capacity. The aspiration of my campaign is to help bring more of a public spiritedness to Silicon Valley. There are many amazing role models like Sheryl Sandberg who are doing this on the big scale. My hope is the participation will become more broad based.

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