Much of the consumer technology we interact with today is part of a larger group of ecosystems maintained by major tech companies. If you have an iPhone from Apple, for example, you’re often more likely to use a Macbook, watch AppleTV, or subscribe to Apple Music. If you shop on Amazon, you might also have their Echo digital assistant or a Ring video doorbell installed. Fueled by brand loyalty, tech ecosystems are an organic phenomenon and part of the workings of a healthy free market. But if we commit ourselves to the loyalty and adherence of a tech company, it’s important to look at the worldview of that company and the larger tech industry in general and compare it to your own.
What is a worldview anyway?
A worldview is how we view the world, a comprehensive conception of the world and humanity’s place in it. It’s our system of values and beliefs and the foundation upon which they are based. It involves what we think about the big questions of life – why we’re here, where life and the universe came from, the purpose of existence, what defines good and bad, and what happens when we die. We all have a worldview. It’s not something we’re born with – it’s our thinking about the world as we age as shaped by a variety of forces: our parents and family, our community, our education and those who educate us, our culture, our experiences, our reflections on our experiences, our friends and colleagues, our entertainment choices, and more.
Our worldview is not set in stone. It can change over time, based on our experiences and our thinking. We may have thought one way about something as a teenager only to see that view change as an adult. Change in our worldview comes slowly, so we may not even realize it has changed until much later. Today, with so much information swirling around us every day, it is getting harder to purposely reflect on our experiences and how our worldview is getting shaped by them. But to really know ourselves, and recognize growth or the need for growth in ourselves, we need to take time to think about our worldview and the forces that are shaping it, for better and for worse.
The tech ecosystems in which we choose to participate can influence our worldview, so being aware of the worldview and values of tech companies you associate with, as well as the tech industry and tech culture at large, is important. A corporate culture exists at companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, and others, and that culture is based on a set of values and beliefs shaped by the mission, business practices, priorities, and perspectives of the leaders of the company. And while tech employees may hold a different worldview than that of their company, they will often keep it to themselves in fear of losing their job or reputation. Such was the case with James Damore, a Google engineer who was fired from the company in 2017 for calling out Google’s diversity training and policies as extreme and authoritarian in an internal memo. This kind of mandatory worldview adherence may not extend directly to consumers, but the power of these corporate cultures can still influence our own thinking and behavior.
Here are some key worldview questions to consider about the tech ecosystem(s) in which you participate. If you find that the tech companies behind your favorite tech don’t match up with your worldview, you may want to adjust your relationship with and investment in them or risk being negatively influenced by them over time.
View of Ultimate Authority
The ultimate authority in the tech world is the self. Operating on the idea that truth is relative to each individual, tech drives self-gratification, self-indulgence, self-awareness, self-education, self-improvement, and self-realization. There is no higher authority than self, no higher source for morality. How does this compare to your beliefs about ultimate authority? In what ways does tech put us at the center of our lives? What’s the danger in living for self?
View of Humanity
In tech culture and the tech industry, humans need to conform to technology, not the other way around. Tech culture leans to the binary, the efficient, the automated, the formalized. There’s not much room for messy humanity in there, or for informal thought, personal observation, or the overall good of humanity. What’s your view of the role of humans and the importance of our humanity? Are we more important than the things we create? And what of humanity’s future? Will it be a tech-fueled utopia where man and machine merge? Or something else?
View of suffering
Tech visionaries and enthusiasts view suffering as unnecessary and think it can and should be alleviated or eliminated through technology. At first, this may seem a very positive and noble belief. But while we should work to alleviate the suffering of others, we also need to recognize the role suffering plays in our lives to help us build resilience, overcome obstacles, and reach our full potential as humans. Many in the Judeo-Christian tradition even believe we should be thankful and joyful in affliction because in time it brings about perseverance, maturity, and completeness. How do you view suffering? How do the companies you partner with view it? For example, did you know that Google has a secretive venture called Calico whose mission is to combat aging and associated diseases with the ultimate goal of solving death?
View of money
At tech companies, profit would seem to drive virtually all business decisions. Personal data is harnessed to make billions of dollars in revenue every year. Apple’s hardware is expensive because they take pains to build with high-quality components. As a result, they were the first company in history to valuate at $1 trillion dollars and will soon be the first to valuate at $2 trillion. Google’s advertising slogan for the Google Pixel phone – “Make Google do it.” – is designed to harvest as much data from you as possible so the company can convert that information into advertising revenue. The five largest companies in the S&P 500 are all tech companies that together represent nearly 20% of the market value of the entire index of 500 of America’s top companies. And while making money in a free market is never a bad thing, the love of money, and the problems associated with love of money, can be. What role does money play in your life? How do you feel about your personal data being harvested for advertising revenue? How do you feel about being the product when using a free service offered by a tech company?
View of Politics and Civil Life
Many tech companies take sides in the culture war and in political matters. They will often bow to cancel culture and boycotting tactics to avoid financial loss or public shaming. Social media companies are becoming arbiters of the truth, forced into a role of policing the content on their platforms. Some tech companies are known to filter, suppress, and even directly attack conservative sources. Research has found that Google’s search rankings are not objective and that its search algorithm favors candidates from one political party over another. As one commentator puts it: “Google and [Google-owned] YouTube hold a virtual monopoly on both search engines and online video, respectively, with zero oversight to ensure political or social equity.” Is the company behind your tech ecosystem supportive of your values? Or are they taking actions that undermine or threaten them? Do you respect companies who take public stances on important or controversial topics? How do those stances color their products and services?
These days, we spend a lot of time with our technology, and we invest significant amounts of our money and personal data into a number of tech companies. We owe it to ourselves to compare the worldview of these companies and the tech industry in general to our own system of values and beliefs to see if they match up. If they don’t, we should make some changes. Otherwise, we may look into the proverbial mirror one day down the road and not like what we see.
Your turn! Contact me and tell me what you think as you reflect on your worldview and the worldview of your tech ecosystem.
For those who are interested, I recently compared tech industry worldview to the Judeo-Christian worldview on the Point of View talk radio show. Listen here.