Musk and Zuckerberg: Do we rule technology—or it rule us?


In the public imagination, the Amish are famous for renouncing modern technology. In truth, many Amish farms hum with machines: milk vats, mechanical agitators, diesel engines, and pneumatic belt sanders are all found in their barns and workshops.

The Amish don’t actually oppose technology. Rather, the community must vote on whether to adopt a given item. To do so, they must agree almost unanimously, says Jameson Wetmore, a social science researcher at Arizona State University. Whereas the outside world may see innovation as good until proven otherwise, the Amish first decide whether a new technology might erode the community values they’re trying to preserve. “It is not individual technologies that concern us,” one Amish minister told Wetmore, “but the total chain.”

It’s an idea that is resonating in Silicon Valley these days, where a debate over technology and its potential unintended consequences is cleaving the industry into rival camps—each with a tech titan as its figurehead.

On one side is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who sees technology as an intrinsic good. Any social or ethical problems can simply be handled as they arise (preferably without much regulation). This is the default setting for Silicon Valley, which sees the future through utopia-tinged glasses: The problem is the past, and the future can’t come soon enough.

On the other side is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, who argues for caution when dealing with technologies such as artificial intelligence lest humans lose control of their creations, and has expressed reservations about Zuckerberg’s online surveillance business model.

Neither man disavows technology; indeed, both insist our future depends upon rapid progress. (Musk, after all, is pouring billions into interplanetary rockets and a new solar economy.) But the Cambridge Analytica scandal has laid bare ideological rifts between the two men, and the attitudes toward technology that they represent. Continued at