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He may have founded his startup way back in the early 1980s, but he likes to “move fast and break things” too.
A few years back, Mark Zuckerberg began a listening tour across America that looked to all the world like the prelude to a run for office. Many guessed 2020 as the year that a billionaire startup founder would make his case for disruptive leadership on behalf of the American people. In fact, the social media baron, though now 35 and eligible for the presidency, chose to stay at Facebook. The arrogant tech-world disruptor lane would remain unfilled in this year’s campaign. Or so it seemed.
There was, of course, Andrew Yang—at just 45 years old a bona fide Silicon Valley success story. He may have called attention to some outré ideas popular in tech circles, including a universal basic income and plans to forestall the robot apocalypse. But he was hardly the founder type; he was offering his insights rather than just his brilliant self. And now he’s gone, having abandoned his campaign after faring poorly in the New Hampshire primary.
Let’s not deceive ourselves by looking solely to the younger generation. Yang was not the only tech candidate in 2020; on the contrary, the campaign features one of the old-school tech disruptors, Mike Bloomberg—a man who built his fortune by making powerful, customized computers accessible to rank-and-file bankers and traders. Bloomberg boasts of breaking rules and moving fast in the manner of people half his age; and he’s driven by the same tech-world confidence that says, I and I alone can innovate my way through any social problem.
Strange to consider that for all the public scrutiny and criticism that big tech companies have gotten in recent years—most notably for fostering the kind of unregulated online environment that allowed the 2016 campaign to be fought through targeted deceit—there is a chance the presidential election could come down to two candidates who have more than made their peace with Silicon Valley.
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