Is the Golden Age of Tech Over?

| 3 minute read

In 2013, the comedy The Internship was released. It stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two older interns competing for a job at Google. Throughout the film, Google is portrayed as a vibrant hopeful company looking to change lives and improve society as a whole. The film ends with Wilson and Vaughn landing jobs after presenting a way in which Google provide a local pizzeria with limitless expansion opportunity thanks to the wonders of technology.

Ten years later, the bright and exciting future of Big Tech seen in this movie has faded away. Even if you take The Internship at a grain of salt for being essentially a 2-hour promotion for Google, the current state of big technology companies seems even bleaker than one could’ve thought in 2013. Increasingly as cheap and seemingly limitless investment money dries up, we’ve seen these tech companies of all shapes and sizes tighten the screws as they look for faster ways to generate revenue.

Some may call it “enshittification”, but are we really looking at the end of a Golden Age for tech in general? From the onset of personal computers in the 80’s and 90’s, to the explosion of the World Wide Web in the early 00’s, tech - and “Big Tech” especially - no longer seems like the revolutionary force for social uplifting it once was portrayed as. From the initial privacy worries of data collection of Facebook/Meta and Google in the late 00’s to early 10’s, to the rampant spread of misinformation leading up the 2016 election, it now feels more of a burden, rather than a benefit to society. The advent of deep learning and AI in the last year or two - what a decade ago may have been hailed as a new forefront of human progress - is now instead carefully viewed through the lens of suspicion. Will it be the next frontier of progress as hailed by its proponents? Or will it yet another tool used to further drive a wedge in society?

Perhaps this was all unsustainable anyways without cheap money backing it. The failure of Silicon Valley Bank could almost be seen as the end of that Golden Era, when one of tech’s champions of VC funding suddenly and abrubtly went under. Moving forward, new ideas may no longer be able to float solely on the vague promise of being the “next big thing”. No more startups like MoviePass will be able to offer unlimited tickets with a hope of eventually converting those subscribers into dollars. Nor will companies like Bird be able to dump hundreds of electric scooters on cities with the idea that they’ll become goldmines. Moving forward, companies may actually have to prove out of the gate that they can make money.

But with that, does the magic of the Golden Era of Tech die with it? Where new advancements came about (perhaps only on the surface) not because of the desire to make an investor rich, but to truly hope to change the world? I think back to The Internship sometimes and wonder if it was really a naive portrayal of what the tech industry was like, or if it was a hope of what it strove to be.