By JENNA WORTHAM
I CAN remember a time when technology, and the people behind it, routinely filled me with a sense of wonderment - like the first time I logged into a chat room and, later, the first time I swiped open an iPhone.
Another memorable moment for me happened roughly six years ago, when I tried Goog-411, an experimental phone service from Google. At a time when smartphones were far from ubiquitous, the service allowed people to call a toll-free number and obtain business listings by using voice commands. It was partly an effort to improve Google's own internal software, but it left me marveling at its combination of technological brilliance and public service - completely in keeping with the company's motto of "Do not be evil".
Since then, such technological good will has faded into a kind of disillusionment, and not just for me, it seems. It feels as if the promise of the tech world - its utopian ideals and democratic aspirations - has dissolved into much more selfish pursuits of power and wealth. And the promising developments or companies that do emerge are often dimmed by their flashier peers, who tend to get a majority of the attention.
Just look at Google's impressive and much-hyped new product, Google Glass. While undoubtedly representing a technological leap, it has been criticized as a plaything for the geeky elite. And now the September issue of Vogue, in a 12-page spread, is positioning the product as a high-end style accessory.
At the same time, Google's business practices are under intense scrutiny, with critics saying the company unfairly blocks rival search engines and advertisers.
Then there is Facebook. Over the last few years, the company has been accused of valuing profits over privacy and the public good. So last month, when its chief, Mark Zuckerberg, announced an effort called Internet.org to expand Web access in the developing world, some contended that the plan was motivated mainly by self-interest.
Also last month, it was reported that Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, sold 2.37 million shares of company stock for $ 91 million. Eyes rolled when, shortly thereafter, a listing appeared online calling for an intern to work unpaid at her nonprofit foundation. (The organization has since said it will pay its interns.)
If there was a single event this summer that symbolized the perceived excess of Silicon Valley, it was the wedding of Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster. He threw a multimillion-dollar "Lord of the Rings" -themed wedding in the redwoods of Big Sur, complete with a nine-foot-high cake and custom-made costumes for the attendees.
Evgeny Morozov, author of "To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism," said that events like Mr. Parker's wedding reflect "the kind of attitude that people find repelling." Although it's easy to find similar behavior in other sectors, like finance and real estate, its appearance within tech companies can be particularly galling, given the industry's humanitarian rhetoric, he said.
"Wall Street people do not claim to be saving the world," he said. "They are very cynical about what they do: make money and take nice weekends in the Hamptons." He also noted that many residents of the Bay Area, where much of the tech world is based, are struggling to find jobs and affordable housing as an influx of highly paid tech workers has pushed housing prices skyward.
In May, protesters in San Francisco - upset about rent increases - beat a pinata shaped like one of the Google shuttle buses that takes workers to the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
Veterans of the technology world who have seen this pattern before - in the 1990s bubble that preceded the 2000-01 bust - say the outcry over the industry's excess seems particularly loud this time around.
Maybe that's at least partly because the tech elite has a much larger platform for bragging, preening and complaining. Popular social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr did not exist in the '90s, after all. Now any ill-advised photographs or posts on those sites are fair game for critics, who can fan the flames of outrage with posts of their own.
Peter Shih, co-founder of a payment site called Celery, for example, recently posted a satirical tirade against San Francisco on a blogging site that included complaints about the city's homeless population. A storm of protest around the Web ensued; Mr. Shih apologized and the post was removed.
Mr. Morozov thinks that there may be a hint of a silver lining in recent expressions of displeasure over tech executives 'behavior. Until now, he said, the debate about the role of the modern tech industry has largely been limited to topics like online privacy.
"The virtuality of the debate has made it difficult for us to grapple with the consequences of the proliferation of the world outside of this bubble," he said. "Now that the effects of the tech world invade the physical environment, we have to figure out the necessary philosophical and intellectual framework to deal with it."
1. Find English equivalents to the following words and word combinations.
Ще один запам'ятався мені момент, рятувати світ, заробляти гроші, компанію звинуватили в, акція (частка в компанії), ветерани технологічного світу, чесна гра для критиків, головний офіс компанії, сайт, що містить претензії та скарги.
2. Make your own examples with the following word combinations.
Power and wealth, attitude that people find repelling, the debate, rent increases.
3. Explain in English how you understand the following words.
Invade, affordable housing, fan the flames of outrage, nonprofit foundation, co-founder, consequences.
4. Ask as many questions as possible to the following sentence.
At a time when smart phones were far from ubiquitous, the service allowed people to call a toll-free number and obtain business listings by using voice commands.
5. Make the following sentence negative:
1. It was partly an effort to improve Google's own internal software. 2. The fashion magazine wrote about a new product of Google. 3. It's easy to find similar behavior in other sectors, like finance and real estate. 4. The tech elite has a much larger platform for bragging, preening and complaining. 5. We have to figure out the necessary philosophical and intellectual framework.
6. Is it true or false or not stated in the article?
1. Google's motto can be interpreted like "be good". 2. The Facebook shares has been sold at under 100 million dollars recently. 3. The giants of Internet business support their competitors by all possible methods so the competition is fare. 4. It is very expensive to rent a housing in Silicon Valley. 5. The only thing that Mark Zuckerberg thinks about is how to help people around absolutely free of charge. 6. One of the Napster founders is a married man now.
7. Write out all proper names from the text but for those of people and find short information about them.
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