Silicon Valley’s deep financial ties to Saudi Arabia illustrate “the hypocrisy behind the ‘change the world’ fantasy” pushed by tech companies, said journalist Anand Giridharadas.
Saudi backing for popular apps like Uber, Slack, and Wag offers proof that “the most idealistic companies on earth—in rhetoric—are very happy to take the dirtiest money on earth to grow and grow and grow,” he said.
Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the Word, spoke at the WIRED25 festival on Sunday, on a panel about the trouble with techno-utopianism.
He argued that the uproar around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was allegedly killed by Saudi agents last week, forces the tech industry to face the reality of the Saudis.
However, in light of the graphic details that have emerged about Khashoggi’s alleged murder, Silicon Valley can “no longer hide behind an idea that it’s another player in Davos in the Desert,” he said, referring to an upcoming festival in Riyadh arranged by the Saudi government.
The panel was moderated by Virginia Heffernan, an author and contributor to WIRED, who quickly challenged Giridharadas on the idea that anyone came to Silicon Valley to associate themselves with repressive regimes.