Google engineer Sam Kern says tech industry has ushered in new problems and companies must take responsibility. “Climate change is — and must be — a work-appropriate conversation. ... Climate action IS your job."
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Google engineer Sam Kern says tech industry has ushered in new problems and companies must take responsibility. “Climate change is — and must be — a work-appropriate conversation. ... Climate action IS your job."
Credit: KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

How will young tech voters change Seattle?

A new survey finds that more than 80 percent of tech workers say they’ll vote. How will they change Seattle?

Margaret O'Mara, whose most recent book is The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, mulled this over. Below is an edited transcript.

T

here is a lot of frustration in the tech industry. At the executive level. there’s frustration with a local government that seems to not value the economic upside of the growth of the tech industry.

Skepticism about the ability of government to fix things runs pretty strong in the tech industry. It has really deep roots.

Tech's corporate fathers and grandfathers came of age in the 1970s. This is the Vietnam and Watergate-era generation that turned away from government and had lost trust in government and big bureaucracies.

They were self-consciously building a computer industry that's based on tools of individual empowerment that free you from the bureaucracy. The whole premise of the Internet economy has been to remove gatekeepers and do away with the old institutions that were keeping people from communicating and bring everyone on the same level.

The tech politics of the earlier generation falls into two camps.

One is the techno-libertarian side, which believes the less government has to do with any of what we're doing, the more we're able to innovate and build these amazing companies. Government should just get out of the way.

The other camp says: We build amazing innovative things and we actually can do things better than government can do it. We can fix it. There’s an app for that. The government needs to adopt some of that and learn from us.

In general, engagement in civic affairs and engagement with voting in elections has not been something that the tech industry en mass has done as much as you would think.

A lot of tech workers are young or skew young. They're college-educated. They have graduate degrees.

They're choosing to not only work in the tech industry, but also to live in a city like Seattle. They're attracted to the progressive reputation of Seattle and they tend to agree with more progressive candidates for office a or progressive set of issues.

A new generation of tech workers – people in their 20s and early 30s – have had very different experiences with tech and also with politics. They are becoming engaged at the local level and the national level to a degree that we haven't seen before.

It's going to be really interesting to see what will happen.