Why layoffs of big tech companies could save the planet

IIn retrospect, it seems like it should have happened sometime. The shiny, cool and flying tech sector has come to Earth.

Not that it was absolutely terrible – we’re talking more emergency landings than oxygen masks and stent positions. But the ambitions were checked as rising interest rates ended years of easy cash, a point driven home on recent earnings calls and an unprecedented mass layoffs from companies that used to do everything but send out gold-plated helicopters to snatch up computer science graduates. Degree holders from the best universities in the country.

Personally, I find it hard to feel bad. It’s upsetting to lose a job — but if someone had to, it could also be someone who’s been making upwards of $200,000 for a few years, not to mention the outrageous perks. (In particular, one of my Twitter friends told me he was already upset by Elon-o-tron’s layoffs, the consolation of a bland severance package, a sentiment shared by 80% of Twitter’s pre-layoff work force.), according to a survey on the app’s survey. Blind opinion.)

And beyond simply gloating at the thought of the withering Zucker Borg, I also find myself with a strange sense of uplift, and unexpected optimism, about the whole tech downturn. As far as I can tell, a lot of these companies haven’t done anything great for the world in a long time. Sure, people enjoy a lot of social media, but it also has an unfortunate tendency to break our minds and our democratic institutions (not to mention the whole Myanmar genocide). Next-day delivery is nice, as long as you don’t consider the class of underpaid, algorithmically managed workers who have to forgo bathroom breaks to make it possible.

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None of this is likely to change. The success of these companies has centered around decades-old innovations—personal computing, Internet connections, the ubiquitous smartphone—that have resulted in unprecedented money-making opportunities (showing ads to people on their phones is good business! It also turns out that most of us like connecting things more than go to shopping). But when these companies tried to use their piles of cash and engineering talent to tackle tougher problems, like self-driving cars, their own optimism was blinded, and they found it staggeringly short. And many of their other plans seem to simply entail extending the basic logic of their original product to an appalling, miserable degree. (Do you like scrolling on Facebook? Well, you’ll love it who live inside it.)

The point I am making is that I don’t think it’s a huge tragedy that these companies will eventually lose some of their enormous share of the community’s venture capital and technical talent. And it couldn’t come at a better time than the rest of us. In the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress passed a massive clean energy economy stimulus. Suddenly it’s time to get into batteries or solar panels, which is also good for anyone who cares about phasing out fossil fuels and averting climate disaster. Scaling up this innovation won’t solve the climate crisis on its own, but it certainly helps.

Transferring capital to those sectors is simple. And a lot of those laid-off workers may be able to relocate, too—cleantech companies need programmers and product managers, after all. Not to mention, a lot of the tech people are very smart and definitely able to fill in your skill gaps. So, here is my request to you, O meta-engineer pariah:

The world really needs to fix climate change, or else Very bad things will happen. You may be able to help. In fact, with your experience, abilities, and education, you are almost certainly in a position to do more than most. There will also be a lot of money for the people who help discover them. In fact, it would kill many people to be where you are now.

No pressure, though. I know there will also be a huge payoff for whoever invents MySpace 2 or whatever. I’m sure that would be great. But maybe helping to avert climate catastrophe can be fun, too. “Renewable Energy” – Doesn’t it have a nice ring to it? Already lifted a bit from those dreary layoffs, right? Just my cent here. Maybe just think about it. take your time. But not much time. We don’t exactly have much of that.

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write to Alejandro de la Garza at alejandro.delagarza@time.com.

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