At least since Donald Trump’s account was blocked by various social media platforms, it has been clear that the tech elite has an enormous influence on the online and offline world. But how do Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Jack Dorsey or Elon Musk really think about the world – and themselves? How do their values and views differ from those of other people? A new study published in the journal “PLOS ONE” provides an insight into the worldview of the global tech elite.
The two German sociologists Hilke Brockmann from Jacobs University Bremen and Wiebke Drews from the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich worked on a study together with John Torpey from City University New York.
In the digital tracks, the research team analyzed how the world’s richest people from the tech world expressed themselves on various topics, such as on Twitter and websites on charitable projects, and what words they used. They scanned them for certain key terms and compared the frequency with which these terms appeared with the statements of general Twitter users and also those of other wealthy people who do not belong to the tech elite.
Their goal was to find out whether the leaders of the tech giants share a common view of the world, whether they have a mission for the future and how they see democracy. Here you can see some of the results in so-called word clouds: keyword clouds in which the researchers make the terms used by the tech elite visible.
D.he tech elite’s choice of words in tweets: frequent promises to “make the world a better place”
The basis for selecting the tech elite was the “Forbes” list of the 100 richest people in the tech world. The tech elite consists mainly of middle-aged men: 94 of the top 100 are men and only six are women. Their average age is 54 years. Half of them are US Americans, 17 are from China, three from Hong Kong, and a total of seven more from other parts of East Asia.
According to the results, the global tech elite thinks far more performance-oriented than the average Twitter user. It also promises much more often to “make the world a better place”.
Wealth, power and influence are core characteristics of the CEOs of the so-called “Big Nine” companies, which can be found mainly in the USA and China: Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft as well as Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei and Tencent, but also hardware and software companies such as Dell, Intel, Oracle or SAP. They have changed the economy and the world of work significantly in just a few years.
The self-image of the techies: competition, profit, inequality
“The tech elite is like a class of its own,” write the researchers. “As a social group they share their view of the world: it is performance and wealth-oriented, missionary and democratically contradicting itself.”
Often they would want to motivate others to share their own goals, namely to make the world a better place, says Brockmann. At the same time, the tech elite has a worldview in which performance counts above all – in a clear differentiation from inherited wealth. In this way, they also legitimize the position they have achieved: because it was earned through effort.
This attitude also has consequences for the company’s work culture. In the high-tech world, for example, employees are usually not unionized. There is less taxation of high wealth and a tolerance of norms that increase inequality, for example through large wage differences between managers and normal employees. According to the authors, all of this deregulates the economy as a whole.
The tech elite do not see their own role, including the abundance of power, as critical. “They say: we only do good! They deny that they set technical standards and influence democracy with their financial strength. The general public sees it very differently, ”says Hilke Brockmann