I don’t know anything for sure, and maybe the people who live in working class neighborhoods in San Francisco and the East Bay are the only ones who have a gripe with the people of tech, but my gut says this is just the start.
I think the busses are incredibly good symbols of the problem with tech. They have these big windows, that you can see out of, but I don’t think the people inside spend much time thinking about what’s on the other side of them. The people of tech have an abstract and incorrect idea of what it’s like to be outside their bubble.
I first encountered this in a town hall meeting I went to at Apple in the late 80s. I was one of several speakers, and I went last. I had been asked to tell what it was like to be a developer for Apple’s products. I had been an Apple developer for a long time, then. I worked with their first developer relations guy in 1980.
I had very much idealized what it must be like to work at Apple. I imagined it was great! And I knew that my life sucked. Now here was the surprise, they felt the same way. Being a developer must be wonderful! Everything is taken care of for you. All you have to do is put up some dialogs, use our code, and in a few weeks you get rich! And you don’t have to deal with the asshole execs. And whatever other grief comes from working in a large organization (which I now understand much better, but still from a distance). Of course none of this has anything to do with what it’s like to be a developer. Our paychecks are iffy. We don’t have health insurance. You always break our stuff because you don’t care or understand. Most of us go out of business leaving the founders unemployed and broken. Etc etc.
Now tech is much bigger today than it was then, and much more pervasive — and it affects far more people’s lives. And people read the news, and they know that the companies are helping the government spy on us. Those busses are such excellent symbols. When are they going to come out of the busses and find out what it’s like for the rest of us. Not their idealized view of who we are, but who we really are.
Sadly, all that’s really needed here is some public relations pablum. Some feel-good ads on the Superbowl that glorify the users, not the products. Have your employees show up at charity events, and make sure there are reporters there too. With a little time and money, the problem could be “solved” in a superficial way.
I don’t know what the real answer is. It’s impossible for everyone to understand everyone else’s perspective. But the people who live in SF and Oakland who are being driven out of their homes have a real gripe. They probably like to live where they live, like you they have friends and family nearby, a job perhaps, and moving to Walnut Creek or Petaluma isn’t what they want to do. And the rest of us who use your stuff, and don’t like to be pushed around either, are feeling a little sympathy for the protesters.