An interesting article at Atlantic by Alexis Madrigal paints a rather dystopian picture of San Francisco:
There has never been a town like the one San Francisco is becoming, a place where a single industry composed almost entirely of rich people thoroughly dominates the local economy. Much of the money that’s been squished out of the rest of the world gets funneled by the internet pipes to this little sliver of land on the Pacific Ocean, jutting out into the glory of the bay. The city now sits atop a geyser of cash created from what the scholar Shoshana Zuboff calls “behavioral surplus”—the natural resource created from your behavior, which is to say your mind.
Literal colonies of the working poor now cling to forgotten streets in RV communities. Homeless encampments are stitched onto any liminal plot of land. To lose your apartment doesn’t mean moving one neighborhood over but three cities away, to Antioch or Gilroy or Stockton.
But wait, it gets worse.
The graphic at the top of this post, produced from the work of data scientist Deniz Kahramaner, puts meat on the bones displayed in the quoted passage. It should be observed, however, that there is a fallacy lurking in the heart of it. Simply because you work for a tech company does not mean you’re a programmer. To take one extreme example, Amazon is a tech company but Jeff Bezos isn’t a programmer.
While I have little doubt that half of those buying property in San Francisco work for tech companies, I seriously doubt that they’re programmers. Based on the graphic above 64 Google employees have purchased property in San Francisco. Based on published information something between 25% and 45% of Google’s roughly 100,000 employees are programmers. To conclude that 64 Google programmers bought property you’d need to decide that Google programmers bought San Francisco property significantly in excess of the proportion of Google’s employees they represent. I suspect it’s the opposite and most of the Google employees buying property in San Francisco are managers rather than programmers.
That’s a problem in dealing with small datasets. It’s easy to draw wrong conclusions.
I only have a few additional observations to make about the article. First, let’s not subsidize San Francisco. Its business model is not one that those of us who don’t live there should support. When the Big One hits, San Franciscans are completely capable of rebuilding without help from the rest of us.
Finally, that business model is doomed anyway. Either politics or nature will make it untenable.