Silicon Valley is a singular environment whose inhabitants often have interests and preoccupations that are quite different from those of individuals who live elsewhere in the United States. Silicon Valley is also the preeminent incubator of new technology in the nation. While some of this technology has obvious utility for Americans living outside the San Francisco Bay Area, much of it does not. This gives rise to the impression that the Silicon Valley is somehow more technologically advanced than other parts of the U.S. and is waiting for those less advanced places to catch up with it. Is it really, though?
It’s hard to see the practical value in an app like Twist, which allows your friends to monitor your progress when you’re late to a get together. Twist allows you to see exactly how many blocks away your dilatory pal is. Wouldn’t a brief phone call serve the same purpose?
Then there are driverless cars. This technology is heavily backed by search engine Titan Google. To date, driverless cars have logged more than 300,000 miles on California roads. It’s not clear exactly what the driverless car advantage is since the person behind the controls, even if he or she isn’t navigating the vehicle, still must be attentive and sober in case of an emergency in which the automatic controls need to be overridden.
Speaking of cars, there are no fewer than four car reserving apps on the market, touting either cab reservations or crowd-sourced ride-sharing. In most parts of the U.S., however, neither taxis nor e-hitchhiking are big players in the transportation equation.
Residents of Silicon Valley have a far higher per capita income that individuals living in other parts of the U.S. on average. The average Silicon Valley household makes $86,540 a year. In contrast, average earnings in the rest of the country are $50,502 annually. Higher income levels insulate workers to some degree, and give them more leeway for speculative thinking. Indeed, 12 percent of the nation’s patents are registered by Silicon Valley residents. If you live in the Silicon Valley, you are 15 times more likely to patent ideas that come to you. Not every idea is worth patenting, however, and not every patent is worth trying to build an industry around. A viable technology idea must do more than appeal to an inventor’s technophile pals.
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