Tom Hodgkinson: The geekocracy are the 21st-century equivalent of the 19th-century mill owners



The Geeks have inherited the Earth, and the middle classes are angry. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! and YouTube have created gigantic ad-sales scams that exploit the creativity of ordinary people and bring money and power to a new elite of nerds, which we could label the geekocracy.

While these masters of the cyberverse spend their money in deeply unimaginative ways – fast cars, five-dollar cups of coffee and golf – the people who created their fortunes – the writers, musicians, artists, self-promoting Tweeters and Facebook babblers –drift round Lidl searching for cheap baked beans and wondering how they're going to pay their bills.

The middle classes are experiencing the kind of resentment that has marked working-class life since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. And their anger is erupting into violence. Over the past couple of months, the streets of San Francisco have seen anti-geekocracy protesters block the luxury buses that ferry Google and eBay staff from their over-priced white city cubes to their out-of-town offices. "Techies used to seem endearing geeks, who made money and cute products but couldn't get the girls," noted Gary Kamiya, author of San Francisco, Cool Gray City of Love. "Now they're the lords and masters."

The rise of the geekocracy was predicted in 1994 by the Canadian writer Douglas Coupland when I interviewed him for The Idler. He said then: "You realise that the nerds are the people who are going to have power in the future. From a Darwinian standpoint, they are the survivors. So the species' survival energy attaches itself to them as winners." And that is precisely what our governments have ensured. Instead of resisting the geekocracy, ministers court it.

The Tories in particular indulge in frequent bouts of arslikhan with Google and the like. One example is the simple fact that former Tory spin doctor Rachel Whetstone is international head of communications at Google. She is married to Steve Hilton, former head of strategy for the Tories. Both Whetstone's mother and grandfather were active Thatcherite free-marketers. The old Tory guard have attached themselves like limpets to the new geeks, the 21st century's equivalent of the 19th-century mill owners.

I don't suppose there is much we can do about it. There is no point in voting for Labour because they have their heads just as firmly planted up the backsides of the cyberlords as the Tories. All we can do is take to the streets and stop using Google, Amazon, Facebook et al. But that seems practically impossible: I thought I had boycotted Amazon. But when I get my bank statements, every second entry is for Amazon. My children order stuff from it all the time.

Protests against the geekocracy have erupted in Paris recently. There is a new tech business, hubristically called Uber, which is planning to take over the world of consumer services in the same way Amazon has consumer goods. Uber's first project was a taxi-ordering system. Instead of hailing a local cab, international travellers now get out their smartphones, go to the Uber app, and order a car. An Uber driver appears in a new Lexus to whisk them from Tokyo airport to a meeting.

Parisian cabbies are not happy about Uber, because it steals their business. In January, the tech blog Rude Baguette reported that taxi drivers had attacked an Uber cab, which, by coincidence, contained a couple of geekocrats: "It seems that protest turned to guerrilla warfare… as one Uber driver, carrying Eventbrite CTO Renaud Visage & Kat Borlongan from the airport to Paris, was attacked by multiple assailants, who allegedly, after smashing one window and slashing two tires, as well as defacing one side of the car with glue, attempted to enter the vehicle."

One ray of hope in the UK comes from Class War, the anarchist organisation founded by agitator Ian Bone, which promises to bring a dash of radical politics mixed with Monster Raving Loony-style satire to the next General Election. Bone will stand against Labour MP Tristram Hunt in Stoke and poet Tim Wells will stand against another Labour veteran, Diane Abbott in Hackney. The manifesto? "Double the dole, cancel all payday loans, 50% mansion tax." I disapprove of living on state benefits as a lifestyle option, but bring the geekocracy into your sights, Ian, and I may be on board.

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of 'The Idler'

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own