How Trump's victory disrupts the tech disruptors

Technically Incorrect: Was it the deplorables who brought Donald Trump to power? Or was it the expendables?

Chris Matyszczyk
4 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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The Great Disruptor.

Carl Court, Getty Images

They didn't see it coming, did they?

The tech masters of today and tomorrow, the ones right now working madly on predictive software, couldn't imagine that a bombastic reality TV star could become president.

It's just not the way the system works.

Tech titans know systems, but they forgot something the industry often forgets about: real people.

Not the people who flock to Silicon Valley to make some new, new thing that will make them new, new money. Not the people who tweet all day, Facebook all night and Snapchat till dawn in their expensive San Francisco apartments.

They forgot people who once had pride in the things they made and now they make no things at all. The ones who live in places that few in the Valley would like to live in. Workaday places like Ohio and Wisconsin where values are clear and emotions are raw.

Too often, the tech world hasn't been able to appeal to emotions. Many tech companies didn't think they ever had to. They thought they'd make something cool -- cool to an engineer, at least -- and everyone would participate. Because that's progress, right?

Sometimes, though, real people want to hear more, feel more and see a little evidence that they have a constructive role to play, however small.

Too many in the tech world believe that human beings are mere data points. They created companies that made vast amounts of money, but employed relatively few people. What they believed in wasn't people. It was their own endless cleverness and disruptiveness. After all, technology allowed you to employ people anywhere. Really cheap people.

Somewhere, though, a real American's inner voice was howling in a vacuum: "What about me?"

The tech world didn't listen because it didn't hear. It was too busy being clever. It was too busy building systems that suck in more personal information, store it and monetize it.

"Trust us," someone somewhere in Techland said. "Because we're clever. And only we know the future. You're going to love it."

Now who does that sound like?

Then along came someone who insisted that, in fact, only he understood real people. Only he understood how to make their lives better. He appealed not merely with that message, but with the raw anger that real people had felt for a while.

Donald Trump came along and loudly disrupted so much while the tech world looked on, aghast that even one of theirs supported him. They thought he could never win.

How many tech bigwigs even know anyone who supported Trump? Other than Peter Thiel , that is. How many stopped to wonder that there were many real people taking Trump seriously at the emotional level -- the one that is as crucial to product purchases as it is to political campaigns?

His supporters didn't necessarily believe Trump, but they believed in him.

No one else was going to, well, disrupt Washington. They might as well give this man a go. After all, who else was coming to their aid? Who else was even interested in their changed circumstances? He might be a bloviator, but at least he'd say the things that the establishment thought would never be said. At least he wouldn't follow the algorithm of standard politician-speak.

Hillary Clinton fed into that very truth by spending a lot of her time and ad money insisting this man is an awful human being.

"Yes," a real American thought. "But at least he's our awful human being."

Perhaps it wasn't the deplorables who undid Clinton. Perhaps it was the expendables.

Meanwhile, many people seem to have thought this was a done deal. Here's a fine data point: 46.9 percent of eligible voters didn't vote. Trump only got as many votes as Mitt Romney.

Could it be that many Silicon Valley disruptors couldn't conceive that their vision could be disrupted? There wasn't a model for that.

You can attribute Trump's victory to isms, of course. Racism and sexism are just two. They're valid. A serious element, however, is that as tech takes over the world, many humans are being left behind.

Why, only last week, CEO Elon Musk suggested giving people money for not working. After all, many humans won't be needed when machines drive us all around and do all our thinking too.

Humans, though, don't just want money. They want meaning. For many real people, the tech industry helped take that meaning away. Many real people don't think the tech industry wants to give them meaning.

Now, they think they're going to get a little back.