Tech Industry

Tech elite aren't insane libertarians, says Stanford study

Commentary: What are they? Oh, they're basically boring old liberal types, with their own little twist. At least, that's what they told this survey they were.

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

Republican National Convention: Day Four

Peter Thiel doesn't represent your average tech elitist, according to this study.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Ever since some barely pubescent teens took over the world with their websites and algorithms, it's been tempting to think this is an entirely new breed of human.

Often, they come across as not much more articulate than a desk and with a similar level of emotional intelligence. 

As for their politics, well, the declarations of wealthy tech types such as VC Peter Thiel -- a Trump supporter -- suggest that these are survival-of-the-most-fabulous libertarians. 

Yes, they (say they) are making the world a better place. But many seem to act like little Howard Roarks, self-directed and utterly immune from contributing to dull things like the common good.

After all, they're making robots to put most humans out of work, aren't they?

A new Stanford study, however, suggests a mere 24 percent of them are of this libertarian persuasion.

The researchers spoke to 600 "elite technology company leaders and founders." They concluded that these exalted beings actually prove that "values and predispositions can override their self-interest."

You may have swiftly concluded, therefore, that these are mostly your typical left-coast liberals. It seems that you're heading in the right direction. But there is a twist or two.

The researchers say that it doesn't matter how much money these elite tech types have, they still mostly donate to and vote for the Democratic Party.

They're not, however, what many would call your average Democrats. They aren't classical social liberals and economic conservatives, either. 

They believe in higher taxes for the rich. When they were asked about which issues they care about most, they cited "areas related to public goods provision, such as education, the environment, public infrastructure, and health care." And with more enthusiasm than the average population.

But are they fond of labor unions and government regulations, as are many Democrats? Oh, no. 

No matter how much Elon Musk might insist that government needs to regulate AI now, these left-leaning elitists still have a general view that stopping them from doing things that come to their vast minds is not a good idea.

One small statistic that may show their lack of fondness for regulation is that 94 percent of them believe Uber's surge pricing is fair. Only 42 percent of Democrats agree. 

Mind you, around 60 percent of Democrats don't believe florists should raise their prices during holidays either. Roughly the same number of Republicans agree with them. You see, there is common ground upon which we can, um, make America flower again.

Ultimately, these results are surely uplifting. While tech companies build systems to which we're all supposed to rigidly adhere, their founders and CEOs appear as riven with hypocrisy as the rest of us.

The problem, perhaps, is that humans all want the world to make sense -- engineers are especially prone to this odd wish -- when we know in our hearts that it's plainly absurd.