Has Silicon Valley had its day?

Serial entrepreneur Joe DiNucci said, “Silicon Valley is addicted to the fast-food of innovation – software.” Both he and social entrepreneur Sean Holt argued that the Valley is ill-equipped to meet the long-term, global, collaborative challenges we face, such as climate change.

The exchange took place at a Union debate, held at Oxford last night. Opposing the motion “Silicon Valley is dead; Long live Green Valley” was LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and commentator Mike Malone, who robustly defended the “enduring and resilient phenomenon” that is Silicon Valley.

The Valley is thriving because of its attitude towards profitability, according to Malone: “Green ideals are founded on ideas that are antithetical to ideals of Silicon Valley. They place utopian visions and government dreams at the forefront – most of these companies will never be profitable.”

Much of the debate revolved around the clash of values between the tribal profit-driven innovation of Silicon Valley and the values needed to take advantage of the global, long-term opportunity caused by climate change. “We can’t have a localised form of innovation,” said Oxford professor Malcolm McCulloch, who has started four clean-tech companies. “It has to be global – it has to be for everybody, in every place.” He responded to Reid Hoffman’s praise of the opportunities that Silicon Valley affords to 17-year-old hackers, by saying, “Would you want a 17-year-old hacker in charge of your light, or your food chain? The green sector needs PhDs; I would like to see a world where the best minds are not trying to invent the best games.”

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