When Vinod Khosla isn't busy blocking access to beaches, he's dishing out billions to startups through his venture capital firm. But on a recent house-hunting adventure in San Francisco, Khosla realized the products he invests in are helping price the poor out of the Bay Area.
Khosla has his eureka moment helping his friend shop for a one-bedroom apartment:
"I said, 'No way can a housekeeper or gardener afford that,'" Khosla told the Chronicle. "For someone making $20 or $25 an hour, I don't think they can afford a house anywhere between San Francisco and San Jose."
The reason housekeepers, gardeners, butlers, chauffeurs, private chefs, and other such help can't afford to live in techtopia is technology, warns Khosla.
"I fundamentally believe technology will keep increasing the [wealth] gap," said Khosla. [...]
"What's happening is if you have a great idea and the technical skills to implement it you can create disproportionate wealth very quickly," he said. "That's good by itself except it increases disparity."
That disparity, Khosla said, will only continue to grow as machine learning and big data technologies improves. Eventually, software will have the ability to replace everything from farmworkers picking lettuce to law clerks.
According to a recent study by the Brookings Institution, San Francisco has the fastest growing wealth gap of any city in the country. And it's not just minimum wage workers that are being left behind by the wealth boom—even professionals like teachers are finding there is no available housing they can afford.
While investors like Marc Andreessen insist that "innovation disproportionately helps the poor more than it helps the rich," Khosla implies that venture capital pouring into San Francisco exacerbates the region's income inequality. He may have twisted an arcane law to justify blocking the plebes from a public beach, but Khosla has no trouble admitting that his industry can be a job destroyer.
"What [technology] does is it creates more wealth and jobs for a few and takes away jobs at the bottom end of the spectrum," he said. [...]
"Technology concentrates wealth in the hands of the creators of technology and the people who fund them."
This is Silicon Valley, so of course there's a solution to every problem: Khosla suggests taxing billionaires like him "north of 50 percent."