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Dissent: It’s Ok To Go Into Big Tech

By Ruby J.J. Huang, Jacob M. Miller, Joshua Ochieng, and Ivor K. Zimmerman
Dissenting Opinions: Occasionally, The Crimson Editorial Board is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting board members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.

Every year, Harvard students compete for a handful of jobs in big tech — opportunities that are so competitive that their elite and inequitable selection processes recently earned a feature in the New York Times.

For our colleagues on the Editorial Board, this story is an indication of Harvard’s moral failing. Harvard should serve the public good and big tech is bad, ergo Harvard students shouldn’t apply to big tech jobs as much, their thinking goes.

This thinking is flawed on two counts: One, Harvard doesn’t exist solely to feed its students into public service jobs, and two, big tech isn’t evil in the first place.

The Board asserts that the College’s goal is — or should be — to educate people to go bring about social good. We disagree. The only criterion we should set for our fellow students as they go out into the world is to not do things that are evil.

The purpose of a Harvard education is to make students the best at what they do, whether that is engineering, law, academia, or any other pursuit. Harvard is designed to educate and create leaders across all fields, not only those whose existence is primarily aimed at advancing the social good. Accordingly, we should respect the diverse set of career paths that students ultimately choose to undertake.

We agree with the Board’s acknowledgement of the other avenues in life that can be leveraged to do good, but feel that these avenues are under-examined in the editorial — advancing an incomplete approach to morality and assessing good and harm.

Morality extends far beyond people’s career choices: Individuals can still be good people if they work in profit-driven sectors like big tech. For some, doing good in the world means working in a public service job; for others, it means being kind, donating to charity, and making ethical choices in whatever field they do choose. As long as our peers are not doing evil things, we see no reason to censure their post-graduation choices.

Which brings us to the Board’s second error: their characterization of big tech as a career path that warrants panic. Underlying this assertion is the assumption that big tech is monolithically evil with no capacity for good.

On the contrary, the benefits of big tech are quite significant. Big tech companies have democratized information, increasing its reach and accessibility. Because of firms like Google, Microsoft, and Meta, a new skill, friend’s recipe, manual, or historical fact is only one click away.

Companies such as Meta and Twitter have also provided platforms for noble causes from activism to charity fundraising. These companies are also at the forefront of cutting edge technology that has not only improved our quality of life, but has also enabled innovation and advancement in fields like healthcare, saving countless lives.

Of course, big tech has been a source of harm over the past several decades too. Whether it be the now-settled Facebook Cambridge Analytica case or Amazon’s violation of labor laws, we are well aware that the harms incurred by various big tech corporations can be particularly disastrous.

Yet, to flatten the possibilities within an entire sector of industry to a simple dichotomy of good against evil is reductive. By characterizing big tech as a morally questionable career choice not directed at the public good, the Editorial Board finds itself trapped in an unproductive binary. In choosing to desert a complicated discussion for the sake of finding an easy villain, our peers have forsaken a chance to develop a richer, more nuanced moral compass.

Our peers on the Editorial Board are thoughtful individuals that rigorously pursue the truth no matter the discourse at hand, but we find their stance on this issue misguided and intellectually lazy. As such, we have had no choice but to dissent.

Ruby J.J. Huang ’24, an Editorial Comp Director, is a History concentrator in Leverett House. Jacob M. Miller ’25, an Associate Editorial Editor, is a Mathematics concentrator in Lowell House. Joshua Ochieng ’24, an Associate Editorial Editor, is an Economics concentrator in Quincy House. Ivor K. Zimmerman ’23, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Classics concentrator in Kirkland House.

Dissenting Opinions: Occasionally, The Crimson Editorial Board is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting board members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.

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