Judith Schallenberg-Kappius, Hendrikje Rudnick, and Jeevan Ravindran, Business Insider
- From Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos, the tech elite is “a class for itself,” according to a PLoS ONE study.
- One researcher said they deny their role in influencing democracy with their financial capital.
- The researchers claimed the tech elite’s view of the world was shaped by a meritocratic ideology
The tech elite is “a class for itself,” a study published in PLoS ONE journal found.
Researchers Hilke Brockmann, Wiebke Drews, and John Torpey concluded that the tech elite had “a distinct social identity” that made them easily identifiable in “the large pool of Twitter users.”
Looking at the Forbes list of the 100 richest people in tech, the researchers analyzed their use of language and emotions, using machine-learning approaches.
At the top of the list was Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
His net worth skyrocketed in 2020 with an increase of $72.7 billion.
Following closely behind was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — although the latter’s wealth also increased substantially later in the year, taking him to over $100 billion.
Gaps between the tech elite and the rest of the population
The study examined how the language used by the tech elite differed from the rest of the “American Twitter-using population.”
They found that “disruption is consistently at the core of the communications of the tech elite,” who favor words including “can,” “great,” “people,” and “new.”
Their language was also much more achievement-oriented, using words that fell into an “achievement” category a total of 19,431 times.
This figure was twice as much as the general population’s, which came in at 9,439 times.
They also tended to draw more links between merit and employment compared with the general population.
The team hypothesized that the tech elite “saw its endeavors in ‘entrepreneurial technoscience’ as driven by a desire to ‘make the world a better place.'” They found that the language they used also reflected this goal.
Many of the tech elite have also signed the Giving Pledge, a scheme created by Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.
The scheme was set up to encourage billionaires to give away most of their wealth.
A 2020 report by the Institute for Policy Studies found that very little money may be helping people, as many of the billionaires were earning faster than they were giving.
The study also analyzed their subjects’ relationship with democracy and how it related to their wealth. “As representatives of an economic elite, they do not see or do not want to communicate a connection between these components of social potency,” the researchers said.
This constituted an active denial of the relationship between wealth and democracy, a view not shared by the general population.
“The tech elite does not take a critical view of the role they play relative to their abundance of power,” said Brockmann in a press release. “They deny their role in setting technical standards and influencing democracy with their financial capital.”
The researchers claimed that the tech elite’s view of the world was shaped by a meritocratic ideology. They believe their wealth is earned through effort, and so they don’t question their financial position.
Highlighting the elite’s “disproportionate influence” over how consumers spent their money, the team outlined the need for future policy research investigating how to “shape social outcomes” in a manner fitting of a democracy.