LAB RATS by Dan Lyons


How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us
Email this review


How the tech industry, fueled by greed, is shaping workers’ experiences across the business world.

Lyons (Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble, 2016, etc.), a former staff writer for HBO’s Silicon Valley and technology editor at Newsweek, mounts a caustic critique of mercenary tech culture, which, he argues persuasively, is infiltrating many other businesses. “We have a new work culture,” he writes, “that celebrates overwork, exhaustion, and stress,” led by people who care about nothing but making money. “Instead of geeky engineers,” he writes, “the industry draws hustlers, young guys who hope to get rich quick,” financed by voracious venture capitalists. Most new startups “are terribly managed, half-assed outfits run by buffoons and bozos and frat boys, and funded by amoral investors who are only hoping to flip the company into the public markets and make a quick buck.” After the VC’s have taken their bounty, most startups never make a profit. But the author’s focus is less on the viability of startups than the fates of workers, who are mercilessly exploited and so desperate that some kill themselves. Among the many tech oligarchs he condemns is Jeff Bezos, “a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge,” running sweatshops where workers do physically demanding jobs in unsafe environments, earn low wages, and are forced to be “permatemps” not entitled to benefits. Lyons cites four factors contributing to worker unhappiness: money (besides low wages, many big companies have raided their employees’ pension funds); job insecurity (rapid turnover is encouraged, and workers are fired for capricious reasons); constant, random changes, including instituting cultlike philosophies and demeaning workshops, classes, and role-playing games; and dehumanization, such as open office plans where employees have no privacy and endure constant surveillance of their emails, chats, website visits, and even bathroom breaks. The author ends with a note of optimism: his discovery of a “quiet movement” of responsible business leaders building worker-friendly, inclusive, and diverse companies; business courses that emphasize social responsibility; and socially conscious funding by “well-intentioned rich people.”

A passionate indictment of brutal workplace culture.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-56186-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Hachette
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2018


NonfictionFAIR SHOT by Chris Hughes
by Chris Hughes
NonfictionTHE KNOW-IT-ALLS by Noam  Cohen
by Noam Cohen