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How the US-American tech elite sees the world

Together with an international team of sociologists, Hilke Brockmann, professor of sociology at Jacobs University, investigated how the US-American tech elite sees the world. (Source: Jacobs University)


January 22, 2021
Whether it's Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon or Oracle, technical innovations have made the founders or CEOs of these mostly Silicon Valley-based companies rich and influential. How does the tech elite think? What views and attitudes do they share? These questions were investigated by an international team of sociologists, consisting of Professor Hilke Brockmann from Jacobs University Bremen, Wiebke Drews from Universität der Bundeswehr in Munich and Professor John Torpey from City University New York. The study has now been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Technical innovations are a driver of social change. We were interested in the people behind this change, in what drives them and how they see the future," said Hilke Brockmann. To identify the group, the trio used a list published by the U.S. magazine Forbes of the 100 richest people in the tech world. However, access to this group proved difficult: requests for in-depth interviews were rejected, with one exception.

Consequently, the researchers concentrated on evaluating the digital traces left by the tech elite on Twitter or, for example, on the homepages of their foundations. These were analyzed on the basis of certain key words and compared with the statements of general Twitter users and those of other wealthy people, such as those found on the platform The Giving Pledge. The latter aims to encourage particularly wealthy people to donate the majority of their wealth for the common good. "This way, we got extensive insights into the minds of the tech elite," Brockmann explained.

One finding: Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos & Co. communicate much more positively than the general population. "They want to motivate people to share their own goals, namely to make the world a better place. In doing so, they are almost missionary," Brockmann said. The tech elite is united by a meritocratic worldview. Above all, it's performance that counts, as opposed to inherited wealth. The position achieved is earned through effort and is therefore legitimate, according to their message.

With this, the researchers identify a contrast to the general population: "The elite does not take a critical view of their own role with their abundance of power. They say: We only do good! They deny that they set technical standards and influence democracy with their financial power. The general population sees it quite differently," said Brockmann about the results of the study.

Link to the study:
Questions are answered by:
Prof. Dr. Hilke Brockmann
Professor of Sociology
Tel: +49 421 200-3421
Email: h.brockmann [at]