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Valley Men Are From Mars, Everyone Else Is From Earth

Call me crazy, but I’m starting to think that maybe we shouldn’t have allowed a group of next-to-no emotional intelligence engineers run the most powerful tech platforms in the world.

How else do you explain what we’ve been seeing lately outside of Silicon Valley?

Put aside the Mark Zuckerberg never-ending, highly disingenuous apology tour (Please regulate us. Then we’ll be able to do whatever we want and claim that it’s ok ‘cause we’re regulated). How do you explain the past few weeks in the Valley?

Take YouTube. A few weeks ago, Bloomberg reported that the Alphabet-owned video juggernaut was shutting down its attempt to build out a premium content subscription service. The company took some pains to dispute this story, but it’s been clear for a while that this was a severe miscalculation that was easy to read from the outside, but hard for those in the Google bubble.

Why were people going to spend money to subscribe to YouTube Premium for a handful of random shows – including one featuring the 50-something stars of the Karate Kid – amidst a site filled with billions of hours of free ad-supported short clips that primarily appeal to very young (credit card-less) people

And how was spending a few hundred million on content going to be anything more than a blip against Netflix’s $15 billion?!

Again, it was awfully easy to see on the outside. But hey, that was just bad strategy. Less easy to grasp was YouTube executives’ horrifying reluctance to police the platform of conspiracy and hate groups. Bloomberg reported that not only has Google turned a blind eye to this content’s popularity for years, but its recommendation engine was designed to fuel its virality for years and executives did little to nothing about it.

This is what happens when you put people in charge of things – and those people lack empathy or basic ability to feel a sense of horror when they see hate speech or creepy kidsploitation videos being recommended – or obligation to do the right thing.

Instead, the mission at YouTube was a maniacal push for wild engagement number – a billion hours of viewing per day! What could go wrong? It turns out, a measles comeback, for one thing.

Then take Apple. Its recent moves are far less harmful, but just as tone deaf.

The company rolled out an odd news product that seemed destined to hurt the news business more than it’s already been damaged. But more strange was Apple’s plan to roll out a bunch of TV shows – someday – that would be distributed somewhere?

For a company so well known for its showmanship and marketing prowess, it was awfully odd to see them build to a big reveal – and the reveal behind ‘we’re making a bunch of shows we’ve already announced, and we’re not going to make it clear to anyone how, when or where people can watch them. We don’t even have a single teaser trailer.’

You have to ask yourself, “do these people actually watch television? Can you fathom how a business works that isn’t code-driven?”

Of course, if you work in media and advertising, you see this all the time. The glaringly obvious, and highly potent mental divide between Silicon Valley titans and fading media industry executives.

The Valley guys have the upper hand, with their multiple billion valuations and their global platforms. The media guys have the content, the Hollywood relationships and the know-how – as old school and disposable as that all often seems.

Except when it’s not.

The advertising, media and Hollywood industries have plenty of problems. But they understand humans, what they want and how they feel. The Valley simply lacks these skills. There’s a reason one camp came up with AI, and the other The Terminator. The scary thing is that Silicon Valley companies have tried to bring in media and Hollywood executives time and again to help smooth things out.

It never seems to pay off.

Here’s my take – these companies need to appoint emotional intelligence officers at the top of the organizations. People with real clout and power who can check the decisions of the biggest decision makers.

Otherwise, we can just continue with a bunch of low EQ executives practically running the world. Seems to be going well so far.