I’ve been holding off on this post for some time because I have a personal stake in my relationship with Silicon Valley. I have many entrepreneurial and investor friends who may not see eye to eye with me on the subject of how Silicon Valley is greatly contributing to the human sex trafficking trade. However, I can’t let the weight of these relationships prevent me from speaking out on the growing commerce in human sex trafficking in the Bay Area. It’s fairly simple for me. Where there is money and excess, there is demand for sex workers which leads to an increase in sex trafficking. There is currently no greater place in the US with more money and excess than Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It is also a place where there is an ever growing divide in mutual respect, compassion and understanding of the human condition. Many people are going to disagree with me on this. However, I spend a great deal of time at the economic ground level and I witness daily the severe disconnect between us fellow humans drawn at economic lines. I live at the crossroads of these dividing lines, sharing time between the prosperous and underprivileged. What I see and hear from those in better economic positions is disturbing at a spirit level. We are so busy congratulating ourselves over our achievements that it translates into a mandate that we are somehow improving the world through all of our technological know how. It’s a convenient lie we tell ourselves. Most everyone is drinking the Kool Aid of their own egos and ambitions. There is a plastic facade of deeper interconnections, but it is all mostly lip service meant to promote some kind of meaningful journey that leads nowhere but selfishly inward.
I will most likely get flak for saying all of this. However, the truth is the truth. The problem is that there is no one selling the snake oil to us, but ourselves selling to ourselves. It is an endless, repetitive feedback loop that clouds us all to the empty platitudes thrown around like a large comforting quilt meant to make us feel better about ourselves. The Bay Area is the center of the universe and all be damned if anyone dares say otherwise. And how dare anyone point out all of the hidden ugliness breeding underneath.
This may seem like a rant meant to indict my brothers and sisters in Silicon Valley. It is not. There is a point to me bringing all of this up. When we live disconnected lives, social injustices grow, hidden beneath our very noses as we flourish economically. This has been a reliable litmus for all of humanity’s history. Part of the darkness that is growing is the increase in sex trafficking occurring in the Bay Area. For all of our notions that we are creating more meaningful connections between ourselves, there is a blatant ignorance of those affected by poverty and the sex trade. This ignorance is unacceptable for it poisons us spiritually without us knowing it. We cannot continue forward with our bold statements of changing and improving the world when we are increasingly living in dissonance with those less fortunate, creating frivolous innovation that only serves the elite and well-to-do subset of society. Many will argue and point to all the great technology we are creating. It is true. We have seen a proliferation of astounding tech in the way we communicate with each other, incredible advances in sustainable energy and genetic research, markets are flourishing and new economies are emerging with access to cheaper technologies. But what is the cost of all of our progress. The black mark on humanity that is illegal labor and sex trafficking is equally growing and flourishing at a precipitous rate. An estimation of $32 billion – $90 billion ($9 billion alone in the US) in annual illegal human trafficking trade is clearly unacceptable as a side consequence of our innovation and progress. How can we live with our innovations when they surreptitiously contribute to the greater harm of others?
Illegal sex trafficking is especially on the rise in the Bay Area and we must mandate ourselves to solve this hidden problem. Rapid technological progress has given traffickers ever increasing tools to drive their industry underground and out of sight. When I talk to my entrepreneurial friends few are concerned with the consequences of their inventions and innovations. There is this attitude that all disruption is great and that it’s a free for all wild west land grab for market share. Not once do I hear us ask ourselves whether or not what we create contributes to a far greater evil. Accepting innovation that benefits the well to do and harms the unfortunate is not a utility concept I’m willing to accept. I am not advocating for a stop in innovation. What I am saying is that we need to do a better job at looking at what we are creating and its net effect on society. We can’t just say oops and slap a band aid on the problem whenever we discover an issue arises with what we create. This may work for startups working with lean methodology, but when it comes to actual human interaction with our mistakes a band aid hardly stops the infectious bleeding. We must be more intentional with our innovations instead of just addressing simple consumer pain points.
The Bay Area is a flourishing thoroughfare for immigrants and foreigners coming to build their dreams. That makes it also a major thoroughfare for traffickers to exploit. Our general laissez-faire attitudes towards massage parlors, adult oriented sex establishments, “party girls and boys”, cheaply exploited labor also contributes to the issue of human trafficking. The exploitation of those in weaker positions to satisfy our sexual and entertainment urges is behavior that must be curbed. I know that San Francisco has traditionally been a sexually liberating focal point for those unfairly condemned for their sexual proclivities. However, we must be able to strike a balance between our liberal views and the carte blanche access traffickers have in the Bay Area as a major trafficking thoroughfare.
I have talked quite a bit about this rising problem without offering solutions. I know the solutions are out there, but the singular most important thing we can do right now is to bring the problem of human trafficking to the forefront of our thoughts and conversations. I have a large network of friends, entrepreneurs and investors in the Bay Area. What constantly surprises me is when I ask them how much they know about the human trafficking epidemic, not one has shown any knowledge. This is not an exaggeration. Not one. This is the crux of the problem. How can we offer up solutions to a crisis that we don’t even know exists?
I tell you it exists and if we don’t address it now then I suggest that we forfeit our very right to exist. This is an extreme view, but let me expand by saying that for all of our technological marvels and progress, what good is it if we cannot learn how to take care of each other properly?
We cannot conveniently move through our lives in our privileged environment awash in a blinding cloud of mirth and frivolity.
– Aware Rabbit