Joi Ito, an activist, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist, spoke at Fortune’s Brainstorm event in Half Moon Bay last week.

Rebecca MacKinnon, frustrated with the blind optimism found in Silicon Valley, wrote about it.

Joi warned that not all kinds of capitalism lead to greater freedom or spread wealth and opportunities to everybody. “The capitalists aren’t really that helpful, generally,” he said. It depends on the business model deployed which really depends on the social intentions of the people running the business, and how much they care about long-term social and political repercussions. “We’re forgetting that we had to fight to create an open Internet.” Venture capitalists, he said, “assume that the Internet just works… that’s very irresponsible,” and they’re not thinking about how specific business decisions impact overall levels of freedom, openness, and inclusion. “We have to do more than just run around chasing deals.”

I think the same thing can be said for the ad business. Like technologists, we have a lot of power, but we don’t think about the harm we might be doing or the decided lack of a moral compass in our shops and clients’ businesses. That’s a flaw.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.