New study finds tech elites view the world with more meritocracy

But the same group also denies there is a connection between democracy and money.

A new study has revealed that while the top 100 richest people in tech share similar views to other wealthy people, they are also more focused on meritocracy.

The research, published in PLOS One, used data sets based on tweets by these individuals who were named by Forbes as the top 100 richest people in the tech world, plus their statements on websites about their philanthropic endeavours.

As part of the study, the researchers analysed 49,790 tweets from 30 verified Twitter account holders within the tech elite subject group and 60 mission statements from tech elite-run philanthropic websites, plus 17 statements from tech elites and other wealthy individuals not associated with the tech world for comparison purposes.

The Twitter text analyses, according to the research, revealed tech elites used Twitter to tweet about subjects that placed emphasis on disruption, positivity, and temporality compared with the average user. Their most frequently used words were 'new' and 'great', and referred mostly to their peers and other tech firms.

At the same time, the authors found that while tweets showed the tech elites did not see a significant difference between power and money or power and democracy, they did note the tech elites denied a connection between democracy and money, a view that was not shared by ordinary Twitter users.

Read also: 15 most influential tech leaders of the decade (TechRepublic)

When the authors examined the philanthropic statements, the tech elites tended to frequently use words such as 'education', 'work', and 'social' while emphasising personal agency, progress, and impact.

"Automated 'bag-of-words' text and sentiment analyses reveal that the tech elite has a more meritocratic view of the world than the general US Twitter-using population," the study stated.

"The tech elite also frequently promise to 'make the world a better place', but they do not differ from other extremely wealthy people in this respect. However, their relationship to democracy is contradictory. Based on these results, we conclude that the tech elite may be thought of as a 'class for itself' in Marx's sense -- a social group that shares particular views of the world, which in this case means meritocratic, missionary, and inconsistent democratic ideology."

There were limitations to the research, however. The authors listed these as being unable to trace all of their initial 100-person sample, it's unclear whether Twitter accounts are managed by individuals or professional PR experts, and it's unclear whether the tech elite denying that there is a relationship between democracy and money is strategic or an actual belief.

Despite these limitations, the authors said the study could serve as a starting point for future inquiry into new elite classes and how they differ to other elite groups. 

Related Coverage