Tech leaders are looking a lot less influential—at least, that’s the case if you pore through Time magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people. While the subjective ranking is more art than science, the list is an indicator of who and what is soaking up readers’ attention and adoration. And this year, it’s not tech.
The 2020 list includes entries for Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Zoom Video CEO Eric Yuan, and Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang. The write-ups are relatively subdued, as far as these things go, praising the executives for their humility as much as their innovative prowess, and noting the challenges they face in addressing everything from the pandemic to privacy concerns.
It’s a far cry from the heady days of 2013, when Time dedicated 14 breathless entries to tech leaders like Tesla’s Elon Musk, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Apple designer Jony Ive. The profiles describe them as “jedis” (Ive) with “incredible forethought and vision” (Mayer) who have “left an indelible mark on our culture” (Systrom) and are set to “free us from gender police forever” (Sandberg).
Time’s decision to pass on the fawning profiles of tech leaders this year could of course be influenced by the somber state of 2020—but it also seems to be another illustration of Silicon Valley’s fall from grace.