I am far from being financially savvy, but if there are two things I’ve learned from my Fundamentals of Finance class, they are 1) always think about what can go wrong and 2) always listen to Warren Buffett.

So when Warren Buffett says that technology companies are overpriced and we ought to be cautious of a repeat of the first tech stock bubble, I tend to pay attention.

I often write about the wonders that technology has brought into our world. But I do feel an obligation to pause and take a more critical look at this industry. It’s easy to marvel at the shiny new toys that Steve Jobs and his competitors bring us, and it’s tempting to fall under their attractive spell. But the fact of the matter is that all technology must be approached with the same scrutiny that the pre-Industrial Revolution country folk applied towards the machines that changed their world.

There is no better place to watch this conflict between confidence and caution regarding the tech industry play out than in the financial sector. The values that analysts have given some technology companies — especially social media companies of varying form and function — are almost obscene. Even before going public, Facebook is valued at approximately $50 billion, Twitter is at $4.5 billion and Groupon — the local coupon site constantly growing in popularity — lies just above it at $4.8 billion. There are rumors about all three being valued even higher.

These are startling numbers, especially when compared to each one’s revenue. Facebook reportedly brings in about $2 billion annually. Analysts say that the valuation 25 times that revenue is due to investors wanting to buy into the future of the Internet.

Not that I have any significant amount of money to invest, but if I was putting my money into the future of an industry with such sticker shock, I’d want to know that I’m buying into a sure thing, or at least the closest thing to a sure thing in the financial world. Technology — especially the still-new social media phenomenon — is anything but a sure thing.

Taking a step back from the markets, because my knowledge of the subject is far from extensive, this high valuation speaks to a general confidence that our society seems to have in technology. When we’re handed a new dish to try, we gobble it up and ask for more when we really should be gingerly dipping our finger in it for a taste, waiting for it to cool off and then seeing if we like it.

This isn’t just a matter of the youth’s dependence on technology — in fact, quite the opposite. I have always been hesitant to criticize my generation as harshly as some have done: While some of us may be glued to our smartphones and Facebook accounts, almost completely losing touch with what real human communication entails, I really do believe that the majority of us still consider these forms of technology to be a luxury and not a necessity when push comes to shove.

Behind the criticisms that older generations throw at us is the money that they are throwing (either literally with investments or figuratively with high valuation) at the companies that provide us with these gadgets, websites and networks. While chastising us for habits that may or may not actually be as widespread as they suspect them to be, these investors and analysts are assuming that this supposed dependence on technology is going to continue to grow. They expect to see returns on our diminishing human interaction.

So while the investors ought to look at the mistakes that have been made in the wake of a technology boom, we ought to take similar caution. We, the members of this younger generation and ultimately the objects of these huge financial gambles, ought to constantly be aware of the value of technology in our lives. We should not undervalue it by brushing it aside and ignoring its plethora of benefits, nor should we overvalue it by putting all of it up on a pedestal to worship. Technology will not show us the way into the future; rather, we must show the world how technology will be a part of our future.

 

Marissa Amendolia is a senior in the College and former editor-in-chief of The Hoya. She can be reached at [email protected] Byte the Bullet appears ever other Friday.

 

To send a letter to the editor on a recent campus issue or Hoya story or a viewpoint on any topic, contact [email protected]. Letters should not exceed 300 words, and viewpoints should be between 600 to 800 words.

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