How did Silicon Valley become such a historically and globally significant hub of technological innovation? What—and who—gets left out of the stories people tell about Silicon Valley? What are the limits of technology, and how can we create more equitable technologies for the future?
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- Meredith Broussard is a data journalist, an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University, and author of Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World (MIT Press, 2018).
- Margaret O’Mara is the Howard & Frances Keller Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington, a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times, and author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (Penguin Press, 2019), among other works.
Annie Galvin, this season’s host, is the associate editor at Public Books and a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Virginia, and her academic and public writing has focused on contemporary global fiction, visual culture, gender and sexuality, and popular music.
A historian and a data journalist explore the history and influence of Silicon Valley: how it came to be such an ascendent hub of technological innovation, and the limits of what the technologies produced there can do. Meredith and Margaret consider what is distinctly American about the history of Silicon Valley, how popular myths about Silicon Valley square up with reality, and why it’s important for people to recognize that technology cannot solve all human problems.
View a transcript of the episode here.
Mentioned in this episode
- Meredith’s book Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World
- Margaret’s book The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America
- Alvin Toffler’s concept of “future shock”
- The Markup, a newsroom founded by Julia Angwin that does algorithmic-accountability reporting
- Reporting on the COMPAS algorithm by Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu, and Lauren Kirchner
- Meredith’s concept of “technochauvinism”
- Interviews with Donna Riley and Virginia Eubanks on how engineering education is changing
- Capitol Hill hearings involving Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (July 2020)
- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)
- Ralph Nader, Unsafe at Any Speed (1965)
- Ellen Pao’s gender-discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins
- The Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies at New York University
- Shalini Kantayya’s documentary Coded Bias (2020)
Further reading and Viewing
- Coded Bias, directed by Shalini Kantayya, 7th Empire Media, 2020
- Charlton McIlwain, Black Software: The Internet and Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter (Oxford University Press, 2019)
- Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press, 2018)
- Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (Broadway, 2017)
- For further reading on race and digital technologies, Meredith recommends the Critical Race and Digital Studies Syllabus
- Leslie Berlin, Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age (Simon & Schuster, 2018)
- Vannevar Bush, “Science the Endless Frontier: A Report to the President by Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development” (United States Government Printing Office, 1945)
- Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (Bantam, 1984)
- Kim-Mai Cutler, “East of Palo Alto’s Eden: Race and the Formation of Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, January 10, 2015
This episode was produced by Annie Galvin and Jess Engebretson and is licensed under a Creative Commons-Attribution License (CC-BY 4.0).