Tag: silicon valley

In Latest Facebook Scandal, Sheryl Sandberg Leans Backward

 

Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook is in the news again, this time facing allegations in a lawsuit that she knew the company was overestimating and misrepresenting its projected advertising numbers — and failed to disclose that fact to clients for years.

It’s amazing the downward trajectory Sandberg’s reputation has taken in just a few years. Here in Silicon Valley, she was initially seen as supremely competent, the real architect of Facebook’s explosive success, and — most of all — the lone adult at the company who kept Mark Zuckerberg in check. Then, in 2013, she published Lean In and became a national phenomenon, the heroine and role model to millions of young women struggling to make it in the business world. There seemed no limit to her career; there were even whispers of her becoming the first woman POTUS.

But then, especially after her Congressional testimony and some other comments that made her sound less like a paragon of character and more just a shill for her company, the attitude in tech was modified to: “Well, she’s just doing what she has to do in her job. But she’s still a person of character.” You know, kind of like a mob lawyer: defending bad behavior, but not participating in it.

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Two things: I’ll start with the interesting, and end on the ridiculous. While I cooked dinner tonight for myself and Darling Daughter and then cleaned up afterward, I watched a movie on Amazon Prime, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley. It’s the Theranos story, the account of a photogenic and superficially charming sociopath […]

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Michael Gibson joins Brian Anderson to discuss San Francisco’s ongoing struggle with public order and his decision to leave the Bay Area for Los Angeles—the subject of Gibson’s story, “America’s Havana,” in the Spring 2020 issue.

“Even before the current Covid-19 pandemic,” writes Gibson, “San Francisco was a deeply troubled city.” The city ranks first in the nation in a host of property crimes, and its high housing costs make it prohibitively expensive for low- and middle-income families. Even tech companies are now considering relocating their operations; any significant exodus of such businesses would be a serious blow to the city’s economy.

San Francisco Unleashes Destructive Creation on Silicon Valley

 

Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, speaks about the deployment of 5G wireless technology during the TechCrunch Disrupt forum in San Francisco.
Politicians kvetch a lot about Big Tech, but government officials everywhere would love their country, state, or city to have its own Silicon Valley. Alas, there’s no magic formula, no blueprint for top-down constructing a fertile ecosystem of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. As economist Enrico Moretti has noted, “If you look at the history of America’s great innovation hubs, we haven’t found one that was directly, explicitly engineered by an explicit policy on the part of the government.”

That’s just not how it seems to work in America. It’s more of an organic, idiosyncratic, indirect thing. As University of Washington historian Margaret O’Mara, author of “The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America,” told me in a recent podcast, the story of Silicon Valley isn’t “a story of big government coming in with giant research labs and command-and-control” although Washington certainly played a critical role.

How the Nerds Took Revenge

 

We were all once nerds, or cool kids, jocks, bullies, dorks, AV cart-pushers, theater geeks, motorheads, preppies, break dancers, valley girls, wastoids, heshers, skaters, surfers, outcasts, and teacher’s pets. Microchip technology was nascent as we learned the term “hacker” from Matthew Broderick changing his grades via modem, while Anthony Michael Hall demonstrated how hyperactive geeks could end up with the Homecoming Queen.

We delighted in watching nerds take revenge. After all, those narcissistic jocks deserved it, which became an oft-repeated trope in many films of the 1980s. The smartest, but most socially awkward would exact vengeance on anyone who previously shunned them, both men and women. While comedic in tone and extremely satisfying to watch at the time, there’s no doubt that said retribution has since morphed into something darker; the entitled psyche of yesterday’s and today’s disenfranchised.

Many eggheads of our youth now run the world’s most valuable technology platforms. With great power came their real-life payback to manipulate people and greater society. As we debate whether the centralized platforms need to be broken up as the FAANGs openly admit to controlling free speech for political purposes, (see Google’s Plan to Prevent “Trump situation” in 2020), quietly they have been steadily using their clout and muscle to turn us all, including their own colleagues, into chattel. Not to suggest every executive in Silicon Valley behaves this way, but many do. With more wealth than most people can earn in ten lifetimes, the enlightened ones turn coworkers into prostitutes by attending tech orgies; a gateway for those who want to advance their careers. The titans of Silicon Valley, well-known people, use sex for sport all while publicly advocating #MeToo and other woke platitudes to an enabling media salivating at any opportunity to interview tech icons.

In an episode of multiple firsts, Jack strikes out on his own to interview Matthew Hennessey, the deputy op-ed editor of the Wall Street Journal, author of Zero Hour for Gen X: How the Last Adult Generation Can Save America from Millennials, and, at 44, a decidedly un-young American. They discuss whether Millennials or Baby Boomers are really to blame for America’s problems, whether Gen X can save us, and whether generational warfare might ultimately be a distraction from the real enemy: excessive technology.

Follow this podcast on Twitter @youngamericanz.

Matthew Hennessey joins City Journal managing editor Paul Beston to discuss Matthew’s new book, Zero Hour for Gen X: How the Last Adult Generation Can Save America from Millennials.

More than a decade after the introduction of social media, it’s evident that Silicon Valley’s youth-obsessed culture has more drawbacks—from violations of privacy to deteriorating attention spans—than many of us first realized. For many millennials, though, who grew up with the Internet, there’s nothing to worry about. And to hear the media tell it, this tech-savvy generation, the largest in American history, is poised to take leadership from the retiring baby boomers.

Richard Epstein on Classical Liberalism, the Administrative State, Free Speech, and Silicon Valley Regulation

 

For this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast, I had legendary classical liberal legal theorist and longtime professor at University of Chicago Law School and now at NYU Law — and prodigious Ricochet podcaster Professor Richard Epstein on the podcast to discuss among other things:

  • The role that Professor Epstein’s famous book, “Takings” played in Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing — and then-Senator Joe Biden’s hectoring
  • Professor Epstein’s groundbreaking theories on private property rights, eminent domain and the Takings and Commerce Clauses
  • The practical argument against progressivism
  • Whether we should deconstruct the administrative state, and if so how to do it
  • The danger to free speech emanating from college campuses in a world of microaggressions, trigger warnings, de-platforming
  • The folly of regulating Silicon Valley social media companies
  • Classical liberalism versus socialism and libertarianism

You can find the episode on iTunes, everywhere else podcasts are found or download the episode directly here.

Joel Kotkin joins Brian Anderson to discuss California’s economic performance since the Great Recession, the state’s worsening housing crunch, and the impending departure of Governor Jerry Brown, who will leave office in January. After serving four terms (nonconsecutively) since the late 1970s, Brown is one of the longest-serving governors in American history.

While California has seen tremendous growth during Brown’s tenure, the state has big problems: people are moving out in greater numbers than they’re moving in, job creation outside of Silicon Valley is stagnant, and the state’s housing costs are the highest in the country.

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Even New York Magazine finds an acorn now and then. And this interview with Silicon Valley lifer Jaron Lanier on the social failings of the Internet generally and Social Media in particular is one such. It’s a true Read The Whole Thing. I’ve had a nodding acquaintance with Lanier for three decades, encountering him at […]

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Can Government Cook Up Another Silicon Valley?

 
Apple campus, Cupertino, CA. | Shutterstock.com

Silicon Valley doesn’t seem too popular these days in Washington. Yet government planners in just about every place that has a government would love to replicate Silicon Valley. Since 2011, California has grown twice as fast as the rest of the nation, helped by white-hot 6% annual growth in the San Jose area — home to the actual Silicon Valley, according to JPMorgan. But what’s the secret sauce? What’s the right recipe? No one seems to know, exactly. But policymakers seem to have settled on what economist Ian Hathaway calls the More of Everything theory (which I would like to believe is a Seinfeld reference). It works like this, Hathaway explains in a blog post:

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I don’t know how many of you watch the HBO series “Silicon Valley,” but they did a nice job in last week’s episode targeting the bigotry of the mostly progressive tech sector. Pied Piper, the company at the center of the show’s narrative, was assembling a collection of partner companies who would participate in the […]

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T.S. Eliot deemed April “the cruelest month,” but for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg it’s been March with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that’s cast doubt on the fabled “social network.” Niall Ferguson, the Hoover Institution’s Milbank Family Senior Fellow and a frequent author on technology and Silicon Valley’s prominence, examines the perils of “hyperconnection.” Has Zuckerberg fulfilled George Orwell’s vision of a society of addicted to an all-knowing, all-watching telescreen?

Californication of America

 
Representative Tim Ryan, back left in tie, organized a bus tour through the Midwest with about a dozen venture capitalists. (via New York Times)

For cancer to survive, once it kills its host it must move on to another healthy body. Forty years of leftist rule ruined the once “Golden State.” You can’t walk through San Francisco without side-stepping human excrement or drive through Los Angeles without navigating countless miles of homeless camps. Meanwhile, California housing costs are unattainable by most everyone.

Is the Golden Age of Startups Over?

 

The early part of the 2000s will be remembered for at least two economic events, one terrible, the other pretty great: the Global Financial Crisis and the Age of the Unicorns. We are almost a decade past the first one. And the second one? Well, we may be at its end, at least according to TechCrunch columnist Jon Evans:

The web boom of ~1997-2006 brought us Amazon, Facebook, Google, Salesforce, Airbnb, etc., because the internet was the new new thing, and a handful of kids in garages and dorm rooms could build a web site, raise a few million dollars, and scale to serve the whole world. The smartphone boom of ~2007-2016 brought us Uber, Lyft, Snap, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, etc., because the same was true of smartphone apps.

Because we’ve all lived through back-to-back massive worldwide hardware revolutions — the growth of the internet, and the adoption of smartphones — we erroneously assume another one is around the corner, and once again, a few kids in a garage can write a little software to take advantage of it.

Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat from Silicon Valley and vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, discusses the feasibility of re-creating the technology economy in other parts of the United States. Is there room for working with the Trump administration, or are his fellow Democrats preoccupied by Russia and impeachment talk?

Technology + Comedy = Machiavelli

 

In my other haunt, over at The Federalist, I’ve been writing about “Silicon Valley,” the laughingest comedy on TV. I’m talking about Mike Judge, the creator of “Silicon Valley,” and Peter Thiel, the mysterious prophet-billionaire. Well, I’ve got more things to say! I’m moving here from writing on spectacles in the direction of political philosophy–to put some suggestions to that secret teaching I have made into my title.

Everyone knows, the biggest new enterprises are in Silicon Valley. The names of America’s founder-CEOs, princes of our technological future, are household names. But who are these people? Almost nobody knows, although we all vaguely expect that, if there’s any future, that’s where it is going to be made. Views of the future abound at the movies, on TV, and in books, and they are almost always depressive, if not apocalyptic. How about the people by whom the future is supposed to come? Who will give us a good look at them? There’s hardly anything to mention on that subject, let alone something worth mentioning. There’s no Tom Wolfe novel about Silicon Valley.

The best we have, and it’s nothing to sneeze at, is Mike Judge’s comedy show. This is cultural criticism of progress in the service of progress. That’s almost all-American. He deserves our attention, because he’s onto serious stuff about science, mystery, and comedy. He deserves our praise, too, because he does his job well–his comedy makes the dwellers of Silicon Valley seem at home there. He shows their strengths and weaknesses clearly enough for human types to emerge. You get a sense of what these people believe and, partly, how come. This is not merely a man good at telling stories laughing at the vanities and unwisdom of dudes who are too busy with technology to notice human beings. It’s a sustained attempt to show the obstacles faced by imprudent minds. Well, why are they imprudent? Because they believe in progress. Well, what’s wrong with that? Well, let me explain!

America’s Worst Economic Problem Might Be Getting Better

 

The American Growth Machine is badly malfunctioning, at least as diagnosed by official government statistics. US productivity growth — the engine of long-term economic growth — has averaged just 0.5% since 2010 vs. 2.3% over the previous six decades. Productivity growth in 2016 fell to 0.2%, notes IHS Markit, the ninth weakest reading in the postwar era. (And that’s post World War II, not post-Iraq War.) Moreover, when stalled productivity growth meets slowing labor force growth, you get an economy capable only of uninspiring 1-2% growth at best. And growth that slow, especially when combined with greater income inequality, may feel like no growth at all to most Americans. The Great Stagnation.

All terrible news, unless of course the official numbers are wrong. Some economists think current statistical methods badly understate the value of new products, especially in the tech economy, and miss welfare gains from free goods like Facebook and Wikipedia. If they are right, overall economic growth and living standards are growing faster than we think. Then again, some economists think the official numbers are capturing a real downshift. The technopessimists argue today’s innovations aren’t as transformative as past ones. Combustion engine beats smartphone.