For some, Silicon Valley is a place to live and work. For others, the Valley seems so alien that it might as well be another planet. This rift has perhaps never been so clear as it is in a trio of pieces in the New York Times that ran this week about how parents in the tech industry are restricting their kids’ screen time at home, with caretakers, and at school. In case you haven’t read the articles, it turns out that the people who design cell phones — and the apps that make us all want to use them more — are quietly banning the devices in their own homes.
One thing is clear: from the culture of startups to the philosophy of disruption, the way of life in Silicon Valley is quite different from many, and maybe most, American towns. But what’s life really like in Silicon Valley? Whether you’re an insider who wants to see how bestsellers are shaping the popular imagination, or an outsider who wants to better understand the culture, this roundup offers four useful points of view.
1. Learn the history.
How did Silicon Valley become the world’s central hub for technological innovation? Well, it depends on who you ask. To write VALLEY OF GENIUS, journalist Adam Fisher talked to hundreds of people — inventors, entrepreneurs, developers, engineers, and more — to get a wide variety of takes. By looking at companies like Atari, Apple, Napster, and Google, Fisher shows how a relatively small group of men and women came to accumulate so much wealth, power, knowledge, and influence.
2. Hear the gossip.
By its very nature, a scandal is a surprising, unusual event. But there’s also a way in which scandals have a way of clarifying fundamental truths. With BAD BLOOD, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Carreyrou showed how there’s a fine line between corporate secrecy and theater. Did you know that the laboratories at Theranos, the disgraced medical testing company, were outfitted with fake equipment like a movie set dressed with props? The lie was one thing — but the fact that investors bought into it was quite another.
3. Get to know their god.
Maybe “god” is a bit of an exaggeration. But in Silicon Valley — and especially in Cupertino, where Apple is headquartered — there is still a great deal of Steve Jobs worship going on, even seven years after his death. Jobs’s definitive biography, the aptly named STEVE JOBS, is an interesting look at the man as an individual. But it also speaks to how Jobs helped shape Apple’s long-term vision, from product design to customer privacy.
4. Gaze into its future.
The future of Silicon Valley is, in many ways, the future of humanity. Anyone who wants to know what the world will be like in the decades to come should consider how things are shaping up in the Valley. In THE INEVITABLE, WIRED magazine co-founder and tech guru Kevin Kelly looks at a dozen forces in tech that are most likely to shape our collective future.
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