This week, Tim O’Reilly provided much-needed perspective in his essay “The End of Silicon Valley As We Know It.” If you can overlook the clickbait title, this essay is among the most valuable things you can read to understand our present and think about our future. While there has been much hoopla about folks leaving Silicon Valley, new distributed work philosophies, and other daily headlines, these are primarily distractions from a deeper, more profound change afoot in what we call Silicon Valley.

The Algorithmic Accountability Index: Ellery Roberts Biddle and Jie Zhang have created an accountability index for the algorithmic economy. They looked for companies’ answers to some fundamental questions about algorithms: How do you build and train them? What do they do? What standards guide these processes? An essential piece. 

How the race for autonomous cars started: We might be on the brink of the future where we all zoom around in self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles. It is easy to forget that, 16 years ago, autonomous driving was a chaotic dream. In his new book, Driven: The Race to Create the Autonomous Car, Alex Davies chronicles what brought us to this moment. Wired magazine recently ran an excerpt, and you should check it out.

Did Tech prevent the World from a bigger meltdown?: While we have read many articles about technology becoming a dominant force in our lives during the pandemic, this article in Foreign Policy asks (and answers) the question from a different angle. I liked the nuanced argument, and that is why I recommend it for your weekend reading.

The cassette tape creator is dead: In time, what was a disruptive technology becomes a part of our life that we don’t even notice. One hundred billion units later, cassette tape is one of those technologies. It kicked off the ability to personalize the curation of music. You can draw a straight line between those tapes and Spotify playlists. Lou Ottens, the engineer who created the cassette tape, died recently. Ottens also helped create the compact disc, which ultimately killed the cassette tape. His obituary is a reminder that only very few are fortunate enough to create technology that touches everyone’s lives.

My advice to the attorneys general: It’s not about Zuck

Yesterday must have been a tough day at work in the Facebook offices. First, Apple fired off a broadside on Facebook around issues of privacy. Then, the Federal Trade Commission and 48 Attorneys General teamed up to start antitrust proceedings against the company. They want to break up Facebook into residual parts. There are much … Continue reading My advice to the attorneys general: It’s not about Zuck

Poor Comms…

Every time Google tweaks its communication offerings, I am reminded that it has become a gigantic company, with the same dysfunction associated with large industrial companies. Today they had another go at their communication portfolio and naming convention. Here are some of the names of various products — Hangouts, Meet, Chat, Duo. If you can … Continue reading Poor Comms…

A few weeks ago, Jonathan Stern got in touch, wondering if I would like to participate in a new website he and his best friend, Carter Duncan were creating. “In the spirit of the Federalist Papers, my best friend from Duke and I have built a website called Pairagraph for written dialogue between distinguished individuals,” he wrote. The thinking behind the project was to “bring world leaders across government, industry, academia, religion, and the arts into a conversation about great events and great ideas, and perhaps, to revive the Republic of Letters.” 

University of Berkeley economist Brad DeLong is interested in discussing whether the U.S. is in decline. Is it true, as pessimists proclaim, that America has plateaued? Or that we are mired and trapped in civilizational languor? Is our culture exhausted? As someone who loves Prof. DeLong and his writing, it was such a privilege to have a dialogue with him. 

While the good professor is feeling discouraged about the American prospects, I am a long-term believer. I posted my first response today on Pairagraph! My original draft was over a thousand words, but I can’t go beyond 600 words. For now, here is my abbreviated take on why I don’t think America is in decline despite the recent events. Not yet!