Americans are obsessed with the pursuit of freedom. This ambition is core to our mythology and national identity. Of course we don’t always agree on what it means to be a free society or a free individual, and these different interpretations continue to fuel political and cultural divisions. Some people emphasize civil liberties, others focus on free markets, and still others argue that collective freedom must start with greater equality. But philosophies aside, we all strive for a system that limits the degree to which institutions of power can arbitrarily or maliciously impede our exercise of freedom. Throughout American history, each successive generation redefines what it means to be free, and what limits are acceptable.MORE
It’s easy to be angry with Silicon Valley right now. The emergence of big tech monopolies, the proliferation of fake news, surveillance-based business models and digital addiction – that’s just a sampling of the issues that are forcing people to question the Valley’s underlying culture and power structure. But it’s worth remembering that, not so long ago, a very different narrative prevailed. For years, the Valley had been celebrated as a hotspot for innovation, ingenuity, and idealism. All these features are very real and have made the Valley a magnet for visionaries. There’s even a philosophy of technology that has a power all its own. And there is perhaps no better spokesperson for this philosophy than technologist and former WIRED editor Kevin Kelly.
Can democracy survive the internet? That’s the provocative title of an article published last year by Stanford law professor Nate Persily. He began with a thought experiment: If Hillary Clinton had won the election, how would we be assessing the Internet’s role in her victory? Most likely, we’d be talking about her campaign’s ability to successfully micro-target political ads in order to mobilize specific demographics in swing states. Of course, she did not win, and the analysis has focused instead on Donald Trump‘s Twitter strategy and the impact of fake news. But from the perspective of technology and democracy, the 2016 election clearly showed us that, results aside, the internet now plays a fundamental role in deciding elections.MORE
Disruption! That word has been so relentlessly associated with Silicon Valley, it’s become cliche. And yet, despite the temptation to dismiss it, the infatuation with disruption is very real. Like it or not, the culture of disruption has to be taken seriously, because Silicon Valley is dismantling institutions across society. It’s one thing to transform taxicab services and vacation lodging; it’s another to disrupt the fourth estate: the media. In the space of a few years the Valley – and Google and Facebook in particular – have been instrumental in upending the news industry. Now, suddenly, democracy itself is at risk.MORE
Facebook was founded in 2004, and today there are 2 billion+ Facebook users on the planet. Their rise is nothing short of astonishing. But stop and think about it – why, exactly? What fundamental need does social media fulfill?MORE
In the first six episodes of Raw Data we’ve focused on the history of Silicon Valley and its unprecedented rise to power. But as the consequences unfold around us, it’s imperative to ask what checks and balances are in place—or even possible. Our search for an answer begins by looking at the power dynamics within the Valley and, in particular, how the myth of the Silicon Valley entrepreneur has evolved. MORE