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When worlds collide

Slow down, 2019...

· Speaking,The Code,Writing,Media

When I set out to write a history of Silicon Valley that brought politics and policy back into the story, I had little idea of how much tech policy would be in the headlines by the time I published it. When I designed a course on the U.S. presidency a few years back, little did I realize that I'd be teaching it amid particularly, um...eventful times in presidential history. But here we are, in early October 2019, with history in the making on both fronts, not knowing yet how the story will end.

As I spend this fast-moving fall pinging back and forth between giving book talks and giving course lectures on the history of the presidency, I'm reminded how much these two worlds have in common, especially now.

Both are undergoing crises of executive power, institutional stress tests that result from scope and scale of influence becoming far greater than the builders of these institutions imagined. We have presidential impeachment, fired CEOs and imploding IPOs, academic stars taken down by scandal. All of these crises have their particulars and different degrees of seriousness; a presidency in peril is a far bigger deal than the free-fall of WeWork. Yet all are manifestations of particularly American affection toward the self-made man, the maverick who comes out of nowhere to take on the Establishment, who promises that they alone can fix it.

The ideologies and histories that connect tech and politics also were the topic of my most recent op-ed in The New York Times, my first since being named a contributing opinion writer. Not only thrilled that the piece made it in despite the avalanche of impeachment news, but also that it was paired with this brilliant illustration by Michael DeForge.

The Church of Techno-Optimism (September 29, 2019)

Recent media

Tech and politics were both on tap in my appearances in the media in the last several weeks. Links for the curious:

The Failed Political Promise of Silicon Valley. This review of my book by Kim Phillips-Fein in The New Republic is a model of how to do it, a deep and thoughtful reading that stands as a terrific essay all on its own.

Silicon Valley: A region high on historical amnesia. Another rigorous and deeply engaged review--with a few pointed critiques--by historian Patrick McCray in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Silicon Valley: An unrepeatable miracle? Really enjoyed this conversation with AEI's Jim Pethokoukis (a fellow NU alum - Go Cats!) about Silicon Valley's only-in-America story. Listen to the podcast or read the extended Q&A, or do both!

GM Strike is a Test of Workers' Strength in a New Economy. I've long been interested in the comparisons and contrasts between the tech world and Detroit (aka the Silicon Valley of the 1910s and 1920s). Here I'm quoted in a deeply reported piece by Phoebe Wall Howard in the Detroit Free Press.

Google's White-Collar Contractors are Voting to Unionize. Tech labor activism is much in the news these days and I've been talking to a lot of reporters about it, including Shirin Ghaffary here in Vox.

I also talked about the Google union drive with Meghan McCarty Carino on public radio's Marketplace, which is a prime example of why I never should go on radio when I have a bad cold!

Upcoming talks

Meanwhile, I continue to share the story of THE CODE to a range of audiences. Here's a rundown of where you can find me in October:

Monday, October 7 at Stanford: I return to the Bill Lane Center for the American West--where I spent the first five years of my academic career as its first postdoc and deputy director--for a public book talk. 4:30-6:00pm, Bishop Auditorium. Details here.

Wednesday, October 16 at Harvard: I'll be appearing at the first History Department Seminar of the year for a conversation with Lizabeth Cohen about "Giving Our Own Time a History." 12:00-1:20pm, 125 Robinson Hall. Details here.

Wednesday, October 23 in Seattle: I'll be the keynote speaker at the University of Washington Runstad Center for Real Estate's 6th Annual Leadership Dinner. 5:30pm, Sheraton Grand Seattle. Details here.

Friday, October 25 in San Francisco: Talking about the book in conversation with Mark Brilliant of UC Berkeley at the Berkeley Law Fourth Annual Symposium on Corporate Law. Details here.

Tuesday, October 29 in Seattle: Noble Hotels presents a book talk, signing, and hometown celebration of THE CODE. 6:00pm, details below!

What's next

Coming up in November you can find me in DC 11/1, Lisbon 11/5, Palo Alto 11/13, and more. Plus, I'll keep on turning up like a bad penny on your airwaves and computer screens and even in the real live print newspaper. Here's a hint about one of these upcoming appearances...

I'm always here to meet your super-geeky history needs. Thanks for reading, listening, clicking, and buying the book. It takes a village, always!

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