After a non-brief hiatus where health matters intersected with work matters, I’m back to writing about technology, policy, people and innovation in Silicon Valley.
I’ve always lived in Silicon Valley. I was born in Fremont, got my physics degree at UC Berkeley, and have worked at and co-founded several tech companies here. I road my bike through orchards and fields now filled with homes and shops. I drove 2 lane roads now turned into always busy expressways. I went to school with people who have gone on to successful careers, even reshaping industries… and some who are no longer alive.
I’ve lived in Los Gatos for the last two decades. It’s a nice town (really and literally, the Town of Los Gatos), with a splendid library, just out-of-the-way enough to participate in Silicon Valley without enduring too much of the transitory madness of chimerical tech trends.
It’s an easy drive to all those places that matter, although those places have changed too. What was hot is soon not. Money changes hands, or vanishes into pockets. And the must-hear pitch is as quickly forgotten as yesterday’s weather.
There are patterns and anti-patterns to Silicon Valley, this Valley of Heart’s Delight. But now the heart is made of silicon and transistors and zeros and ones. It beats in picoseconds through cores of processors and devices. Thoughts and dreams and desires, both subtle and base, are accessible with a touch.
A. C. Clarke said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Perhaps this is why the gap between science and public policy, education and superstition has grown in the United States. This is a threat to Silicon Valley innovation and national security.
As the complexity of technologic and scientific innovation increases, those who “productize” and “monetize” innovation have successfully hidden much of the actual scut work of design, development and manufacturing from prying eyes and in some cases, regulatory fingers.
Corporate HR blacklists to protect Silicon Valley monopolies, creations of fictitious businesses and paper transfers of technology IPR invented here to bogus tax havens, and the hands-off creation and supervision of manufacturing facilities in poor countries with the inevitable stories of abuse and exploitation all paint a less than flattering picture of a “maturing industry” disinterested in innovation.
But where does one go when the “renovation, not innovation” mantra becomes tiresome, and magic doesn’t cut it?
Complex products made “simple” are inherently deceptive in both design and intent, but not because it makes technology accessible. Rather, the cult of “simple” design obscures technology as magic. And once technology becomes magic in people’s eyes, the value for the foundational knowledge and experience underpinning innovation is lost.
So we come full circle.