CT Seminar: The Political Ideologies of Silicon Valley

by Henry Farrell on November 29, 2023

Back in April, Johns Hopkins’ Center for Economy and Society and Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences held a workshop on the political ideologies of Silicon Valley. It was a great event, in large part because it brought together a somewhat disconnected community. People had been thinking about Silicon Valley in history, in sociology, in cultural studies and political science among other disciplines. They had read across disciplines out of necessity, to keep up with the ideas – but they often hadn’t had a chance to meet the people they were reading. So this gave them an opportunity to talk. And as an unanticipated by-product of the meeting, we invited people who attended the meeting, and a couple of others, to write short pieces about their understanding of the ideology or ideologies of Silicon Valley.

If you want to read the seminar as a PDF, it is available here. If you want to remix it (it is made available under a a CC BY-NC 4.0 DEED AttributionNonCommercial 4.0 International License ), then click here to download the .tex file. If you want to link to the entire seminar, it’s all at https://crookedtimber.org/category/silicon-valley-seminar/If you want to read the individual posts online, you can find them all below.

The participants in the seminar are as follows:



Max 11.02.23 at 4:23 pm

This sounds amazing! Looking forward to the individual contributions!


StevenAttewell 11.03.23 at 12:31 am

What an auspicious day to start this particular seminar.


dilbert dogbert 11.03.23 at 4:06 pm

UC Davis is as lonesome as a cloud at this meeting.
As an escapee from Palo Alto; I object to Silicon Valley!!!
Put the blame on PA damnit!!!!!


LFC 11.09.23 at 3:05 am

I don’t understand about three-fourths of dilbert dogbert’s comment @3.


nnyhav 11.11.23 at 4:06 pm

Charlie Stross: We’re sorry we created the Torment Nexus (via mefi)


KT2 11.11.23 at 10:38 pm

nnyhav. Excellent link – Charlie Stross: We’re sorry we created the Torment Nexus
Even Quiggin’s Zombie Economics gets a mention in comments.
And the linked Umberto Eco Ur-Fascism too.

After reading this Stross piece, I’m keen to suggest CT does a Stross seminar reprise;.
“Charles Stross seminar “”https://crookedtimber.org/category/charles-stross-seminar/

… focusing on the powerfully cashed up Tech Bros who have swallowed dystopia, via cautionary tales.
Call it Map / Territoty confusion by rich tech overloads.

Come to think about it, much of CT recently is about map and territory confusion. Thanks.


Bob 11.30.23 at 3:30 am

I have been following the various Silicon Valley threads with some bewilderment and confusion. What these tech bros think seems to matter a lot to the people involved in the discussions. But I don’t understand why. I am not proud of this! I am sure that I am missing something really important. But to me they just seem like rich buffoons that got lucky once, or maybe twice, but don’t seem to be able to repeat the trick–e.g., Zuckerberg’s venture into the metaverse; or Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. Paying attention to their thoughts, or activities, in the political and social spheres seems like paying attention to the thoughts and activism of movie stars. They don’t seem to have anything like the real world, very scary, impact that Trump, and the MAGA movement that has grown up around him, have had and are having. So what am I, a guy who follows the news fairly closely, missing? The latter question is not intended as a backhanded putdown of the people who are taking these discussions so seriously: I’m genuinely puzzled.


Adi 11.30.23 at 5:47 am

I definitely share that intuition when it comes to dissecting Musk’s latest tweets, but I think it’s important to understand the general worldviews of thoughtleaders in this bubble. Because these SV tech bros are making hella money creating technology that directly impacts more people worldwide than just about anything else I can think of


Chris M 11.30.23 at 8:41 am

Hi ,Henry I think you forgot to link to the the .tex file.


KT2 11.30.23 at 8:06 pm

Potential AI data prophylactic.

Closed vs open AI models, privacy and your content as free training.

I am a nervous nelly re privacy having carriage of service crimes committed against me – been hacked, hounded and spoofed. Hence KT2.

I am keen to use AI as a tool I wield, without a chain to be yanked or a pipe to be sucked by Sam Altamn, Elin Musk, Microsoft, Governments or nefarious nutjobs .

Due to “It’s infuriatingly hard to understand how closed models train on their input”

… consider using Mozilla innovation group’s llamafile as recommended by Simon Willison:
“Stick that file on a USB stick and stash it in a drawer as insurance against a future apocalypse. You’ll never be without a language model ever again.”

“llamafile is the new best way to run a LLM on your own computer”

“Mozilla’s innovation group and Justine Tunney just released llamafile, and I think it’s now the single best way to get started running Large Language Models (think your own local copy of ChatGPT) on your own computer

“One file is all you need
“I think my favourite thing about llamafile is what it represents. This is a single binary file which you can download and then use, forever, on (almost) any computer.

“You don’t need a network connection, and you don’t need to keep track of more than one file.

“Stick that file on a USB stick and stash it in a drawer as insurance against a future apocalypse. You’ll never be without a language model ever again.

Grubby finger Marc’s everywhere.
Simon Willison – “…was an engineering director at Eventbrite. Simon joined Eventbrite through their acquisition of Lanyrd, a Y Combinator funded company he co-founded in 2010.”

By next year I’ll be a llamafile on usb clean hand. Luxury. I hope. And still a nervous nelly. Stay vigilant.


Jan Wiklund 12.01.23 at 1:30 pm

Another fact about AI: http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2023/11/ai-information-economy-becomes-ever.html, or data transmission consumes already 3% of the total global energy output. Bitcoin used as much energy as Norway, and 5G consumes three times as much energy as 4G.

Perhaps it’s time to consider what is necessary, and what is just a fad or a toy for overgrown kids.

Comments on this entry are closed.