Silicon Valley's Culture of 'Know-It-Alls'

Journalist Noam Cohen's new book argues that Silicon Valley is a social wrecking ball, but is that perspective enough to create change?
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Journalist Noam Cohen's new book argues that Silicon Valley is a social wrecking ball, but is that perspective enough to create change?
The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball.

The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball.

The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball
Noam Cohen
The New Press

For years, Noam Cohen covered Silicon Valley's influence on U.S. culture in his "Link by Link" column for the New York Times. In The Know-It-Alls, he offers profiles of Valley titans past and present, from John McCarthy, who ran Stanford University's first artificial-intelligence lab, to contemporary figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel. Tracing these entrepreneurs' remarkably similar worldviews from childhood onward, he classifies them as "know-it-alls": avatars of radical individualism, hubris, and greed gussied up in the language of progress and freedom. This line of thinking is no longer novel. Perhaps in his next book, Cohen could draw on his immersion to highlight people who share his alarm. If he's right that a Silicon Valley "wrecking ball" is ravaging our society, we don't need to hear more about where it came from: We need to figure out how to take back the controls.

A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.

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