The dark history of Silicon Valley’s rise to power


Author and Salon editor Keith A. Spencer details the historic rise of Silicon Valley and its impacts on culture and geography along the way, both good and bad, through the eyes of the workers that made its products and the people displaced in the process of its creation.

Instead of glorifying the people at the top, Spencer, who writes about innovation and technology for Salon, describes to Salon’s executive editor Andrew O’Hehir on “Salon Talks” why Silicon Valley’s utopian promise is warped.

“A lot of young people nowadays and in the last 20 years, they look at the world and they're like,

‘Well this is the best we can do. How am I going to change the world?’ They see Silicon Valley and they're like, ‘Oh technology's going gonna change the world. This is a great utopian place,’” Spencer said. “They find hope in the business speak and the techno speak of Silicon Valley.”

But, as Spencer assets in his new book “A People’s History of Silicon Valley,”, the tech industry has created inequalities and keeps figuring out new ways to underpay and exploit people (and convince them it's a good thing along the way).

Spencer’s book traces the industry’s foundation and its growth with a critical lens. “It had all these sort of defense connections at the beginning,” Spencer said. “The Santa Clara Valley, as it was called then, was a place where there's a lot of semiconductor production. The defense industry was really interested in integrated circuits and they could put them on ICBMs, nuke on the Soviet Union.”

Watch the video above to learn how Spencer’s own family, who traveled across America by covered wagon and settled on the West Coast, affected his critical exploration of the tech industry.


Subscribe to SalonTV’s YouTube Channel to watch SalonTV's live interview and music shows "Salon Talks" and "Salon Stage," airing daily at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT and 4 p.m. Click here to watch more “Salon Talks” interviews.

About “Salon Talks”: Hosted by Salon journalists, “Salon Talks” episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. “Salon Talks” is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on YouTube and Salon.com.

More From This Week on SalonTV