What made Silicon Valley happen? As a historian of the region, I am often asked this question, and I thought I would use this space to begin to answer it.
I am often asked, is the West red or blue? Republican or Democrat? The answer is neither. Even as the rest of the nation aligns by region into red, Republican South and blue, Democratic North, western states continue their maverick ways, switching from one color to the other.
When I received the invitation to participate in Chautauqua’s focus on the American West, I anticipated speaking about the demands that climate change has placed on local, regional, state and federal actors across the West to overcome barriers to the integrated management of water and energy.
What does the frontier mean for America? We have been told for generations that understanding it is fundamental for coming to terms with white American identity. It helped foster certain sensibilities that can explain individualism, relations to the state, and understandings of other groups.
Editor’s Note: This guest column from today’s lecturer takes the form of answers to questions frequently fielded by Peter W. Singer.
Imagine that the government decided to announce a new security program — call it Open Planet. Under the program, tiny cameras mounted on drones would roam through the skies, with the capacity to follow any citizen from door to door 24 hours a day, broadcasting his or her movements on the Internet. Imagine that the government used the Open Planet to follow you without a judicial warrant and then recorded and posted on YouTube the footage of every step you take in public, 24 hours a day, for a month.
When I started to think about the theme for this week at Chautauqua — privacy — I kept bumping into a couple issues which claimed priority. Before you can talk about “privacy” you have to have some understanding of not only freedom, but also of what manner of creature a human being is. I thought of the cartoon — a flashing highway sign with the message, “Welcome to Las Vegas! A faith-based community!” It expresses the fact that we all live in some sort of “faith” community, which makes assumptions about what the human enterprise is about.
There’s a powerful narrative being told about the world’s food system — in classrooms, boardrooms, foundations and the halls of government around the world. It’s everywhere. And it makes complete sense when you listen to it. The problem is, it’s mostly based on flawed assumptions.
When we talk about food in America, it’s often to celebrate our abundant agriculture or explore a cuisine. When we talk about hunger, we often turn our eyes abroad to developing nations. But there is a quiet, persistent problem with hunger here at home — and last fall National Geographic sent me to explore it.
Lately, I have been learning to identify the various kinds of birds that drop by for a snack. How different they are in size, color, shape of beak; yet, they have in common one dramatically apparent feature: They want seeds in the feeder all to themselves.