Author(s): Noam Cohen
The Beginning: a Stanford University lab embarked on an idealistic quest to create an artificial intelligence that would benefit society, perhaps even profit the makers. There were few women or minorities in the department and its head rejected the very idea of authority, but really - what could go wrong? Now: more and more aspects of our lives are being dictated by a tiny, unaccountable elite, a breakaway sect of free-market libertarians who are determined to bypass government and enrich themselves at the expense of society. Pioneers and self-proclaimed geniuses like Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman and Mark Zuckerberg have not only made the Internet what it is today - their impact on the world has been profound. This is a history of Silicon Valley through its eleven greatest entrepreneurs and a damning indictment of the greed, bias and outright prejudice of an industry that is fracturing America and taking the rest of us with it.
`Many people have started to suspect that something has gone wrong in Silicon Valley. This book explains what that is. The Know-It-Alls is a smart, insightful, and ultimately terrifying read about the sinister motives behind the utopian rhetoric. A fantastic read.' -- Dan Lyons, author of New York Times bestseller, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble `These finely researched portraits are a joy.' * Nature * `So Silicon Valley moguls are essentially all privileged white male superegos, living the life of racism, sexism and ageism, and of course, obscene wealth. This is not news, but Noam Cohen has put together an alternate history of the computer era, bent at this angle. It makes for uncomfortable reading, meaning, it's effective.' -- San Francisco Review of Books `Individualism is a big part of what makes America great - until it becomes a euphemism for selfishness and arrogance among lucky winners who prefer to believe that luck and other people had nothing to do with their success. The Know-It-Alls is a terrific case study of some of the unreckoned costs of the digital revolution, and how one piece of the American idea threatens to overwhelm the others.' -- Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire `Why is the Internet the way it is? How has commerce come to dominate the scramble for clicks and eyeballs? What kind of people, essentially all of them young men - brainy, ambitious, focused, very young men - created cyberspace? Via the careers of a dozen of them, Noam Cohen tells the story in this entertaining, refreshingly unworshipful survey.' -- Hendrik Hertzberg, author of Politics: Observations & Arguments and !Obamanos! `An enlightening breakdown of how Silicon Valley billionaires have shifted popular discourse in their favour.' * Kirkus * `Noam Cohen's The Know-It-Alls provides a provocative and illuminating examination of Silicon Valley. Using profiles of its core digital capitalist giants and the immense political, economic and cultural power they have quickly come to possess, Cohen raises troubling questions about how this can possibly square with a fair, decent, humane, and democratic society. This immensely readable book should be mandatory reading.' -- Robert W. McChesney, author of Digital Disconnect `A fascinating intellectual profile of the people who have increasingly come to rule our world. With precision and skill, Noam Cohen tweaks the pretensions of a handful of tech oligarchs, whose self-styled project to better our lives results in little more than a power grab at our economy and our democracy. As America's centre of gravity inexorably shifts to Silicon Valley, and the original vision of a decentralized Internet of personal expression gets drowned in a sea of commerce and advertising, I'll be turning to Cohen's insights into the profiteers responsible again and again.' -- David Dayen, author of Chain of Title `A surprising and absorbing book that opens up the stories of people that you should have been, but were not, interested in learning more about. Why should you have been interested in them? Because their values have become the value coded into the new economy. When I finished reading it, my picture of Silicon Valley had been permanently changed.' -- David G. W. Birch, author of Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin
Noam Cohen wrote the Link-by-Link column in the New York Times from 2007-15, reporting on Wikipedia, Twitter, Bitcoin, ad blockers and other disruptive technologies. He lives in Brooklyn with his family.