A new development complex in Mountain VIew, CA. The site was formerly home to Shockley Semiconductors, which first brought silicon transistor technology to California. Photography: Preston Gannaway

Into the Valley

Why can’t Silicon Valley build itself a single decent monument?

This article is part of Into the Valley, a feature series from OneZero about Silicon Valley, the people who live there, and the technology they create.

With its basketball and tennis courts, children’s playground, baseball diamond, and soccer field, south San Jose’s RAMAC Park is indistinguishable from any other suburban recreational facility. But there’s something that sets it apart: RAMAC Park is probably the only park in the United States named after a 70-year-old piece of computer technology — the world’s first hard disk drive. You wouldn’t know that from visiting. There’s no informational sign in sight.

The only clue…


‘Overwatch’ players have repurposed a Chinese character into a symbol of the protests, as the debate over the city spreads to the video game world

Credit: Blizzard

If we needed any more proof that the intersection of meme culture, gaming, capitalism, and politics is a defining element of contemporary global reality, now we have this: A first-person shooter gaming character has joined the fight between Hong Kong protesters and the Chinese government’s authoritarianism.

In the Blizzard game Overwatch, the character Dr. Mei-Ling Zhou is a climate scientist who freezes herself in an Antarctic cryo chamber during a catastrophic storm. She awakens nine years later in a world gone deeply awry, and must employ her special cold-weather-related powers (like her frost-jet-spouting Endothermic Blaster) against a variety of enemies.


The e-commerce giant moves on global warming, but its business model is hard to square with the climate crisis.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the co-founding of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on September 19, 2019.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the co-founding of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on September 19, 2019.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the co-founding of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on Sept. 19, 2019. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty for Amazon

Jeff Bezos’ recent announcement that Amazon is pledging to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord and achieve annual “net zero” carbon emissions by 2040 looks, on its face, like a victory for climate change activists.

The news broke on the eve of what’s being billed as “the biggest day in climate action history” — a global climate strike that thousands of Amazon employees are participating in. The organizing group coordinating Amazon employee activism, the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) immediately took credit for the company announcement, calling it “a huge win” for Amazon workers.

As veteran climate…


Silicon Valley is increasingly uncomfortable for Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans. That’s a problem for the United States.

Photo Illustration: Tessa Modi, Images: Getty Images

On a Sunday afternoon in July, Spoon, a Korean bistro in a strip mall in Fremont, California, offers a snapshot of Silicon Valley diversity. The restaurant is a jumble of languages, packed to capacity with people of South Asian and East Asian descent digging into bowls of kimchi fried rice and spicy pork belly.

I am here to speak with a young woman who works for a Chinese technology firm with offices in the Valley, about the impact of Trump’s trade war on Chinese American and Chinese immigrant tech workers. Because she’s concerned about protecting her identity, I’ve agreed not…


Illustrations by Jordan Speer

Community leaders say AWS increasingly poses an existential threat

On March 11, a Vice President at Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s cloud computing behemoth, published a blog post announcing the release of its own version of Elasticsearch, a powerful open-source software search engine tool.

Elastic is a public company founded in 2012 that is currently worth over $5 billion; the vast majority of its revenue is generated by selling subscription access to Elastic’s search capabilities via the cloud. It’s based in Amsterdam and employs more than 1,200 people.

In the blog post, Adrian Cockcroft, VP of cloud architecture strategy at Amazon Web Services (AWS), explained that the company felt forced…


A look at the dueling paths of the world’s next great superpower

Credit: Jackal Pan/Getty Images

In the science fiction short story “Folding Beijing,” author Hao Jingfang conjures a future in which China’s capital is a miracle of postmodern origami engineering. The city is its own mighty Transformer robot, endlessly reconfiguring itself in an alternating cycle between the luxury accommodations of the one percent and slums inhabited by the poor, waste-picking masses.

Computer scientist Kaifu Lee cites “Folding Beijing” as an example of how advances in artificial intelligence will almost certainly exacerbate income inequality. In his 2018 book. AI Superpowers, Lee makes a convincing case that China is poised to lead the world in the commercial…


LOVE/HATE

The same utopian promises that bloomed during the Internet’s early days are back. Be afraid.

Credit: Lya_Cattel/E+/Getty

I remember the day I fell in love with the Internet as well as I remember the birth of my children. The summer of 1993; I was a reporter at the alt-weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian and my editor assigned me a story about an anime convention in Oakland, California. I asked the organizer of the conference where I could find some otaku (fanboys) to interview. “They all hang out on the Internet,” he said.

I didn’t have Internet access, but I had a modem and a CompuServe account that I used to exchange emails with my uncle. An hour…

Andrew Leonard

20-year veteran of online journalism. On Twitter @koxinga21. Curious about how Sichuan food explains the world? Check out andrewleonard.substack.com

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