Rob Reid: "After On: A Novel of Silicon Valley" | Talks at Google

Rob Reid:

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Hi. My. Name is Chris DiBona I look, after open, source software and a science outreach group, for. The company the. Company being Google for the people watching on YouTube. Rob. I guess. I got to meet Rob. Because. I used to work with his wife some, 17, years ago, and then, I got to meet Rob while he was banging his head, against. The music business with Rhapsody yep, and. And we were doing TV so. Long. Short of it is Rob. Rejected. All this technology business, stuff and decided to become a science fiction author which. Was. Very endearing of course to all of us and so, I don't, want to spend a lot of time on me I want Rob did kick, it off oh I will I will say the, after on it's, not just a book it's. A podcast it is yes same name right, yes the after on podcast, focusing. On you, know the future the, future yeah future. Of, things. So. We. Should, have time for questions, at the very end if. You like and I'm just gonna hand it over to rob and thank you so much for for coming and and, talking, here at Google thank you for having me all, right so just. A, quick intro on what the story is as you guys have all seen in the corner this, is the book although yours will not come with post-it, notes those are for me, it's. Called after odd and it's basically the story of, an, imaginary, startup. Based. Up in San Francisco it, is set in, almost. Present-day San Francisco it's actually set in nine seconds, into the future so whenever you start reading this book it takes place nine seconds hence, so it is incumbent, on the reader to, read very rapidly, lest, it be set in the past and as you can see it's a thick book so that's gonna be a challenge and this. Company it's, called flutter phlu, tter, because we know how to spell. Is. You. Know it kind of embodies everything. That's wrong with social. Media may, be dialed, up by about 20% so, we're in the world of satire but definitely not the world of farce and this, is going to sound like a spoiler, but it really isn't about midway. Through the book flutter. Attains, consciousness. And I say it's not really as boiler because you're going to see that coming almost from the first page and. You. Know being, a social, network it. Doesn't. Turn, into some kind of Terminator, that, wants to kill us all because, it is a social network so it becomes something far. More frightening which, is basically. Excuse. Me I'm coming from getting over cause basically a, hyper, empowered, super, intelligent, fourteen-year-old, mean girl basically and but. Super intelligent, and that's kind of the character, that flutter enters, the world with initially. Now. I'm going to talk about the book in great detail in a moment but first we, give you a quick structure, of. Overview. Of what my remarks are gonna be I'm gonna talk briefly about my own background because, that feeds into this book an enormous, amount, then. I'm gonna talk about how, I dealt, with the science, and the, tech and also some geopolitical issues, that are in the book because. It is basically you, know present-day, and I wanted that stuff to be as accurate as possible and in fact a. Couple of Googlers helped me try. To ground things in the present day then.

I'm Going to talk briefly about how the story, is told, because, it's holding a somewhat unusual way, and I. Think it's it's kind of fun and it's it's it's grounded in the way we consume media today, and. Then. I'm gonna talk maybe a little bit about the, dialogue that I see happening, in society over, the decades, between. Science and science fiction or between technology, and science fiction which, i think is really healthy and maybe a couple of ideas about, how we might be able to step that up and. I will probably read little bits and pieces of the book through here and I say that with some trepidation you, go to like a normal book reading people. Often comment that the worst thing about the reading is the actual reading of the book, I'd, say it's usually the wine if you're at a bookstore because it's usually like a buck a gallon and that's. You know got its own sort of traumas, but I'm gonna weave in a little bit of reading and. Then we'll hope we'll hopefully have time for Q&A, so. First of all a, little bit about my, background as. Chris noted I am, kind. Of from your world, not. A company, of this scale but I was a venture backed entrepreneur. For a period of time I was briefly, a VC, the. Company I started. The Rhapsody music service which, was kind of Spotify, before, it was Spotify we were the first company to get full catalog licenses, from, all the major music labels to distribute music online and, we, did basically. Create. The unlimited. Streaming model that Spotify, and, Apple and and many others have since adopted I. Ended. Up selling that company, and. Became. A tech investor, and I. Think, it's fair to say basically, started meddling. In my wife's career quite a bit she. At the time was hosting a TV show that covered the world of video games and video gaming and we, were living down in Los Angeles this, the city built on storytelling. And I. Had. Always been very very, interested, in writing fiction and at some point I think maybe she got tired of my meddling in her career and she basically commanded. Me to sit down and write my first novel that, was called Year Zero, it's, the tale this was kind of based on my experiences.

At Rhapsody, to a certain degree in, that it's the tale of this vast alien. Civilization. That's, so into American. Pop music that. They accidentally, make the commit commit the biggest copyright, infringement, since. The dawn of time and they're thereby bankrupt, the entire universe and. It's, based on a true story by the way and, so. That was my first novel and I thought it was just it was something I was doing really for myself I thought. It was something so, weird, and so unusual. That, maybe Larry Lessig, and my wife would read it and nobody else but I did end up getting, it I had an agent because I'd written a couple business books before I. Got it in front of the folks at Random House and they, ended up publishing it and it actually very. Briefly, and barely. Sort of like a prairie, dog got. Under the New York Times bestseller list for the shortest period of time which is a week that's, possible, and any was like number 23, out of 25, so it's you know barely, but, that was good enough for Random House to say keep at it and so I started, writing this book it's. Unusual. And in fact I might be the only person who's done it to. Transition. From you, know kind of the venture-backed startup, world to. Writing fiction now lots and lots of entrepreneurs write. Books, write nonfiction I don't, know of anybody else who's made the transition, and to, writing serious fiction although I'm there. There could well be somebody out there and if so I'd love to meet them now these upsides, and downsides to, that I mean the, downside, is it kind of sucks that when you go to one of those meetups for entrepreneurs, who. Have turned into, novelists. You're inevitably the only one there, the. On. The positive, side though, it's, really good for newish. Novelists. And this is only my second book so I consider myself to be newish to, really focus on that which we know and we, are at a time when, I think society, is very very interested, in our world out here which. I tried to depict very vividly and very accurately, in this book the world of entrepreneurs. And investors and, the crazy relationship, certain. Products, might have with the press and beyond, the geniuses, that inhabit, and populate, and work for companies like yours and so forth that's, often depicted, in a way that's. Just very, fanciful. By folks, who've never spent, a day in a tech company, I will, definitely accept, HBO's. TV series though which, often is hysterically. Spot-on but, a great deal of the storytelling, out there really really misses the point and this is at a time when, society I think finds, us very interesting and our significance, to broader society, is is becoming, really significant, I think the better our story is told and the better that it's reflected, out there, you. Know frankly hopefully. The less people will fear us on a certain level or at least the better they'll understand, us in that which we do so, that's that's, something that I think is is kind of cool so, that's one element of my background that's deeply, deeply embedded in. This book and it's the most obvious thing. Excuse. Me now the second, thing is I. Spent. A huge amount of my time of my, early. Adulthood rubbing. Around the Middle East, including. I, went, including. A year as a Fulbright Scholar in Cairo Egypt I, went. All over the place I've, been to Syria been to Lebanon I went to Iraq under Saddam. I've. Jordan. Gaza all, over the place since, I was, living there and I got to the point where I spoke reasonably, good Arabic although it's rested a lot since then since. Coming back I try to get back to the region at least once a year and. As. Worked an elections observer I work, as a pro bono advisor to a lot of startups out there I work with a not-for-profit out, there and a. Certain, element, of my background in, the Middle East, comes. Into the book as well because issues, of nihilistic. Terrorism, and what causes it and what could prevent it and lone-wolf terrorism, in particular, are prominent. In the book it was something that impacted, me. Kind. Of tangentially. Somebody that I used to spend a lot of time with in Cairo, was, actually assassinated. Shortly after I left and it, Kyra had been a very very peaceful place until, the early 90s, and it was really when, this, this. Associate. Of mine for raagh photo. Was assassinated. That kind of touched off a fairly. Violent period, in Egypt's history so that's something that I've.

Thought, About quite a bit over the decades frankly, and the third thing is I'm, actually a proud alum of the, New York City foster, care system, and issues. Of parental ties and, familial. Belonging, are quite big in. The book so those three, themes, are the sinews that come together in this book and again, as a newish writer one does write what one knows and I think that's an exotic enough, mix. That. It leads to a fairly unusual, story. Now, as I mentioned, I did a ton of digging. Into the science and technology that, imbues. This book because writing something that's present, tense it's. Easy it's, there's, quite a temptation, I think writers a speculative, fiction have, to. Create things that are just flat-out. Magical. From the standpoint of present-day technology, inject. Them into the storyline, it can make your story a much easier thing to tell but, I kind of think that's irresponsible, storytelling. And it's it's particularly, irresponsible. In the realm of speculative fiction because I think there's a presumption, on the part of at least some of our readers but, they're learning stuff about how the world really works and how technology really, works particularly. If a book is set in the present day or at least that's how I approach things and so, the first thing that I did is I started writing, this thing is, I conducted actually hundreds of hours of interviews with. Lots, of folks who were deep in the various realms I wanted to cover it had this. Is one of the coolest things about being a science fiction writer I. Mean if you call up a relatively, prominent scientist, or, technologist. And say hey I'm a journalist, and I'm writing a story you. Might get a call back if you say hey I'm a podcaster. And I really want to interview you I've been doing a bit of that myself lately you, might get a call back man if you call up and say I'm a science, fiction writer and I want to get your input on a new novel it's, about 90% so, you get really good access to people because I think a lot of folks grew up on science fiction there's, something kind of fun about being involved in the creation of that so.

The Areas that I dived of, into particularly, that hadn't, known much about. Getting. Into this one was how. Might a super AI actually arise, I didn't know a whole lot about neuroscience, or, consciousness. Theory, at the time spent, a lot of time with, the diversity of neuroscientists, none. More than a guy at UCSF. Named Adam ghazali who's. Doing fascinating. Work and if you're interested, in sort, of the cutting edge of neuroscience, particularly. As it, associates, to videogames and how it might impact neuroplasticity. And help us fight Horrors like Alzheimer's, disease. And autism, and ADHD there's. Lots and lots of talks on the net by. Adam and he became a great mentor, and informant. To me as I was writing this and in fact his, work has been on the cover of nature which I'm sure has a lot of you guys know is a really, really big deal, when, I was researching quantum, computing, another major topic, in this, book I spent a lot of time with the Google zone hartmut neven and. He corrected. A lot of kind. Of laughable misperceptions. I had about quantum computing which was a really, cool education, and I remained very grateful to him synthetic. Biology, is a major theme here I'm, sure many, of you either know or at least know of Jeff Huber who. I've known for decades at. The time he was running life sciences I believe I might get the title a little bit off at, Google X he. Was a great source for me so what, was cool, about this is I got all of, this learning, as a result. Of writing this book which is the joy for me of writing any book and I've written nonfiction, as well and obviously. You learn a lot from writing, fiction, and then, I start writing this thing as you guys can see excuse. Me it is not short you should have seen the first draft the first draft is about 800. Pages long and you. Know I go I hit it into Random House they're like we're gonna have to chop down a forest, for this thing so it was clear that I needed to rein it in and the thing that I was most guilty of is when, I learned about a domain, of science or tech or, geopolitics. Because I learned I learned a lot more about certain, domains in geopolitics. When. I when I when I got deep into something I was all too likely to just like in the middle of the story and the car is about to go off the cliff and let me tell you about how cool synthetic, biology, is for 20 pages you.

End Up hijacking, your story and the more you know about something as a novelist, the more inclined you are to do that so I kind of had this problem, because, I really, wanted, to infuse, all this stuff in the book, but. You know I was hijacking, my story so what I ended up doing and, I think, this is I don't know if any other fiction. Writer has done this and again there probably are some out there and hopefully I find others, because again the meetups are just me but what. I decided to do is to create a podcast series. To, accompany the book in which, I could do really really, deep interviews, with domain experts, in seven, or eight areas that, are most remained of the book so I could go into the and in many cases not all but, in many cases I was interviewing the person who had been such, a great sort, of mentor, and informant, to me as I was doing my research so, I started putting these podcasts out, when, the book came out the book came out last month and the, eighth one went up actually, I guess last night or the night before and, it's about Fermi's, paradox which, is this really cool thing in, astronomy which is like where are all the aliens, it's actually, a very, scientifically. Significant. Question why, can we not see signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. So, you're into that I've got like a 2-hour conversation with. A British astronomer, on the web now it, might be the longest conversation about. Fermi's paradox ever, recorded, if it's not I'm sure it's the longest one ever podcast, but, anyway so I'm able to get really really deep with these podcasts and, I did want an augmented, reality I, did one on quantum computing, I, certainly, did one on super, AI risk, it's, etc so that's that's, kind of how I dealt with the science and technology. Now, the last thing or, the second last thing told you I talked about and this is where I'll start sprinkling, in some readings how. The story's told so. It's. Great that you guys have the physical book because you can flip through it and see. That there is there, are a lot, of very different sort of type settings, going on in here and the, reason is about. 75%. Of the book is told. In the form of like a traditional. Narrative. It's. There's some flashbacks it's, primarily. Set in the present day there's, a chunk of stuff that happens right. After the bubble bursts the internet bubble around 2002. Where, half of the characters. Are still in high school and, the other half, are kind, of like young. Entrepreneurs. That are freaking, out and saying what just happened. So. There's a little bit of flash bite it's mainly traditional, narrative but, the rest of the book is told through all these different media, types there, are 18, Amazon. Reviews, and the this book yes really and the, story is genuinely, told partly through them there's lots of tweets there's sms's. There's, five or six very, very voic-- bloggers, some of them very angry about certain things that are blogging in there there are excerpts, from a second, novel which, are a little bit mysterious when, they first start showing, up i.

Put. Probably a, dozen or maybe a little bit fewer excerpts, in the book I'm quite convinced, if I finished, writing this second novel it, would be literally, the single, worst science fiction novel ever written. But. They're in there for kind of storytelling, reasons, and also for playful, reasons and so, that. Was kind of a cool thing to weave all this stuff together now I'll tell you guys I'm. Gonna read one of my Amazon, reviews because I think the Amazon reviews are kind of fun and. They actually have an interesting, backstory so. When, I was running. Rhapsody. Or the company that built Rhapsody I should say. It. Was really stressful I actually didn't, think I was a particularly, good manager, I kept that a really, good secret for a while but eventually it started getting out and I. Was, you know every night like after I was done with all my email, all my managerial, responsibilities. I kind. Of sit there and do the self-indulgent. Thing and it. Was actually, writing these insane, Amazon, reviews this back in 2002. And I, took on the persona of, this sort of insane, Bostonian. Charles-henri higginsworth, the third of Boston Massachusetts. Who would start writing these these Amazon, reviews you get about a third of the way in there and he'd do this 180, and start just bitching, about his life and you. Know he was from this formerly. Wealthy, family, that had blown all its money and they were living, in this crumbling, mansion, on Beacon Hill and they didn't even have money for heating, oil because, you know some great aunt had spent the last of the money or something like that and, he had this really, sort, of pompous. Voice. That. I just had fun writing and so, I started writing all these Amazon, reviews, I almost became a top thousand, reviewer how cool would that have been answer. Very. I didn't, though and. So, when, I started creating this book all these years later I. Realized, I wanted a certain characters, minor character, but a significant, character that, had a certain set of traits I'm like oh my god I want mr. higginsworth, and, by the way yes please use mr. when you refer to him he prefers it that way and so, I started, weaving in, his, Amazon, reviews all of which are still up on Amazon dated, 2002. So I think some people think this is like boyhood oh my god he's been working on this for 15 years not true but, I did repurpose. My Amazon reviews so this is one of them this. Is a review about and, it does relate I swear it to the plot of the book. This, is mr. Charles Henry Higgins birth the third in Boston Massachusetts for hewing a book called time, to make the doughnuts the founder of Dunkin Donuts shares an American Journey so. Here it is his title of his review from, the kitchens, of Boston, to your left ventricle is, the, title review five. Stars, by, Charles Henry Higgins worth a third I kind, of felt morally obliged to rate everything five stars because in most cases back, then I hadn't actually read these books so you know. So. He says like, a charmed wind hurling, vital provisions on a castaways, Beach faint, landed a copy of the in our conference room, in which I served a recent sentence to traffic school as reading, was a scorned, pastime, amongst my fellow inmates, I laid easy claim to the volume a mental sob for a mind numbed by the day's prattle. I was, soon swept up by this tale of an intrepid entrepreneurs, rise to the heights of the glamorous but cutthroat, world of donut retail, I meanwhile, enjoyed no small surge of civic pride Dunkin, Donuts having sprung from the loins of my, own native, Boston, the, narrative is sprinkled with little-known truths about this breakfast staple for, instance did you know that the modern word doughnut descends. From dough, nut, which, itself traces, lineage to the archaic dough, not, nor. Did i sir nor. Did i shorten. Complex formula, in your lengthier words this is ideal reading at events at which attention, must be feigned, but, be advised this could impair, the absorption of important, and lessons from without I myself, learned this the hard way when I caused a minor accident upon. Leaving the school's traffic, this traffic school's driveway, by failing to signal neglecting. A major light motif from the day's curriculum, my, instructor, who had resented my divided, attention throughout the day savored. The irony, like, what a pompous jerk right, so. Anyway, that ended up getting stitched into the book and now one of the cool things about having. Okay so the reason that I brought all these different media elements, and just to back up is. I feel that this is the way we. Engage in stories, today it's the way we engage in news stories as they unfold in some, ways it's even the way that we engage in narrative stories, because you know we might be watching snippets. Of something but we're watching it on demand so we watched three minutes here in four minutes there and then we might end up reading a summary of that episode somewhere, online and then kind of go back to it I feel like this barrage, of, snippets of media.

Of Texts, of blogs of. Amazon. Reviews and the rest is kind of the way that we and we inhale, the, world today and the novel itself you, know really is primarily, the earliest, ones go back to the 17th, and 18th century, but it's really a 19th, century invention, for. The most part that's when it really came into its own and the, attention, spans that we had and the, way that we engaged, in relationship, and careers and everything, else was so much more linear and start. To finish and so, much more focused, that. I thought it would be kind of fun to inject, some of these elements into, sort, of this ancient mode, of storytelling. Now another, dimension. Of it which is kind of neat is when, you have all these different storytelling. Elements, when you do an audiobook you, can recruit all kinds, of very distinct, in different voices to that audiobook so these Amazon, reviews. That. Are of which they're about a dozen and a half and I cannot do justice to the reading compared. To the actual reader all read by guy named John Hodgman. Who is a brilliant, comedian he, was very frequently, on The Daily Show he's, been in lots of TV series and movies he, is perhaps best, known for those famous commercials. I'm a Mac, I'm a PC, if you remember those from some years back he, was the PC. He is Bostonian. And he just reads, these reviews, and this really. Wonderful. Kind, of centaurian. Pompous, voice I just did my best but not as good as him Felicia, Day is, beloved, by lots of geeks for having created the guild that wonderful, web series and done, a lot of other things she was frequently in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Slayer. These days she's in Mystery Science Theater 3000. She. Was one of the voice of one of my bloggers, if. Anybody listens to this week in tech Leo Laporte is the voice of the San Francisco Chronicle Tom, Merritt, is the voice of the New York Times. Patrick. Rothfuss, who rates amazing. Fantasy, novels including. The name of the wind just read, it - trust me on that one it's, also got this great, big. Kind. Of he can do these rants these playful rants, so this over-the-top, manner, so he read that crazy, awful, science fiction novel that's excerpted, in here and so you can have a lot of fun with audio and an audio books are just two really are really coming in their own as a medium right now it's. Audio, books are growing it's something like three, like, probably ten times the speed of publishing. Itself, I was, told my last novel was about four and a half years ago when. This came out the folks at Random House audio told, me they're. Actually, their business is up by over 300% four, and a half years which is more like tech rates of growth which, is a whole another interesting, topic. So. That is the way the story is told now, I'm, also going to do the other thing that I do that's a little bit unusual and, I'll do a slightly longer, reading right now and it will piss you off or it should it's intended to. There's. This weird narrator, that. Appears, at the very very beginning of the book and then. Kind, of stands, back a bit and. Kind, of comes in periodically. To just sort of jab, you and say don't, forget about me I'm still here, so it is a book with a narrator, but it's a very very soft touch narrator, and again that's it's. Not unique but it's something that's a little bit unusual, that. I do for reasons that kind of become evident I'd say not, until the very very end of the book so don't peek the, narrator is actually not revealed until the last two or three pages. But, I'm gonna read the, opening page, and a half or so which. Is when this narrative, voice, may. Be a little long yeah about a page and a half is most present that I'm going to say a couple things about it so this. Is how the book starts starting from the first word, some. People think all great books should start with a dare and.

Those Folks can't be big readers because, really when was the last time you read a book that began with a dare well. This one does and. That's not some ham-fisted gambit. To position, it as great, because. We just established that only half literate, conflate, opening, dares with greatness so. It's truly just a simple dare and. It's this I dare. You to finish the fucker and, let's, be real you probably won't it's 547. Pages printed after all which, is to say any number of locations sections. Or lip nodes in your e-reader and it's, obnoxious length, is nothing compared to the disquieting, truths it reveals, about a popular, social slash, messaging. Slash, hookup platform, that humanity, already spends 11.2, percent of, its, online time engaged with about. Who really built all that and why about. Who's listening, and what they're recording, and here's. The part that may smart a bit how, terribly, uninteresting, they almost certainly find you there's. Also some truly scary, stuff you just don't need to know about the, February, bombing in San Francisco, about, how it actually saved, lives lots, of them and quite possibly your own. And about how moronically, close we came to a nuclear war with China on, a recent winter's day, spoiler. Alert not, my, fault you. Don't have to know any of this and ignoring, the hidden ugliness we can't do much about makes life easier so if you tend to avoid facts like the age of the kid who stitched your favorite blazer just outside of Panem pen or how athletic li a certain ex once cheated on you or how painful, and scary the last few days of most human lives are then for God's sake, put the book down. Then. Do yourself a big favor and, catch a movie a numbered. Sequel say, starring, cartoon Men invented, to distract tots during the Roosevelt era you'll, find that plenty challenging, and much more fun it'll. Also be over sooner leaving, you free for more numbered sequels or maybe some of the Lite sci-fi, written for the bright teens and dim grown-ups we euphemistically, call young, adults. Are. You still there if. So I'm sorry if that sounded a bit mean but we're better off with whoever just stomped off those, people offend easily, and are always whining about how they feel unsafe or, under cherished, if their every clumsy, kick catch and volley isn't, commemorated, with trophies I can't.

Stand Those people I bet you can't stand them either so getting rid of them was worth feigning, contempt, for some of my own favorite things, two. Of the best movies ever in, my view are, Iron Man 1 & 2 also I read Y a stuff constantly I bet, you didn't know that now. That it's just us I applaud you for at least attempting, to see this thing through even. You probably won't get there there's, 547. Pages again but, if you do I can make you three promises, one. I will never talk down to you yes. Certain facts herein are hard to confront and accept certain, others are plenty hard to understand. But. I think you're man enough woman, enough or young, adult enough to handle it all so, no, sugarcoating and no dumbing down -. I'll never, lie to you everything. That follows however, fantastical. And hard to believe is entirely true and precisely. Depicts, the underpinnings, of the world you, inhabit and. Finally. At the very very end of all this you will find a glittering, prize, books. That in with glittering prizes, are even rarer than those let's start with dares so lucky you, the please no. Pixies, with. That I'm almost done with you and that may be welcome news my tone can grate a bit I know it's. Probably just a phase I'm going through but. I'll give you your space now that said, I will check in every so often sometimes. When you least expect it as the Hitmen say and. Of course I'll be back at the end with that glittering, prize of yours and you'd, thought I'd already forgotten, but. For now let's begin our story with some quick opening, praise for the women and men of Silicon Valley yes. Yes I know but those fuckers gave us farmville, it's. True and everyone's, awfully sorry about that but, at its best the valley remains an inspiring, land almost bewitching, ly so I mean, where else can a handful of misfits, meet up in a garage share. Mad bolts, of inspiration. That mainline, Red Bulls sleep under desks, coat on bleeding fingers until they hack together an agenda setting product, that will rock the world and, then, register their millionth user in just weeks their, 10 millionth in mere months and forge, friendships and, talents that will last a lifetime, all while, getting vastly, shamelessly, pornographically. Rich the. Answer of course is Austin, Seattle Beijing London Oslo Bangalore, Seoul my Robi Dubai Buenos, Aires and quite, possibly Perth, Australia, among. Countless other places but. This sort of thing happens on a grander scale in Silicon Valley than anywhere else and the, cliche is dead accurate we're, designing the future here, we, also designed the present, and you're much better off for that snort. At this if you must but, do you really want to go back to 6 broadcast, channels, CB, radios typewriters, dominoes and checkers rotary, phones and thermostats, that don't even speak a single word of English, didn't. Think so so. Yes Silicon Valley did give us farmville, but across the decades its countless startups, have also rebuilt, our world's foundations, some, relentlessly, advanced the microprocessor, enabling. The digital, wonders of our era others, home DNA sequencing, which cracked the human genome and will one day help to cure cancer still. Others pioneered, wireless, technologies, that are finally patching together the world's poorest sectors into, a global, superplex of information, literally. Thousands, of Silicon Valley startups, in these and countless fields, have advanced, humanity and palpable ways and no matter how you cut, it however. Imaginatively. Generatively. Generously, even schizophrenic. Lee you look at things gift, ich li was, never ever one of them nope not even close. So, then we talked about gift Ashley now every, time I read these pages I want. To strangle my, narrator. Because. I find the tone, so. Spectacularly. Obnoxious. Which is good because I work very, very hard on that and like. I said and, it's like the narrator promised, the narrator said I know my tone congreso great, a bit I'll get out of your way the narrator does that but like I said comes, back from time to time to poke you and I'd, like to say more about the narrator but give certain things, away. So. I gonna, close just, with a quick note on the.

Dialogue, That I think we've had as a society, and as a as, a world, of creators on my side and as a world of creators. Of tech and. Science, on on your side and formerly kind of my side between. Science, and science fiction and technology, and science fiction just a show of hands how many folks, before. You, decided, to enter at some point early in your life much earlier in your life before you decided to enter Tech we're, in some way inspired. By science fiction and maybe a tribute your your presence, now here at Google to, some, inspiration, from science fiction when you were young. Yeah. Yeah so it's about half and that's generally what I find I mean it is something that I think can. Be very very powerful and, I feel you, know the science fiction that personally. Intrigued me the most when. I was a kid I. Loved, super, deep future stuff things that pointed to things that were, improbable, ever, and certainly not going to happen in my lifetime but, the things that got me most excited and, then pointed, me although I studied. Arabic in Middle Eastern history in college I wasn't, an engineer but drew, meeting industry, were, those stories that were told kind of in the intermediate, future that, really, really excited, me about what might happen and, so. I've. Been talking to a couple people including this gentleman out of gazali who I mentioned to you about, maybe, trying to create sort of like a semi-formal. Council. Like thing between creators, of science fiction and creators of science and technology where. Maybe we could like you, know pair. Up in some way and and and maybe get groups. Of people to create short stories, that maybe we release on an annual basis, where there's a scientist, or technologist, teamed up with a science fiction writer we, set things in sort of like that 10 to 25, year time frame which can be so inspiring, so I think there's really two things that. People who write about the future can do one, and we've been doing less and less of this recently, we.

Can Depict the future that we want to inhabit, and science, fiction used to do a lot more of that science fiction used to be much more optimistic. Than I'd say it is now dystopian, ism is just, pervaded. The field really, in the last 25, years but. That optimistic, message, is. Very important, but so is the dystopian, one because, I think works a speculative fiction also depict, the world so we absolutely do, not want to inhabit under any circumstances. And I, would say there was a lot of magnificent, storytelling. During the Cold War that, did a lot to freak out hundreds, of millions or billions of people at how bad a nuclear, war could actually be, things set in the near future then and I think that helped, us avoid, that fate at least until now and, I'd also give George Orwell an enormous amount of credit we don't really think of 1984. Today, as being a work of science-fiction but, it was he wrote it in 1948. And things like telescreens, and so forth we're way beyond the technology of the day and you, could be forgiven as a smart, person in, 1948. Looking, at the world and thinking, that a completely, totalitarian. Future was all but inevitable because, on the left you'd had Stalin, and the horrors, that he perpetrated, on the right, you had Hitler and the horrors that he perpetrated. Clearly. A totalitarian. Regime was going to take over China at that point, and it looked like we were heading for that and I think that. 1984. Freaked. Out again, hundreds, of millions of people that how bad, this future really could be when combined, with technology that, was then right on the horizon you, know video conferencing, and video dissemination. So. I think he helped us not inhabit, that future and I, think that's an important, mission for science. And and and and technology, based storytelling, and the more that that can be done in sort, of a partnership between the writers and the people who create the future who genuinely create the future sharing us, the. Bad so, those. Are my quick words on, this, crazy book I'm, open to any questions. And. Yeah, fire. Away I just. Started watching the Vietnam. Series, that Ken Burns is doing magnificent. Right started, last night amazing episode 1 and I'm thinking wow there's gonna be 14, hours of this yeah so your book contains all these, tools. And. Exchanges. In context, that we now enjoy that, are seconds, long yeah, and maybe minutes. Rarely. Hours yeah it's. Kind of interesting you know just, what are you thinking about like, why did what, is it they can. Burn says you know gee I'm gonna make this thing 20, hours long and people will love it well. You know hey, Ken, this, is 22, hours long, no. One in it it's assembler it's a similar mindset, that I think that anybody who creates a very very long form, Entertainment. We're, really, battling, horrific. Headwinds, and so I think it could speak very very directly, to that I mean the audio book of this is 22 hours long it's, 547. Pages, 191, thousand words according to my word processor in a you, know in an era that lionized, is the 140. Character, tweet and, I. Mean I think that if you are dedicated, to, this level of depth you're. You. Better not be in it for the money now. I think Ken Burns has done very very well over the years by telling you know historical, stories brilliantly. Well but. I think, a you better not be in it for the money and you better have an extraordinary, commitment, to this very very long form that you're engaging in and I think secondly, it's. Really incumbent upon you, to use. The medium, to. Convey. A message that, simply, can't be conveyed, in other ways and I. Think that you know again to go 19th. Century of in the 1950s, or 60s, you, know there, was probably more call, for, a novel, that, kind of really, just sort of maybe, conveyed, the type of experience, that you could get from watching playful, TV or something like that in an, era now where people have so many claims on their intelligent there's so many going, on their time and intelligence. And there's so many brilliant, ways to spend, that time I mean TV has never, been better say film has been better but TV has never, been better, you, really, if you're gonna make a statement that's 20 hours long.

You, Better make a statement that simply, couldn't be conveyed in another manner and I there was a, Sam. Harris has a very, interesting and at times controversial, podcast, I, actually, interviewed him from my own podcast, for we had a two-hour interview a couple episodes ago, he. Had Ken Burns on I think his last episode, of the one before so it's a one interview that I've heard he interviewed, him at great length and I. Think that Ken Burns based on the interview that I heard. Felt. That he had a story whose sweep and scope simply. Could not be told in less, than 20 hours and, therefore. It was something that merited. This, this, very, big footprint, very rarely deployed, tool that he had and I. Think that there is absolutely. Call for the novel and the 20 hour documentary, in. This day and age and you know there. Is a very interesting, phenomenon, we, now have 13, hour movies, for, all intents and purposes the really wonderful premium cable entertainment. The great serialized, things that are going up on Netflix and Amazon and, now Hulu, and and I know you guys are doing some buying they, really are 13 hour movies and Eve you look at something like Breaking, Bad. That's. Something, that the distribution, and economic, infrastructure, that we live in today enables. And it turns out people have attention, for 13 hour movies so I think that the very, long and very I think there's there's room for all attention, spans, I love. Listening to sprawling, audiobooks, I, love, an audiobook that is the clocks in at 2030. Hours. Because, you, know I can sometimes I listen on to X speed as. A New Yorker I do a huge amount of walking and subway. And, I've got a little dog and boy, New, York's the land of a thousand walks for her and being. Able to you, know to really, steep. In something that long it's also interesting there's some very very long podcasts, out there you. Know Sam Harris and Tim Ferriss I cite, them because they rhyme but. They're also both very popular. Tend, to have these like one to three hour conversations. They're very very popular podcast. I think I think our attention, span is pretty. Robust and it really has got to be targeting. That, thing, to the right amount and I love the fact that the hundred and forty character, snippet, has, is vibrant, and is, connected, to by billions, that had no way to get into the world until, ten years ago and, it turns out we actually have a lot to say at, that short timeframe and I'm glad that the world's media infrastructure, can accommodate, that too.

Thank. You all for coming. You.

2017-12-02 02:12

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I'm pleased to hear that Reid has written another book. I absolutely loved 'Year Zero' and remember recommending it to anyone who would listen all those years ago when I was still an undergrad, 5 years ago! Also, was the audience commanded not to laugh before this began because he offered numerous bits of funny material and I didn't hear any laughter. 'Year Zero' was very funny and immensely thoughtful. I cannot recommend this book enough. The story is heavily informed by pop culture so I would recommend going back to 2012 and reading it because the material will resonate more.

Thank you so much for "Talks at Google". I make sure to view at least one talk at google once a week.

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