People often think of Silicon Valley technology firms as an industry that popped up independently and wants less regulation, but historian Jeannette Estruth, an assistant professor of history at Bard College wants to remind you that Silicon Valley is in many ways a federal and state project.
“Its roots are totally enmeshed with the government,” she said, in particular to war efforts of the 20th century. She pointed to federal investment in Bay Area universities during and after World War II, and how closely tied their growth was to war. Research and knowledge production from the war made the explosion of growth possible.
“People don’t think about infrastructure,” Estruth said, noting how important the housing boom following the war, and later the expansion of the San Jose airport, were to Silicon Valley’s story.
Now, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing and democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up big tech, Estruth thinks that we might be entering a new era of increased accountability and oversight in Silicon Valley.
Check out the six unexpected moments that Estruth says shaped today’s Silicon Valley: