How Silicon Valley has made life simpler—and more complex

We're awash in digital devices. Bolivia's loaded with lithium, to power those devices. But in all this abundance, there are down sides.

I was an editor at the San Jose Mercury News in 1989 when, at 5:04 p.m. on October 17, tectonic plates shifted under the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California and the ground started rumbling. When the magnitude 6.9 earthquake finally stopped, scores of people had lost their lives; parts of the Bay Area would not fully recover for a decade.

At that same time, other forces were shaking Silicon Valley, though many of us didn’t realize it. The information industry was being radically transformed by technologies coming to life all around us—an upheaval that continues today, with enormous implications.

Technology reporter Michelle Quinn has been there to cover it all, from the early days of the dot-com bubble until now, when digital devices touch every aspect of our existence, for good or ill. Thanks to the technology developed in Silicon Valley, our lives have become exponentially richer and easier. Yet we also are haunted by security breaches, unauthorized uses of personal data, the difficulty in discerning the truth amid the blizzard of information at our fingertips.

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