Charged Bodies

The northern half of California’s Santa Clara Valley, running between San Francisco Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains, is the location of a two-hundred-square-mile area known as Silicon Valley. This “high-tech wonderland” is famous for the invention of a progression of silicon-based, electronic devices, one of which, the microprocessor, has brought the computer into the personal realm. The valley’s race against man’s own ingenuity continues today. This industrial park is built on a lively combination of supposition and contradiction, the ultimate paradox being that such a narrowly focused, inwardly turning community may in time produce artificial “engines” that will force man to rethink the nature of human identity. Artificial intelligence may enhance and extend man and displace biological evolution. Genetic engineering may replace man, bit by bit. Furthermore, otherworld intelligence may re-space man. This book, however, is more than a speculative look into future worlds. It is a journalistic and historical portrait of Silicon Valley, sketched by the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, the engineers, and the interested onlookers who shape the community. It looks at the technocrats that revel in their work, noting money as “only” the way of keeping score, Valley dwellers with tenacious curiosity and engaging enthusiasm. Finally, it looks at the “underbelly” of the “sand kingdom,” where humanity can become cheap, in contention with profit.

This entertaining and readable book asks some intriguing questions: Can a valley that accumulates, processes, stores, and retrieves information designed to accumulate, process, store, and retrieve information remain on the “leading edge"? and where is the leading edge leading us?