tv Media Technology 20th Century Politics CSPAN August 22, 2019 10:13am-11:48am EDT
on cspan2. >> sunday night on q and a, theoretical physicist, mich michio kaku, talks about destiny beyond earth, achieving digital immortality. >> digital immortality takes everything known about you on the internet, your digital footprint, your credit card records, what movies you see, what wines you like to buy, what countries you visit. your videos, pictures, audiotapes, creates a profile that's digitized that will last forever. so when you go to the library of the future, you will not take out a book about winston churchill, you'll talk to winston churchill. >> sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on cspan's q and a. next on american history tv, historians discuss effect of media and technology on 20th century politics.
topics includes the government's impact on silicon valley, artificial intelligence and cable television. this talk part of a two day purdue university conference called remaking american political history. it is an hour and a half. >> so good morning. welcome to the media technology and state panel. this is part of a larger two day session called remaking american political history. we are all talking about history and how it will be taught, talked about, consumed over the years. this conference is sponsored by department of history at purdue university, organized by one of our panelists, katie brownell, and by nicki hemmer. we are thankful to all of them to get into this, discuss how history will be taught in the future. i am connie doebele.
managing director for cspan clip and engagement, a fairly new entity in the brian lamb school of communication at purdue. our goal is to help professors from across the country use the cspan archives which is over 250,000 hours of american political history in their classrooms and in their research. we do other things, that's what we're concentrating on at this conference. i tweet at cj doebele, and center tweets at center for cspan. we hope you'll follow us on that. we'd be interested in following you as we reach out to specifically history professors across the country who are interested in using the cspan archives in their classrooms and in their research. here's what we're going to do today. we have three excellent panelists who all have different areas of interest under this topic. they're going to speak for five to seven minutes, then we're going to open it up, take a lot
of q and a. we're going to start with margaret o'mara. now, i hate to read introductions. there's her introduction. you can read it. i don't need to read it for you. i need to do what i was trained to do, which is in the brian lamb school of questioning ask you the questions that aren't on there. so margaret, where did you grow up? >> i grew up in little rock, arkansas, connie. >> how did you make the move from little rock, arkansas to where did you go to school? >> northwestern university. >> to northwestern. >> yes. >> how did you do that? >> i wanted to go to a big city. i wanted to be somewhere other than the south. and i got in. >> how did you choose history? >> you know, one of the reasons i chose history is my high school was little rock central high school, and i was in my senior year was the 30th anniversary of fall of 1987, 30th anniversary of the crisis
at central high, and little rock nine returned. and it was a real -- time i was in high school was the time we were all being made very aware of that history, where at least certainly within walls of the high school were reckoning with that history. by that point it had become a socioeconomically diverse high school, and really, understanding my own personal connection to someplace that had played a significant role in the civil rights story is one of the reasons i did this. >> last bio question. what professor or what teacher no matter whether it was grade school, high school, or university level, made the most difference in your career path? >> my graduate adviser, michael cats, michael b cats, university of pennsylvania. >> so because we are
cspan archives, all three have been on cspan. here is margaret o'mara talking a bit about the vietnam war and protests. this is part of a program that cspan history does called lectures in history where they go across the country and look for professors teaching certain historical issues in classrooms and bring cameras into the classrooms and get a class. >> 1960s is a time, yes, when the modern left, liberal left, comes together, and you have strong leftist movements, both within and outside formal politics, a push towards more leftist solutions. but it is also the moment when the modern right is coming together because there are also young people on college campuses, young people in high schools, young people just post
collegiate who have very different ideas about what america is and what it should be. >> margaret has a book called the code of silicon valley and remaking of america. seems crazy that's history now, but it is for some of us. i turn it to you. >> all right. thank you so much, connie. thank you, katie, for organizing this. meredith, great to be on this panel with all of you and to be speaking with people in the room and people watching this on cspan. i was set to writing my most recent book "the code." approached it when i started five years ago thinking about it as a political history of silicon valley. and it morphed into something broader, but the political sign was there. the course of writing evolution of the high technology, computer and hardware industries in
california and west coast, but more broadly from the 1940s to present, when you get to the last 25 years, it becomes a story about media. so i am intensely interested in as scholars say putting the state back into the story of silicon valley, a place that has for quite awhile has been a tech no libertarian paradise in which politics and government was something to be avoided, that when government got involved, they messed things up, and funnily enough, politicians of both parties held up as a beautiful example of american free enterprise and entrepreneurialism in action. but there's actually a very critical government story, political story that runs throughout. there also is a media story, information dissemination story. i think going to something we see that's manifesting now, you have of course very large
technology companies, like alphabet and google and facebook that are media platforms through much so much information flows, yet they're companies that do not think of themselves as media companies, not only sort of a verb, say they're not in the business of media as if they were newspapers, but also their self conception truly is one of being against traditional media, being something that media is like government something to be an old style institution. when we look at this historically, we not only see how the culture of silicon valley in particular business culture that was based on growing fast at all costs, elbowing competitors out of the way, bringing products to market quickly, so the growth mindset of silicon valley is something
that is animating how these very large companies are working today, and also why it is challenging to change the business model to something that isn't about creating ever more powerful algorithms that can scrape information. also, a community that grew that i referred to in my book as a gallon app goes, a distinctive ecosystem that grew up in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, connected to centers of finance and government on the east coast, notably through flow of money through the industrial complex, why silicon valley came to be, itself. but it was isolated enough geographically and in terms of people paying attention. if you read a story in "the washington post" or "the new york times" that referred to silicon valley anytime before 1980, first of all the term comes up rarely. when it does, it is in silicon
valley. and there were -- even when you had national news coverage and news magazines like fortune, profiling entrepreneurs in silicon valley, it is as if this was a strange, beautiful far away species, a very different type. if we look back to the way in which entrepreneurs like steve jobs, bill gates were presented to the world when they first came to prominence, their companies first came to prominence, this was as shaggy haired iconic -- very different and disruption from the larger narrative of american capitalism. one thing we discover looking back that there is a distinctive business culture that grows in the technology industry, a technology industry that's come in modern age to have an immense influence on politics and government and on media. it is very distinctive, yet it
is deeply connected to old economy institutions, whether they be national government or state government or local governments, old money. where did money for the technology revolution come from, where were funds that flowed into the initial venture funds that started these iconic entrepreneurial companies and semiconductors and personal computing and on and on. it was the rockefellers, whitneys, where the money was. wall street, wall street banks. most establishment of establishment is underneath. and these companies, even ones like apple, for example, which presented itself in the beginning, a counter cultural dream of a company, place that thinks different. why did apple break apart from the pack of other personal computer makers in the late '70s? they had a beautiful product. and they also had a single ar,
two steves, steve wozniak who designed a beautiful, powerful elegant mother board inside the computer, but steve jobs who could tell a good story and understood how to present this device to the world. they also had management expertise coming from other companies that were much more traditional, well established, that kind of took two guys in a garage, turned it into a real operation. you see this again and again and again. so recognizing, a, that this whole ecosystem has a history, that it is single lar and distinctive, a product of the last 75 years of political history and social history is critical to understanding and grappling with the i am men's tee of the influence today. >> meredith broussard is the next speaker.
meredith is from new york university and she has a book called artificial unintelligence. how computers misunderstand the world. and i'm going to put up your biography but ask you questions like where did you grow up. >> i grew up in a small quaker town outside philadelphia. >> how did you make it from philadelphia to nyu? >> well, i was at penn before this, at temple before this -- sorry? >> microphone. >> before i was at nyu, i was professor at temple and professor at the university of pennsylvania, and i study data journalism. i practice data journalism. it is a practice of finding stories, numbers, and using numbers to tell stories. and new york is really the epicenter now of people who are working on data journalism and people that are working on major
issues around ethics in technology. especially ethics in artificial intelligence which is my other specialty. >> so what teacher moved your life? >> one of the stories i tell in the book is about when i was in high school. i was in an engineering program for kids. >> all right. go ahead. >> do we need to start over? >> absolutely not. i will ask you what teacher changed your life. >> one of the really important educational experiences i had in learning to use technology happened when i was in high school. i was in an engineering program for kids. we would get -- take them once a month to the rca plant in this
small town where i grew up. it was rumored they were building nuclear weapons there, but actually what i did was i went on this little bus to this engineering program and they gave us spare computer parts and said here, build a computer. so i actually built my own first computer. and it was great. and so i learned from that that i had the power to create technology. also that there are a lot of wasted spare parts laying around at tech companies that seemed like useful information. and i learned about power. i learned that i had the power to build things. i learned that as margaret said, there's a lot of economic power behind building technology. so that was important knowledge
that took me into becoming a data journalist. >> looking for you in cspan archives, found you at the yelp headquarters in washington, d.c., didn't know they had one, much less in washington, d.c. >> technology will not save us from every social problem, so let's take homelessness, for example. the fix for homelessness is not making an app to connect people with services better. the fix for homelessness is giving people homes. so we need to think about pushing back against tech no chauvinism, using the right tool for the task. sometimes that tool is a computer, and sometimes it's not. >> meredith broussard. thank you. >> so i want to talk a little bit today about understanding artificial intelligence. so my book "artificial unintelligence" is about the
inner workings and outer limits of technology. i started writing it because i was having a really hard time with people understanding what the heck i was doing in my work. so i build artificial intelligence systems for investigative reporting. i would say this, people would say you mean it is like a robot reporter? and i would say no. and they would say so it is like a machine that spits out story ideas? and i would say no. so i realize that if i wanted anybody to understand what the heck i was talking about, what i was working on, there needed to be more basic understanding of artificial intelligence in the world. so i started researching the book. and i realize that we don't often get good definitions of ai. we talk about ai a lot, but
there's kind of a fog that desends when we try to talk precisely about it, there's a lot of confusion. often when you have a conversation between two people about ai, one person is actually talking about the hollywood stuff with the killer robots, and, you know, a computer that's going to take over the world, and the other person is talking about computational statistics. all right. so it is really important if we're going to have policy discussions about artificial intelligence and role of technology and society that we're all talking about exactly the same thing. so one of the things that i do in the book is i give a concise definition of artificial intelligence and i show readers exactly what it looks like when somebody does ai, specifically i look at machine learning which is a form of artificial
intelligence. so artificial intelligence is a sub discipline of computer science, same way that algebra is a sub discipline of mathematics. and inside the field of artificial intelligence, there are a lot of sub fields, machine learning, expert systems, natural language processing, natural language generation, but the interesting thing happened where machine learning has become the most popular sub field of artificial intelligence, and so this linguist particular slippage happened. when people say i am using ai for business, what they mean is i am using machine learning for business. but the two terms have become conflated. it is important to keep this distinction in mind. then another point of confusion is that machine learning like artificial intelligence sounds like there's a little brain inside the computer. so i was once at a kind of science fair for grown ups, doing a demo of an ai system i
built, and this undergraduate said you built an ai system? i said yes. is it real? i said yes. i was kind of confused. then he starts looking under the table, like there's something hiding under the computer. >> so i realize. the real artificial intelligence and machine learning is not actually about sent yens in the dpu computer. what machine learning is it is computational statistics on steroids. it is amazing that it works well
most of the time. math cannot 'til us everything. prediction can tell us likelihood but can't tell us truth. hollywood ideas about artificial intelligence colors our beliefs. every student who comes in the classroom and starts thinking about technology and history is simultaneously thinking about hollywood and thinking about hollywood and artificial intelligence. researchers call it general artificial intelligence. and that is the sing lart,
that's the robe ots that take over the world and it is totally imaginary. real artificial intelligence, what we have, is called narrow ai. machine learning, even though it starts with that, it is just math. so another thing i realized when i was doing the research for the book is that the confusion with artificial intelligence is almost deliberate. people have been using confusion about technology as a gate keeping method. to keep certain kinds of people out of the profession. when you really trace it back, all our ideas about technology and society today come from a
very small and home jean us group of people, mostly ivy league educated white male mathematicians. there's nothing wrong with being a white ivy league male mathematician. some of my white friends are white male mat ma tigss. people embed their biases in technology. for example, if you look at the way that we don't have women and people of color represented at the upper echelons in silicon valley, that is a -- we can draw direct connection to the fact that women and people of color are not represented in the upper echelons of mathematics. so at the harvard math department, there are two senior professors that are women. in 2019, there are two. and you know when they started?
2018. all right. so there are structural forces at work inside technology fields that are extremely important. but people in technology fields, people in mathematics and physics don't think structural forces are important. they think that what matters is the math. they think that solving mathematical problems, solving technological problems is so superior to these pesky social problems that they get a pass. so this is the root of an idea that i call tech no chauvinism which we saw in the earlier clip. it is superior to other solutions, that using a computer
is a superior technology which is really about saying that math is superior and is really about a kind of bias. all right. so what i would argue is again, let's think about using the right tool for the task. sometimes the right tool for the task is a computer. other times it is something simple like a book in the hands of a child sitting on a parent's lap. one is not better than the other. it is simply what's appropriate. we can also think about the environmental cost of our rush to use ai to replace existing systems, and we can say what is behind the rush to use ai. is it tech no chauvinism, is it desire to make vast amounts of money? and is that actually giving us
the world we want. we can also look at the way the ai systems function, which is that they replicate the world as it is. the way you built an ai system, you take data, build a machine learning model that is a mathematical model of what's happening inside this data, then use that model to predict values, make decisions about future data. the problem is that this model has no sent yens, has no soul, and it represently indicates what already exists. if you think the world is already pretty great, then yeah. you're going to want to replicate it exactly. but i would argue that the world includes sexism. the world includes racism. the world includes generations of biased decisions about who gets a mortgage. the world includes in the u.s. a
vast amount of residential segregation. so for using ai systems to decide who gets a mortgage to buy a house, then we're actually replicating generations of inequality. we need to think about these ai systems. those systems get us to the world as it should be. >> thank you very much. so now we go to katie brownell from purdue university. history professor. katie, is republic of entertainment the title of the book? >> no, it is a title i came up with for a grant application. i do not like it. so any ideas, let me know. >> all right. you can read on the screen katie's bio. tell me a little about where you're from. >> originally from michigan. went to university of michigan and then did my graduate work at
boston university. >> how old were you when you knew you wanted to study history as a profession. >> it was my freshman year at university of michigan. i went in to study business. i thought that would get me a job. i took a history class with matt lassiter. first day of that class completely opened my ieyes, my jaw was dropped after that lecture. i decided i wanted to learn more about history. by the end of the year i wanted to become a historian. >> your first book was "showbiz politics." what was that about? >> looks at the role of entertainment in american politics, leading up to ronald reagan. how our political culture shifted to becoming a celebrity and what i call showbiz politics, a core component of how politicians gained power and credibility. >> that's a great transition
into the clip we chose for you. this is from an interview that cspan did at the organization of american historians, is that right? >> sounds right. >> that's a compelling speech, you have nixon's handwriting on it. he says reagan appeals to the heart. we appeal to the minds. are we missing something by not invoking reagan strategy. he had a team of television producers, roger ales, they all agree what went wrong in 1960 is that he didn't use media effectively, he turned himself into a celebrity the way kennedy had. he completely revamped his media strategy, made television central, and followed what kennedy did. and followed what reagan did. and this is really significant. at the end of the day, he believed and people he surrounded himself believed that
the difference between nixon the loser and nixon the winner is what embraced that showbiz politics style. >> take that into your next project on the cable television industry. >> excellent. thank you. so i am honored to be on this panel by two people whose work i admire so much, especially because they have both completed their work and i'm drawing on it for my own work. it is still very much a plan in progress. you think about the larger book narrative that looks at the political history of cable television. and it really builds off my first book because it starts with nixon and this president who believed communications mattered and communications policy mattered as well. and the book, the core question is what is the relationship
between media, technology, and the state. and that's something i have been thinking about as i'm looking over ways in which cable television dramatically changes over the past half century. for the cable industry, politics were deeply intertwined with all aspects of business. political battles, whether they played out at the local or state level with national elected officials or with fcc regulators are at the core of the industry's history. and these political debates propelled varied transformations, and the idea of what cable television was and how it could actually function because for the first two decades that cable television existed, it emerged with the advent of broadcast television. and it was simply a way to extend the reach of broadcast television originally. if there was a trouble in terms of reception due to terrain or
distance, cable could provide broadcast, amplify the reach of broadcast. then during the 1960s and 1970s, cable became seen as a new technology that could be an alternative form of how tv could function in society, that could have very specialized programming that would empower viewers to have more control over what they were watching and to quote, unquote vote with their remote control. the industry recognized that their business was tied to what cable television meant. this is especially important, they were not part of the decisions being made about how their business should function. they were firmly, cable operators, were firmly on the outside of the political and media establishment during the
1950s and 1960s. and this meant that broadcasters who were part of the political establishment and had relationships with regulators and congressmen, they limited what was possible for cable to function as a business. there's a really powerful clip of bill daniels, cable pioneer, available through cable center's oral history. done in 1990. after the industry had expanded very rapidly during the 1980s, and he lists all of the steep opposition that table television once faced in the '50s and '60s, and he rattles off the quote list of our enemies when we first started, and he slowly starts counting on his fingers, abc, nbc, cbs, telephone company owners, movie producers, local tv stations, city council, state
governments, lawyers, lobbyists, and added a challenge came from congressional representatives who, quote, didn't like us because their broadcast buddies at home and whom they were depending to get elected didn't like us. i think this really captures the environment of cable television in the 1950s and 1960s because it really did suffer at the hands of a regulatory regime that gave tremendous social, economic, power to the broadcasting industry. there's a close collaboration between broadcasters and congressional leaders, presidential administrations and the fcc that created a favorable regulatory framework that benefitted congressmen and presidents that were eager to be in the eye of their constituents on local or national news. so they benefitted from this. and the broadcasting industry also benefitted from this
arrangement, they experienced very little competition in exchange for foregrounding the official voices from government. they underpinned this arrangement that allowed for corporate monopoly to dominate for two decades, even longer. what is essential, politicians believed they needed broadcasters to get elected. nixon is key here. 1950s and 1960s are a moment in which politicians are grappling with the age of television. and they're hiring consultants who are telling them that you need to go on tv, you need to have advertisements, you need to be part of the news. so they believe that broadcasters have a lot of political power and that they have to have favorable relationships with them. culturally, the regulatory model depended on the idea of
objectivity. a trust that the public had in big institutions. so network news was primarily seen as objective source of information that gave out the official line. think of walter cronkite and that's the way it is. overwhelmingly relying on government sources to shape their presentation of the news. intellectually, another key component that broadcasters shaped research how television functioned. so all of the studies that support the broadcasting model with these three korcorporate networks, this was in the best interest of the country, they were done by research departments of the networks. again, they were able to shape the intellectual framework as well. so during this time again, 1950s and 1960s, fcc and congress created strict regulations that
ensured cable couldn't compete, limited the programming that cable could use and offer its subscribers, and basically made it the only way cable could function is if it extended the of the broadcasting industry but it couldn't necessarily offer a competing service. or an alternative form of television. but this starts to change over the next two decades. as political changes in the white house, congress, state and local governments combined with the activism of cable operators. their formation of an effective lobbying organization and consumers to transform not just the regulatory structure but the very ways that television functioned in american politics. and this is the story that my book will hopefully continue to outline. these changes started in the presidential administration of richard nixon.
it was -- it's not an accident that richard nixon who so firmly believes in the power of media to shape his political success, the thing that i charted in my first book, becomes a president who's very passionate about telecommunications policy. who takes it seriously. he firmly believes there's this liberal bias in network television. so he wanted to do something to challenge these institutional structures that gave network television so much power. and he ultimately empowered many white house staffers who worked for him to pursue a very revolutionary approach to television that would allow cable television to emerge as a competitor to broadcasting. he created the office of telecommunications policy. and it existed for only eight years. but this was an incredibly influential office because it started to pierce holes in some
of those reigning assumptions about television. notably, i capitalized on the growing critique of objectivity that was manifesting both on the left and the right. in the early 1970s. and it encouraged new research about the economics of cable television. whether or not it could flourish as a new type of business. that ultimately dismantled the economic justifications of the broadcast monopoly. in the aftermath of nixon's presidency, congress continued to debate and take seriously some of these policies that originated in the nixon white house. and the newly elected post-watergate reformers. they took away kind of the emphasis on the waging war against broadcasters that nixon had used. but took seriously the ideas that he -- that his office of
telecommunications put forward about the need for more diversity. and a more comprehensive television programming that could benefit all aspects of civic engagement and government. the televised watergate heari s hearings, i see as an important moment. because it elevated the prestige of the legislative branch and its members. and it taught congress that if they were the stars of the show, that they could gain this power and shift some of the power back to the legislative branch. and so in the aftermath, congress starts debating how can we integrate television coverage as a way to kind of bring -- restore more power to what they were doing, more visibility, more faith in what they were doing. and lerp lothey were looking fo television. how do we have more attention, more cameras focus on what we're
doing? the problem is network news only had a half an hour, maybe an hour that they wanted to dedicate to public affairs. so you actually needed a different type of television in order for this to work. and the cable industry, that's where they were taking advantage of some of these political shifts. and new ideas. and they proposed a solution. one that would benefit them and would benefit congress. and this is something that c-span founder brian lam argued and in oral history how he's accounting how he sold the idea of c-span to cover what congress was doing to, quote, unquote, turn the lights on in congress. he told people in the cable industry only by becoming a player in the news could c-span challenge the authority and the power that abc, cbs, and nbc ultimately had. and he was right. c-span launched in 1979 and over
the next decade, politicians debated how cable should be used, not if it should be used. and the politicians that once dismissed the industry because their broadcasting buddies didn't like us, eventually saw cable television as a tool for political advancement. and they forged relationships with the industry that were a times collaborative and at times contentious. but they were always very c consequenti consequential. the process of political leaders are becoming very eager to manipulate the cable dial. they -- the style of government and how they were communicating and engaging with their constituents became transformed by the core ideas of a market populism and niche in entertainment that made cable so popular. since the 1960s, the financial
success of the cable industry depended on the industry's ability to defend, define, and distinguish new technology and a new form of television. and it really reshaped the way people thought about media and the way that media functioned in american political life. and so by. 1990s, that conquered list of enemies that bill daniels outlined, by conquering all of those enemieenemies, by becomin power player itself, american society and the media structures on which it -- had transformed. the terrain had shifted but this is one of the key arguments that i really want to bring out in the book. that in the process of shifting that terrain, it's not just that politicians came to rely on
cable television more or consumers came to rely on television more to interact with their politicians, but through that process, politics began to look more like the programs that were actually on the dial. thank you. >> thanks very much, katy. thanks to all three of you. so we're going to open up -- i just -- i was getting ready to say we're going to open up the phone lines. >> that's a twist. >> it's all automatic. if you just go back. we're going to open up for q&a in a minute or two. and if you would just let them know and they're get a microphone to you so we can get your questions on. and as they do that, let me ask each of you, since this is a panel about media technology and the state, tell me in each of your areas where you think the state let people down. where in that history margaret
o'mara, did the state let the american people down in silicon valley and that history? >> well, i think there was a really critical moment in the early 1990s when the internet which had been around since 1969 as a product of the defense department used by government employees and by researchers exclusively up until the early '90s, it's becoming commercialized. and the commercialization of the internet involves a set of regulatory decisions. and there's a really interesting -- and it's the moment when silicon valley or at least this -- the generation of silicon valley entrepreneurs turned millionaires turned political activists start making -- becoming a presence in washington. and it's the moment -- and that is partially because bill clinton who's elected in 1992
works very hard starting from before he declares his candidacy to woo silicon valley. and to make the democrats the party of silicon valley. prior there had been close ties with republicans both at the national and state level. but there's a moment where they're trying to figure, you know, a medium that is defined as the wild west. and that where the advocates of the internet from the valley are talking about it as a frontier. talking about it in a very frid r -- frederick jackson turner sort of a way. wide open spaces waiting to be conquered. limitless possibility. but are arguing for keeping the -- something that on principle that sounds very good to members of both parties as well as defenders of free speech, which is keeping the internet free as out of the influence of the media companies
including cable as possible. so there's a political battle, essentially in which media is defined by -- as the telecoms and as the cable providers who are, you know, want to control -- to have some control over the information flow. and where newly formed organizations like the electronic frontier foundation, the eff are arguing to keep it a jeffersonnian opportunity. a place where many voices can blossom. and leaders of both parties, republicans first in the oppositioning congress and then after 1995 as the majority in congress led by newt gingrich and democrats in the white house are -- it's one of the few things in the mid-1990s the two parties can agree on by and large. but what was not realized and this is less a case of the government letting -- letting the american people down but really not realizing that some
of these scrappy little companies, these -- some of these guys would become google, become facebook, would become even silicon valley itself. even those people who were arguing for the jeffersonian internet who wrote and talked very eloquently about this notion. you know, later reflected to me we had no idea that people would use the internet. we were so naive. we had no idea that people would use the internet for bad as well as for good. and neither did regulators, neither did politicians in the '90s. there was no conception. it was such a boutique issue and the technology was so -- very little understood. meredith and i were talking last night about there's very few people in washington who really grasp the technology which is a real challenge. and that lack of -- that really gulf of understanding ai is not
machine learning. this transposes into when you have policy making. so at the end, you know, why is the internet economy, why is our current tech economy so regulated? they're not regulated like nearly everything else. and what we are doing is we're now kind of grappling with kind of post hoc regulatory making where these new economy grows so large. it's, okay, we need to figure out some way to contain and channel this energy in a way that allows them to continue to grow and do their business. but also not to have these second order and third order effects. that sort of between 1993 and 1997, there is a moment that is so consequential where the media technology landscape is now and
the state didn't realize what they were deciding to do or not to do. >> we'll get your thoughts on that, too, but let's take our first question. >> these are great. it's so interesting. and i'm wondering as somebody who's interested in local radio and we have somebody sitting here who built a low power fm station in louisville, kentucky, i'm wondering what you see as the potential for democratic media or policies that could potentially promote a jeffersonian internet or, you know, radio, television competing from the bottom up that actually brings the voices of people in localities to the surface. >> who wants to take that? >> well, i can start by saying i don't have a solution. but i can tell you that that is
a debate that's been at the core of regulatory issues. and, you know, when connie asked the question of how has the state let the people down, i would have actually said that i think that politicians are constantly -- they're having these regulatory debates in the 1970s and '80s thinking about how they can restructure the regime that many people are pointing out the problems. right? there are a lot of problems. what can we do about it? and the language of diversity that we need to have diversity voices of localism. we need to empower local communities, return this media back to the people. that is so powerful in their debates. and how they're framing it. they're talking about the importance of consumers. and really privileging their interests. but what they actually do is
they're really shaped more by their self-interests. then you see a corporate structure. so i think that there is that tension that has really always been there. and so it's kind of wading through, you know, what these policies could actually do. would they provide more diversity, more ways for local communities to have control? or do they actually just replicate some of these corporate structures that allow for, you know, the massive amounts of mergers that happen in the 1980s and 1990s that then stifle those very ventures you're talking about. >> we have a question up here. while we wait for the mic to get there, let me ask you meredith broussard, you were a member of the media. you were a reporter for the philadelphia inquirer, right? now you are a member of the media in this new era you work
in. how have you or have you been welcomed by the journalism community in this now area you want to work in? >> one of the really wonderful things about working in journalism opposed to working in tech for me is that journalism is vastly less sexist than the tech industry. the sexism you face in that industry was unbearable. everything they say about the social forces that conduct women out of tech careers are all true. so journalism for all of its faults is just an extraordinary place compared to the tech industry. so it feels like a privilege to be able to do what i love which is building technology in a realm i really love and to be able to communicate about what
i'm doing. >> so you find that journalists are open to the idea of using your kind ofr data as in their stories? >> so data journalism is a growing field. people have only been talking about it since 2006, but it actually dates back much further. so the first time that somebody used a computer for an investigative reporting story was in 1968. it was a reporter named phil meyer who looked at the detroit race riots and the dominant narrative at that point was that the race riots were, you know, most of the people involved were lower class. and so he did this analysis where he did a survey and used the tools of social scientific research in order to, you know, conduct a survey. he used a mainframe to analyze
the survey results. and he found that the participants in the race riots actually cut across the class spectrum. and so that tells us a very different story about who was participating in the race riots in detroit. and also what does it mean for the community? so phillip meyer's work in the '50s morphed to computer assisted reporting. which is kind of a dorky name, but that is what we called it in the '80s and in the '90s when the big revolution was that every reporter had a desktop computer. right? we were moving off of mainframes and it was this big revolution that you could use spreadsheets and data bases. and so data journalism is what we started calling it when we started using more internet tools in the office. >> thanks. yes? >> i love the conversation you
had. my question is to meredith. i'd like to know if you think that -- would it be fair to say that there are causal links between the rise of ai and the decline of humanity in the last 30 years? and if so, what can we do in the humanities to take on techno chauvinism? my idea is that humanities doesn't question techno chauvinism. but there's a certain kind of mentality that really rewards tech n techno chauvinism. really have years of the makers. it's part of a bigger problem. but i wonder about solutions. what could those of us in humanities do. and i worry about techno
chauvinism and look to fix it in some ways. >> thank you. that's a really good question. what can we do to work against this? i think it starts with admitting that techno chauvinism exists and pushing back against it. saying that technical solutions are not necessarily superior to, say, solutions from the social science or solutions from the humanities that each is valid. i think we have to look at funding inequality. you have to look at the funding for the humanities and the social sciences versus the funding for data science, for darpa. and we have to remedy that particular inequality. because there's a lot of nonsense that gets funded through the nsf and through darpa. and a lot of those funds could be reappropriated and put into the neh and into the nea. so we have to think about the
money. we also need to address economic inequality in terms of the pay gap. so one of the reasons that we don't have more data journalists is because of the really profound pay gap between what you can make as a journalist and what you can make as somebody who does ai in silicon valley. so you go into journalism and say you're going to make $30,000 or $40,000 a year as a starting salary. you can make literally ten times as much as a starting salary just out of college doing ai. and that's absurd. and that didn't used to be the case. so in, say, the 1960s when we were -- you know, '60s and '70s when technology policy was developing, the gap between what you made as a doctor or a lawyer and what you made as a social worker was much smaller. and now the gap between what you
make as a technology executive and what you make as a teacher, it's unfathomable. so one thing we can do is pay teachers more. and if we pay teachers more, i mean, not just university professors but k through 12 teachers. and if we pay teachers more, then we will have more talent in the classroom teaching our younger generation about technology. right? so right now we have -- i mean, when i meet computer science teachers, a lot of them are really wonderful. some of them used to be gym teachers and ended up teaching computer science which is really teaching kids how to use google docs because, like, that was the economic logic of a cash strapped school district. i think it's about economics. i think it's about looking at our priorities. and i think it's also thinking about race and ethnicity.
because part of the narrative inside technology has been that the technology is objective. that it's unbiased. and therefore superior. and when you ignore incredibly important social factors like how race and ethnicity function, how structural racism functions, you build systems that do not get us toward the kind of society that we want to live in. so i think we need to interrogate systems. there's a discipline of data journalism called al gor rhythmic data reporting which is my little corner. it's a really promising field. one of the things that we do in algorithmic reporting, we look at the block boxes of algorithms
being used. we say are these fair or just. generally the answer is no. right? then we also build our own algorithms in order to look at how systems function and to find the flaws in the system. >> so margaret o'mara, when you were looking at your history of silicon valley, what's your take from what you heard here? >> yeah. i think this has a history. and techno chauvinism has a history. you know, think about silicon valley comes from two professions that were entirely all white and all male and not necessarily elite. they were plenty of penniless boys from south carolina that went on to m.i.t. there are a lot of the founding generation of the valley were men of -- from a modest background. kind of went to rice university because it had free tuition.
came to stanford because they could work and go to grad school at the same time. you didn't have a lot of ivy leaguers. they stayed east coach and worked for fortune 50 companies. but it was all white, all male. it's the world of engineering. and engineering where, you know, women were not, you know, department chairs could say if a woman wanted to major in even in math they were like, sorry. we don't allow women in this program. this is the '50s and '60s. and then the other vertical was kind of finance/sort of mba executive management. you know, harvard business school didn't admit women. so you had these -- the very homogenous worlds. the magic of silicon valley. my friend another silicon valley historian talks about a relay race passing the baton from one generation to another. that's the magic where they
mentors and funds and does the same to the internet generation then to the social media generation. but they have this -- you know, what they say is pattern recognition. i give money to -- i'm going to invest in this guy, in this person because they went to stanford and they're wearing a hoodie and they're on the spectrum. yeah. because it's also this gut thing where you're giving, you know, resources to people because you just believe in the person, not just the product. so that is -- and that's part of what makes it work. i mean, that's the challenge. part of if you want to explain what the magic of silicon valley is, it's this insilarity. darpa, you know, it has become the giant in computer science. in part because of government austerity over the last 40 years. everything else got cut away. even computer scientists who were deeply ambivalent about taking any money from the
pentagon whose politic kind of had to find a way to say, well, i'm going to be working on this thing that doesn't have -- basically darpa is the only way i can get money for what i want to do. and so certain parts of the government and the military was the one part of the government that gets money, gets appropriations. and the rest -- not even neh and nea, god bless them, but other parts of the research establishment had been cut away. whereas these military agencies that are funding basic research but yes, again, it is for certain, you know, it has to have some long range applicability for purpose in some way. so all these things are feeding in. and this isn't to say that this is intractable and we can't fix it. but recognizing the political history and the way that this has been structured and embedded in this larger narrative of political history that we all -- that so many people in this room write about and think about. so many people who are watching
are thinking about and living. that's the way you identify how you, perhaps, change. and anyone looking at history does show all these instances of where things did change. if we are frustrated by this imambulance. technologists ourselves are frustrated i did -- they recognize there needs to be some reframing and corporation. understanding this history is the way to get to a different future. >> thanks. next question. >> when you look at political polarization and dysfunction today, you have to look at cable tv and the internet of two primary drivers of this. they're right at the top of the list. and i just wonder what you think
about them. they're only growing stronger and more important. what is the way out of this? i wonder what you see in terms of what is the way out of this problem? >> katy brownell? >> i think the narrative around cable is it has created this polarization. but i think that narrative does focus on the technology more that cable is doing this. rather, it's a variety of politicians who are using cable platforms to pursue different strategies, right? so newt gingrich saw an opportunity to take c-span and turn it into a way to blast his opponents even though no one else is watching. and nationalize congressional
politics in new ways. so i think, you know, it's important to think about how, you know, there are choices in terms of how the medium is used. but then it's also the ramification of putting that in the market. if it's going to be about competition and what sells becomes defined as news, then you have a very different style of news. and i think that's one of the shifts that's important to understand. that the news as it existed in the 1960s and 1970s, sure. advocated for finding this c consensus. but it was one very much driven by white, wealthy, middle class men who are part of the establishment. and it didn't allow other voices to come into play. so i think one of the things to appreciate about what cable does
in terms of, you know, providing at first tens and then hundreds. and now we have so many more channels that it does give voice to different perspectives. there's more of a shift from an elitist, perception of what constitutes as news and where people are going for their information to this more diverse -- and again bringing in those market principles. what counts as news is what people thinks, what they tune into. how they vote with their remote controls. i think there's a payoff, but i think it's also important to note that this older system of broadcast network television also had a lot of problems inherent in it as well. and in terms of solutions, again, i don't have any concrete ones. but, you know, i think just kind of recognizing that what the medium offers recognizing its
limitations, recognizing what's driving it in terms of some of those economic challenges and the political choices that are being made in terms of how to deploy those media formats are really important to consider. >> so margaret o'mara, i saw a statistic in some of your work where you said that 10% of the american people at the height of walter cronkite doing the news were watching him. and today it's 23 times that number. not the percentage, but the number, are involved in twitter and facebook and that kind of thing. take what she said and go from there. >> well, yeah. and they're two very different types of information dissemination, right? >> exactly. >> it's scaled up in user base but also the way that people are interacting with information. you know, the way that someone watched walter cronkite in 1967
was that you sat down in front of the television at a certain time and you had 30 minutes. and 30 minutes creates a pretty high bar for news. as katy was saying, it was highly curated but also by people in power. it's taking government officials -- by the late '60s, you're getting pushback on that. but it is a certain world view, point of view. and a point of view of the ivy league educated east coast based media but very limited. and so you couldn't have silly news stories. and so what cable creates initially and what the internet has exacerbated, this -- the spin cycle, the 24/7, just this hunger for content in which trivial things become multi-day news stories. then the way in which these many, many millions of people are using including all of us the way we use media is much less deliberate. you're not sitting down like now i shall look at my twitter for 30 minutes. and i will learn everything i
need to know. it will be not curated, first of all. so everything comes in snippets. and some of it is of great import. one of the upsides of the current internet age is this intense transparency. we know everything -- seem to know everything going on in the world including a lot of bad stuff. and there's a lot of bad stuff that was going on that wasn't revealed. and now there's revelation. but it also becomes, you know, one becomes immune to all of this bad stuff. you don't take things as seriously. whereas when walter conkrite stopped in february 1968 and turned to the camera and had a brief editorial moment in which he said the vietnam war has reached a stalemate. this is something we have -- we are in something that we cannot get out of and tin the way that expect. that ricochetted through politics. lyndon johnson didn't run for re-election. it was just -- we don't have those moments anymore.
even though there's so much more consumption of so much more information. >> next question. >> one of the things i really appreciated, meredith, about your stance in getting in there and doing the technology reporting, especially for those of us who are historians, i do not think we're doing a good job of capturing the tide that we're all standing in. when you speak to most people about ai or things like that and you start to even speak to them about some of the people in the field, they don't know some of the basics as well or some of the other people who are really sort of formulating this layer of complexity around us. and we in our own realm haven't really delved into it. we haven't reported that much of the history of silicon valley into what we're teaching our
students, the way we have with the history of the steel industry. we haven't integrated that to make it really a part of their understanding. and because we haven't, we've only maybe a few little articles here and media has, you know, has surprised itself by realizing when we did the facebook movie, oh, my gosh, that was less than ten years ago. but it's moving so fast, i think historians are not prepared for the speed of that industry sometimes. because we like two, three, four five decades back to look at things. but we haven't been given that sort of space. and i try and bring that to what my students and my radio audience that i look for people who are doing this. i think it has to be more of a crossover for people like you who are bringing this technical perspective in the technical writing and giving more of a historical perspective.
i've really enjoyed all of what you three minds have given us this morning. i like that a lot. what is the big point you think that -- and this is for the whole panel. what do you think the biggest thing historians are thinking about this moment of technology? you know, what's the secret? where's the book that's going to kind of break this loose? and wake us up to this -- to realize we are in a renaissance and not realizing it? >> i think it's margaret's book. >> thanks. available for preorder. >> yes. >> i think that if you read margaret's book and my book next to each other, i think it will probably give a really good historical overview as well as technical overview of how do we understand all of these forces? i think that we've only been --
people -- publishers have only been investing in books that counter the dominant technology narrative in the past three to four years. so it's really not surprising that we haven't had such a narrative until now because publishers are driven by marketi marketing. everybody believed that technology was the future. and everybody believes the techno libertarian rhetoric. and everybody believed the new communalist rhetoric about cyberspace is going to be so different and it's going to change the world and it's going to empower people. and only in the past three or four years have people started saying, oh, maybe that's not strictly true. so i'm really excited that that dialogue is happening now. one thing that i would also say that is important for historians
to start grappling with is how -- is the question of how will we do history in the future. because when you think about twitter posts and historical archive, for example, those are not being preserved anywhere. right? so what you get from twitter as a civilian is you get a garden hose of twitter data. and there is a fire hose of all the twitter data. but you have to pay for it. and twitter is not going to be around forever, so what's going to happen to all of that data? you think about newspapers and you think about how are newspapers archived? well, we know a lot about how to archive print news. because you can go to any library and you can find a newspaper from 1849 and you could read the entire paper for
the entire day in 1849. you can see all of the ads, the copy, who wrote what. that's a useful tool for history. but you can't actually go to, say, "the boston globe" and see everything that was written in "the boston globe" on a given day in 2002. because there's the print paper and then there's the digital version of the paper and then there's the website and then there's social media and there's -- you know, god knows what else. >> and the ads. >> yeah. the ads change for everybody. so you can't see those. and they're made with a proprietary ad technology that doesn't exist anymore because 2002 is, like, ages ago. centuries ago in internet time. so this was a really big problem. like, the fact that all of our systems -- that we've invested in all of these technological systems for, you know, for
creating media, it's really great. but at the same time we're shooting ourselves in the foot because in five years you're not going to be able to read any of today's news. especially the more cutting edge data news. data journalism projects are really hard to preserve. >> yeah. >> so katy brownell, picking up that mirror to your own industry, historians, particularly people who are teaching history, what do you think? >> well, i think one of -- you know, that question makes me think about the key idea that has emerged from all of my research looking at the cable industry and that is the fact of how technology is defined is a political process. and i think that's really important to understand. because, you know, again, just seeing all of these different moments looking at cable and how people were talking about how it
could be used, its potential, and the policies that should shape its development. this is so deeply embedded in the politics of that particular moment. and it changes so dramatically. that's one of the fascinating things about the cable industry because it's not a new technology in the '70s. it's not a new technology in the '90s, but the ways in which it's talked about and its potential and how it will solve all these problems really has changed because of those political battles that are being fought. a lot of times in the public eye and a lot of times behind the scenes as well. and so i think it's really important to understand that and then to think about how who's influencing that discussion of how this technology is being defined. you've got consumers, constituents writing to their representatives demanding access, demanding certain
things. lobbyists are playing a key role in terms of how they're shaping the public relations debate. and, you know, politicians. how they understand technology frequently is shaped by how they use it. and so i think that those are key things to consider at this moment when everything is changing so quickly. it's hard to keep up with technology. there's a reason my book will end in the '90s. >> you think that now. >> i'm firm. >> that's what i thought too. >> because all of a sudden things escalate quickly. but those questions in terms of power structures are still at play. >> so margaret, are historians up for this challenge? >> of course. so i think one of the things historians are very good at doing, where we are in tech three or four years ago changing the world it's the future.
and then now we've swung violently to the other side where it's like a bad, bad, bad. they're so bad. where i find myself whereas before i was the person saying maybe it isn't all good. and now i'm like, we have supercomputers in our pockets, guys. like, this is really -- they've done some good things. like, let's think about -- so what historians are good at is showing this complex nuanced making sense of all this data showing the good and the bad. showing how and why you can grapple without an understanding of a phenomenon as all good, all bad. but providing historical context. and then helping people understand something as a very -- this complex subject is actionable. but i think that's really where the super -- historians' superpower is is bringing this together. and i think the other dimension
is historians as teachers of history, as writers of history share the obligation. i share meredith's deep alarm with the state of the internet archive broadly defined. which is we as historians need to be archival activists. here's how historians do what they do. here's how we produce the things others read and learn from. here's what needs to be done with this new digital archive. not just digitizing things, but also think about how you grapple with the twitter feeds and with the internet based advertising. how do you preserve that record? and not to mention just the. people are trying to do that but that is not yet an constitutional project on the scale that others have been in the past.
>> we have time for one more question. >> -- exacerbated by attempts by any cable companies and tech companies like facebook and twitter to become self-appointed arbiters of proper political speech through use of phrases like hate speech that have been used to try to suppress conservative or traditionalist views on politics and social issues. couple examples of this recently have been the case of the students from catholic high school who went to the lincoln memorial and were berated by an american indian activist and the recent example of a new york city man who posted a parody video of nancy pelosi online and got pillared. how do you see government policy makers and scholars addressing this weaponization of political
differences in their future writings? >> could we combine that question with the question from the professor as well? >> yes. >> i'm very interested you talked about public policy. you talked about technology. where do you see the influence of advertisers in the shaping of -- i mean, ivan often said to my children that the mute button ought to get a nobel peace prize. but to what extent do they influence or the competition for them influence the kind you can see not just on general television but on cable tv as well? >> who wants to start? weaponization, advertising? >> so i see these two questions as very connected.
because the advertising, the ad-based model is the model by which these platforms and think about, you know, facebook, think about google, youtube, facebook. these debates about whose speech gets, you know, heard is where these companies are driven by two things. their ad-based model and shareholders and for-profit companies. but they also aby politics. the point of origin on stanford's campus which was, you know, the home dome of where sergei and larry paige went to graduate school. the kind of idea of we are in the business of creating a platform in which conversation can happen. but the way that this has functioned now is this is
incredibly important media companies, that these platforms have become places for speech of all kinds that actually what is being done is censorship of voices are companies that don't want to take sides or don't know how to navigate. they've become producers and curators of media. and their algorithm is the underlying mechanics of what is enabling these companies to do what they do and to sell ads. to have very tailored ads to have individual users. content produced by the different people that have a way of spiking out and then also reactions to that.
understanding how the history of these companies and how the companies work and what's driving them. i actually don't see censorship. i see a desire to try and keep this -- to sort of fight for this neutrality which is actually, these things are very different from when it was a search engine created by a couple graduate students. they've become much more powerful and much more embedded in different parts of life. and so this is the great dilemma. they're going to need to take sides without taking sides. and they're an ad-based model. they can't -- how do you change it? and probably the way it's going to be changed is with our third part of the d thsh the state. but what is that going to look like and how do you preserve the jeffersonian internet dimensions of it and allow speech, allow different types of voices to be heard across the spectrum at the
same time without having the state of affairs right now which no one seems very happy with. >> i can tackle the advertising question and give it to you to take it home. but one thing to add that your question makes me think of that i hadn't really spent a lot of time analyzing but i think is a really important component of the story is that the argument for cable television in the '70s and '80s really hinged on the idea that subscribers would be the one that cable would be serving. so again, that empowerment of the consumer, that they would offer new types of program the arguments behind this paid tv, hbo for example.
one of the early models of this. that that would be all subscription based. and some of those channels have remained subscription based. but the majority of them have shifted towards an advertising model. and that happens over the '80s into the '90s as well. i think that's a really interesting shift in terms of the business model where the cable industry begins with all of these ideas about how they're going to be different. they're going to be different from broadcasting. they're going to solve some of these problems that people are talking about with the broadcasting model. but as they become more of this consolidated corporate media structure. they take on some of those very structures and ideas that are embedded in broadcasting and they become a player in that model and replicate it.
>> one of the things i'm interested in the ad model is i'm interested in advertising fraud. so the ad -- so they estimate that something like $7 billion of internet advertising is about ad fraud. so there's a vast amount of fraud in internet advertising. i have also heard that organized crime is really heavily invested in ad fraud nowadays. so this is something i've been wanting to write about for a long time but i haven't really found the right hook yet. so that's a major complicating factor when we think about the success of facebook, google, twitter and their ad model. i would also be really interested in looking at the historical perspective of how did newspapers address this? because there was a similar advertising fraud crisis in the
wild west era of newspapers. you could print a whole bunch of newspapers and throw them away and claim that you've printed this number and so that was your circulation. we have things like the advertising bureau company that came into being. we do have the iab, the internet advertising bureau, but their effectiveness is limited, i guess. so i'm really curious about that. and then i wanted to pick up on something. i was reminded about this with your work on kind of the way that government regulation has advanced around cable televis n television. i was thinking about the way
that telecom policy evolved. and i've been thinking lately about the silicon valley idea of iteration. that's an idea i do really like. i really like the idea that, okay, we can try something and see if it works. and then if it doesn't, then you try to do better. and i think about the way that this fits with the law. because the law evolves. the law is the original ar fi fact that iterates. even the constitution we have iterations of the constitution. so i wonder if when it comes to regulating the social media platforms, we should regulate and then iterate. if we should let go of the idea that we have to get it right on the first try. right? and let's just try something. because doing nothing doesn't seem to have worked very well. so maybe let's just try
something. and let's put it in place for a little bit. and if it doesn't work, let's change it. >> very roosevelt. >> yeah. >> i am the time keeper, so we have to wrap up. thank you very much. let's give them a round of applause. >> thank you. >> thank you. [ applause ] all week we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. lectures in history, american artifact artifacts, real america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency, and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span3.
sunday night on q&a, theoretical physicist michi michio kaku talks about our destiny on earth and achieving digital immortality. >> digital immortality takes everything known about you on the internet, your digital footprint, your credit card records, what wines you like to buy, what countries you visit, your videos, your pictures, your audiotapes and creates a profile which is digitized which will last forever. when you go to the library of the future, you will not pick out a book about winston churchill. you'll talk to winston churchill. >> sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on esc-span's q&a. campaign 2020. watch our live coverage of the candidates on the campaign trail and make up your own