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Kara Swisher: 'It’s Time for Silicon Valley to Get Serious'

The journalist says Silicon Valley's brightest need to stop chasing small ideas and start tackling big ones. 

IN THE KNOW
Kara Swisher has been covering digital matters for two decades, previously for The Wall Street Journal and now for the website Re/code.

 

As the executive editor of the technology website Re/code, host of the Re/code Decode podcast and co-executive producer of the Code Conference series, Kara Swisher is a hugely influential voice in Silicon Valley. We chatted with the journalist about her invitation-only conference (May 31 through June 2), automobiles, HBO’s Silicon Valley and more.

What’s in the works for Code Conference?
It’s all big interviews—big figures in tech, media and politics. Our lineup of speakers includes Elon Musk, who could read a phone book and be interesting; Mark Fields, the head of Ford; Chuck Robbins, the head of Cisco; and Sue Desmond-Hellmann, who runs the Gates Foundation. We try to vary our people.

Any hot topics on the docket?
We never have a theme—we’re just doing really insightful interviews—but sometimes it settles on something. Last year, we talked a lot about diversity. I’ll probably talk a lot about harassment issues this year because I’m doing this initiative called Hack Harassment with Intel and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. We started an online effort around that to fight online harassment.

What industries are you especially intrigued by right now?
Cars and transportation. Apple and Google are moving into that space, and smartly, heavily because they need areas of growth. And all of the major car companies are under real pressure to keep up in the software game here. Cars are the original mobile device if you think about it.

Are you seeing any shifts in focus in the Valley?
It’s finally time for Silicon Valley to get serious about serious issues and not just make another photo app. I have this famous quote that I say, that I borrowed from someone: ‘Silicon Valley has a lot of big minds chasing small ideas.’ And it’s time for these big minds to take on big issues like transportation, health, climate change and food.

Can you elaborate on the food and tech connection?
The making of food has a lot of digital elements—how you make food replacements and stuff like that. There’s Soylent, Just Mayo, Impossible Foods. They’re all interesting. It’s the beginning of something, changing the way we eat. And I don’t think it’s a silly trend.

The third season of Silicon Valley premieres in April. You appeared in the past seasons. Do you think the show accurately portrays the area?
Yeah. The reason it’s funny is because it’s true. They take it in a mocking way, and it’s rather clever. The characters are very clearly people we know. The billionaire who invested in the company and then screwed it up—that’s sort of Mark Cuban/ Sean Parker a little bit. There’s pieces of everybody; you can see glimpses of everybody in all of those characters.

 

Originally published in the March issue of Silicon Valley

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