Feb 26, 2024 - Technology

Kara Swisher takes on the "boy-kings" of big tech in "Burn Book"

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Photo: Lisa Dickey. Used by permission. Cover: Simon & Schuster

Photo: Lisa Dickey. Used by permission. Cover: Simon & Schuster

This photo shows Kara Swisher in 1997 in Bluemont, Virginia, which used to be called Snickersville, out in the exurbs of Loudoun County. "I rented a place as it was easier to get to AOL, which was past Dulles," she told Axios.

Why it matters: "Burn Book," out Tuesday, recounts Swisher's digital odyssey from those early days through her growing fame — The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, All Things D, The New York Times, New York magazine, Code Conference and now celebrity podcaster.

Zoom in: "Even if it was never the intention," Swisher writes, "tech companies became key players in killing our comity and stymieing our politics, our government, our social fabric, and most of all, our minds, by seeding isolation, outrage, and addictive behavior."

  • "Innocuous boy-kings who wanted to make the world a better place and ended up cosplaying Darth Vader feels like science fiction."

The big picture: This is sociology (even psychology) as much as technology. "I came to realize that many tech titans' warped self-righteousness fueled them more than money, power, and the growing legions of obsequious enablers," Swisher writes:

"It inevitably curdled their souls, creating an arrogance that masked what was a deep self-hatred and anger. I have never seen a more powerful and rich group of people who saw themselves as the victim so intensely."

"There is no question," Swisher adds later, "that kind of wealth does inevitably warp tech titans as they navigate their frictionless world that allows them to go from private plane to armored car to a home office on an island."

  • "And while these overbred poodles couldn't be luckier on this planet at this moment in time, they're swept up in the constant doom cycle of their own design, painting themselves too often as victims. They seem to wonder why we humans of lesser value can't understand their genius."

A final very Kara touch: "There is no index, people. So, you have to read the whole book all the way through to see if you're in it."

  • Read an excerpt ... Go deeper: Kara's remarkable book tour, including conversations with Laurene Powell Jobs, Mary Barra, Mark Cuban, Sam Altman, Bob Iger and Reid Hoffman (will double as podcasts).
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