How Stanford Feeds Silicon Valley—At a Cost

Stanford is a hot house for the technology industry, producing a constant stream of graduates who have gone on to set up and run the great and good of Silicon Valley. But while such a close working relationship has seen many successes, the sheer quantities of money involved make the set-up increasingly tense.

In The New Yorker, Ken Auletta takes a long, hard look at how Stanford has become such a big provider for Silicon Valley. As a taste:

"Innovation comes from myriad sources, including the bastions of East Coast learning, but Stanford has established itself as the intellectual nexus of the information economy...

"If the Ivy League was the breeding ground for the elites of the American Century, Stanford is the farm system for Silicon Valley... Stanford's public-relations arm proclaims that five thousand companies "trace their origins to Stanford ideas or to Stanford faculty and students." They include Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Netflix, Electronic Arts, Intuit, Fairchild Semiconductor, Agilent Technologies, Silicon Graphics, LinkedIn, and E*Trade...

"... Stanford's entrepreneurial culture has also turned it into a place where many faculty and students have a gold-rush mentality and where the distinction between faculty and student may blur as, together, they seek both invention and fortune. Corporate and government funding may warp research priorities."

In fact, Auletta's report dives right into how the tech industry is pressuring Stanford's administration, and how the academy is changing to fit in at the boardrooms of industrial giants. It raises many fascinating questions about the role of academia in relation to the technology industry—and in many cases there are no easy answers. It's definitely worth reading in full. [The New Yorker]

Image by Jawed Karem under Creative Commons licesne