Join us on Tuesday, April 5 at 11am PT / 2pm ET for a book talk with John Markoff in conversation with journalist Steven Levy (Facebook: The Inside Story), on the occasion of Markoff’s new biography, WHOLE EARTH: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand.
Watch the session recording now:
For decades Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter John Markoff has chronicled how technology has shaped our society. In his latest book, WHOLE EARTH: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand (on-sale now), Markoff delivers the definitive biography of one of the most influential visionaries to inspire the technological, environmental, and cultural revolutions of the last six decades.
Today Stewart Brand is largely known as the creator of The Whole Earth Catalog, a compendium of tools, books, and other intriguing ephemera that became a counterculture bible for a generation of young Americans during the 1960s. He was labeled a “techno-utopian” and a “hippie prince”, but Markoff’s WHOLE EARTH shows that Brand’s life’s work is far more. In 1966, Brand asked a simple question—why we had not yet seen a photograph of the whole earth? The whole earth image became an optimistic symbol for environmentalists and replaced the 1950s’ mushroom cloud with the ideal of a unified planetary consciousness. But after the catalog, Brand went on to greatly influence the ‘70s environmental movement and the computing world of the ‘80s. Steve Jobs adopted Brand’s famous mantra, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” as his code to live by, and to this day Brand epitomizes what Markoff calls “that California state of mind.”
Brand has always had an “eerie knack for showing up first at the onset of some social movement or technological inflection point,” Markoff writes, “and then moving on just when everyone else catches up.” Brand’s uncanny ahead-of-the-curveness is what makes John Markoff his ideal biographer. Markoff has covered Silicon Valley since 1977, and his reporting has always been at the cutting edge of tech revolutions—he wrote the first account of the World Wide Web in 1993 and broke the story of Google’s self-driving car in 2010. Stewart Brand gave Markoff carte blanche access in interviews for the book, so Markoff gets a clearer story than has ever been set down before, ranging across Brand’s time with the Merry Pranksters and his generation-defining Whole Earth Catalog, to his fostering of the marriage of environmental consciousness with hacker capitalism and the rise of a new planetary culture.
Above all, John Markoff’s WHOLE EARTH reminds us how today, amid the growing backlash against Big Tech, Stewart Brand’s original technological optimism might offer a roadmap for Silicon Valley to find its way back to its early, most promising vision.
Purchase your copy of WHOLE EARTH: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand via the Booksmith, our local bookstore.
WHOLE EARTH: A conversation with John Markoff
April 5 @ 11am PT / 2pm ET
Watch the event recording