Institute of Politics

Kara Swisher

Editor-At-Large at New York Magazine & Host of the “Sway” & “Pivot” Podcasts

  • Winter 2021 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminar Series: "The Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse"


Kara Swisher is the editor-at-large of New York Media, host of the Pivot podcast and executive producer of the Code Conference. She is also the host of the Sway podcast, a contributing writer to the New York Times Opinion section and appears weekly on CNBC.

Swisher was also the host of the Recode Decode podcast for five years, co-founded Recode and Code owner Revere Digital and, before that, co-produced and co-hosted The Wall Street Journal’s “D: All Things Digital,” with Walt Mossberg. It was the major high-tech conference with interviewees such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and many other leading players in the tech and media industries. The gathering was considered one of the leading conferences focused on the convergence of tech and media industries. She and Walt Mossberg were also the co-executive editors of a tech and media website,

Swisher worked in The Wall Street Journal’s San Francisco bureau. For many years, she wrote the column “BoomTown,” which appeared on the front page of the Marketplace section and also on The Wall Street Journal Online at Previously, Swisher covered breaking news about the Web’s major players and Internet policy issues and also wrote feature articles on technology for the paper. She has also written a weekly column for the Personal Journal on home issues called “Home Economics.”

Previously, Swisher worked as a reporter at the Washington Post and as an editor at the City Paper of Washington, D.C. She received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and her graduate degree at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

Swisher is also the author of “ How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads and Made Millions in the War for the Web,” published by Times Business Books in July 1998. The sequel, “There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for a Digital Future,” was published in the fall of 2003 by Crown Business Books.


"The Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse"

Right now, aside from Saudi Aramco, the top five most valuable companies in the world are all tech giants: Microsoft ($1.36T); Apple ($1.29T); Amazon ($1.23T); Alphabet/Google ($919B); and Facebook ($583.7B). But as huge as those numbers are, they hardly quantify the impact that these behemoths have on politics, culture, business and, most of all, innovation. These are the makers of most of the tools we use daily and are critical to operating in the modern world.

Unfortunately, much of the effect of late has been deleterious and the big question for the next few years is how we can continue to innovate as power has become more concentrated than ever. Over my many years covering Silicon Valley, the chilling effect of big companies has been profound. Ask yourself, how easy it is to start an ad-based search engine, a social network, a major online retailer, a software operating system or an app platform when these companies completely cover the field with their money and power and might?

While it’s convenient to apply the catchall term “Big Tech” to them, they are not a monolith, and some in this group are further along in understanding that with great power comes great responsibility - and, more important, accountability. We’ll look at the playing field, the damage and what government, local and federal, can do about it to create smart policies over these indispensable platforms.

The class will have to prep by listening to some of my podcasts with guests, as well as a reading or two before each class.

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