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ESTHER DYSONrepeatedly shows up on lists ranking the most important people in Silicon Valley—she even ranked No. 23 in Russia’s Who’s Who in the Computer Market. Not bad for a New Yorker who still uses XyWrite. Dyson founded EDventure Holdings, an investment fund that finances Eastern European technology startups, but is best known for her monthly newsletter, “Release 1.0,” and her two annual conferences, which have been likened to a Cannes Film Festival for techies. In the midst of touring for her recent book, Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age (New York: Broadway Books, 1997), Dyson engaged in an e-mail chat with Mother Jones.

RECOMMENDED READINGfor understanding Silicon Valley culture: “People should read the books about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, and Intel’s Andy Grove. Also, Net Gain by John Hagel (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997), which talks about communities as a business proposition, and Howard Rheingold’s The Virtual Community (New York: HarperPerennial, 1994), which talks about them as a social proposition. My brother George’s book, Darwin Among the Machines (New York: Addison Wesley, 1997), lends the opposite perspective. He discovered that no one in the computer world had looked at how we thought about artificial life in the past and what computers-as-machines told us about ourselves. It’s a philosophy book rather than one about technology.”

DYSON ALSO RECOMMENDS: Personal History by Katharine Graham (New York: Knopf, 1997). “She’s a wonderful role model! The second half of Graham’s life began when she was in her 40s and took over the Washington Post after the suicide of her husband. She rose to the challenge—showing the power of the free press to uncover and publish the truth.” [C.Q.]

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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