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Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Cummings. Photo of Johnson by Andrew Parsons/Flickr; photo of Cummings by Bloomberg

How Silicon Valley Is Rewiring Downing Street’s Brain

By  |  July 28, 2020 7:01 AM PDT
Photo: Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Cummings. Photo of Johnson by Andrew Parsons/Flickr; photo of Cummings by Bloomberg

Last month, Boris Johnson, the U.K.’s prime minister, delivered a speech in the industrial town of Dudley about his plan to lead the country out of the pandemic with large-scale investment projects. The most noteworthy feature of the speech was his mantra-like repetition of “build,” a word that appeared no fewer than 32 times in his speech and, for good measure, three times on a sign on his lectern.   

The prominence of the word was no coincidence. Johnson’s chief aide, Dominic Cummings, had picked it up from a couple of influential essays written by his favorite Silicon Valley thinkers, according to a person close to Johnson.  

One of them was an April essay entitled “It’s Time to Build” by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen—a critique of the West’s lack of preparedness for the coronavirus—in which he repeated some version of the word 41 times. A few days later, Ben Thompson, the influential analyst behind the Stratechery blog, took Andreessen’s ideas a step further in his own essay,“How Tech Can Build,” laying out a plan for putting the venture capitalist’s ideas into practice.

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