Riva-Melissa Tez

2020 Lincoln Fellow

What is your current position?

Just wrapping up two years at Intel, where I was Senior Director of Strategic Technology Initiatives. Going to take some time off and read.

What motivated you to choose this career path?

I have not had a linear career path. During my philosophy degree I launched a retail store in London. After graduating, I moved to Germany to get into tech. I ended up co-founding an app for children and lecturing at two universities in Berlin.

In 2014, I moved to the US to launch a small investment fund focused on early stage artificial intelligence companies. Through the fund I met the processor architect Jim Keller, who became a mentor. I joined him at Intel in early 2019. 

My family always had financial difficulties. The motivation for my career path was to work hard to provide for them.

What are you currently working on?

The group I joined, Silicon Engineering, has 11,000 employees globally. Learning how to manage at that scale is a valuable experience. Much of corporate life is protecting innovation from bureaucracy. Strengthening US chip fabrication should be paramount to national security. I spent some time this year collaborating on a project with DARPA.

How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?

I met a Claremont alum at Stanford’s Hoover Institution who told me that I would like Claremont. He was right..

What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?

The reading and the sessions. Each morning, I would take a long walk before breakfast and process what I had learned the day before.

There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?

The breadth of the content is superb. The ten days were probably more valuable to me than my entire philosophy degree. It’s a luxury to learn about the world from thinkers such as Charles Kesler and Angelo Codevilla, amongst others.

If you could have a drink with any great thinker, who would it be, why, and what would you order?

Tocqueville. I would bring him a Chateau d’Yquem 2011 Sauternes and talk to him about how that soft despotism was going…

What qualities do you believe will make outstanding statesmen/women in this century?

Integrity and long-term thinking because we lack them both. Self-reliance, because the right qualities are neither recognized or rewarded by society.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?

A dictatorship of relativism, leading to mass homogeneity and demoralization, for the sake of cultural destruction. 

What is it like working in the tech world?

Tech progress is the battlefield now where all nations compete. Unfortunately, US tech workers seem more concerned with identity politics than the fact that we are no longer leading on innovation. 

The crypto industry and decentralized organizations give me hope.

What are your thoughts on the 2020 Presidential election?

In 2018, there was a CNN article about how ~90% of public buttons in America (crosswalk, elevators etc) remain permanently broken or are placebo buttons to give people the illusion of control. That was the best analogy for contemporary politics that I have ever come across.

What authors and books left a lasting impression with you and why?

Anything by Euripides, because he captured so perfectly the different dimensions of man. The ending of The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield haunts me, but not for the reason it seems Mansfield intended.

What books are you currently reading?

The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas S. Szasz, Strong Gods by R.R Reno & Life On The Mississippi by Mark Twain

Do you have a favorite quote?

“I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me”

– An excerpt from a letter written by Issac Newton in his last year of life.

Of all the places in the world that you have lived or travelled, what has been your favorite/most interesting?

For a few years, San Francisco was the acropolis of a generation. My favorite city is Paris, predominantly for the culture and the lifestyle, but unfortunately it’s still in France, which is being governed into destruction.

What historical analysis do you think is relevant to America today?

‘After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.’ – Tocqueville

What is your favorite recreational pastime (or hobby) and why?

I read a lot. I don’t watch television, shows or movies. I try to stay out of current culture as much as possible. I write essays, mainly for my own records or occasionally to share with friends. 

Nothing makes me happier than hosting. I’ll throw a dinner party or drinks, nudge friends into an intellectual debate, then sit back and watch.