Astro Teller grew up in Evanston Illinois, where cold winters gave him an appreciation for summer weather. His parents chose for him the fine name "Eric", but his high school soccer team thought it would be amusing to rename him "Astro" in honor of his unique AstroTurf style haircut. The nickname stuck, even though the haircut didn't.
Astro studied computer science at Stanford University, and he went on to complete a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University, where he was a recipient of the prestigious Hertz fellowship. While he was a graduate student, Astro wrote a critically acclaimed and commercially successful science fiction novel titled "Exegesis". Astro lived in Pittsburgh for nearly a decade after graduation during which he co-founded three companies and two children. Astro remained CEO of BodyMedia, a leading wearable body monitoring company until 2007, the year his marriage also ended due to unrelated causes.
Astro relocated to California, where he became the founding CEO of Cerebellum Capital, an AI-based hedge fund management firm. He devoted his weekends to his children and spent a lot of time on the phone with the love of his life, Danielle, trying to convince her that California is a great place to live. In 2010, Astro moved over to Google, where he currently oversees Google[x], a moonshot factory for audacious world-changing projects. His work in science, literature, art, and business has appeared in international media from the New York Times to CNN to NPR's "All Things Considered." Astro regularly gives invited talks for national and international technology, government, and business forums on the subject of the future of intelligent technology.
Danielle Teller grew up in Canada, where similarly cold weather gave her an equal appreciation for warm weather. She was too scared to be a writer, so she went to medical school instead, and then moved temporarily to America in 1994. She has been living temporarily in America ever since.
Danielle trained at McGill University, Brown University and Yale University, and she took a faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh in 2001. One of the first people she met after moving to Pittsburgh was Astro, and they became fast friends. Danielle's two children were born in Pittsburgh around the same time as Astro's children, and she also relocated when her marriage ended, though she moved to the opposite coast from Astro.
Danielle was on faculty at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University in 2010 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and discovered that nobody recognizes you after your hair falls out. Spies take note. Danielle continued her research into the origins of chronic lung disease and her teaching in the medical intensive care unit until she finally conceded to Astro that it would be pretty nice to live in California. She quit her job in 2013 to pursue her childhood dream of being a writer.
Astro and Danielle are now happily married and living in Palo Alto, California. They were inspired to write Sacred Cows largely because of their own experiences during their divorces and remarriage. Like most people, they had not given much thought to the social pressures designed to get people married and keep them married until they found themselves having to fight against those pressures themselves. They began to realize that many of society's attitudes about marriage and divorce are not only illogical but actually counter to the pursuit of happiness.
The Tellers looked for evidence in books and popular media that other people were questioning these deeply held cultural assumptions about love, parenting, infidelity, marital commitment and divorce, but they came up pretty much empty-handed. Yet so many people they knew struggled with exactly these questions. Finally, Astro said, "We have to write the book if nobody else is going to write it."
Danielle said, "Are you crazy?"
Astro just smiled. And so, Sacred Cows was born.