Bridging The Divide Between Techies and Non-Techies

Friends in the press are asking me why the Newsweek story has so many techies so upset. I will attempt to explain a generalized view…

  • First, the perpetuation of nerd stereotypes (wording in article, NOT Dorian himself): weird, loner, maladjusted, libertarian, odd hobbies.
  • Second, it transforms what many techies think of as an important tech breakthrough into a human interest freak sideshow devoid of substance.
  • Third, the story attempts to deliberately out the real Satoshi against his/her will, when he/she has done nothing wrong or harmful at all.
  • Fourth, the reporter evidently made little effort to learn anything about Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies, or cryptography or math or programming.
  • Fifth, assuming this story is right, this so-called forensic analysis behind the story is a complete joke.

Each of these would still be offensive to techies *even if the Satoshi story were right*. But if story turns out to be wrong, doubly so. If story is wrong (not saying it is, but if), then even worse: An innocent man was falsely outed, exposed, made vulnerable, and his life was changed forever.

The broader reason this all matters? There’s a growing CP Snow-style divide between techies and non-techies. We must bridge it, not expand it. We must build communication, build rapport, build trust. Many great reporters do this every day and are heroes. More of that, less of this.

Source: @pmarca tweets1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10


Questionable Forensic Analysis of Nakamoto’s Identity

I don’t know who Satoshi is, but I do know this “forensic analyst” simply does not know what she is talking about. First, modern systems designers talk about disk space all the time. It comes up constantly for engineers building large scale systems.

Second, modern systems designers talk about Moore’s Law all the time. It’s one of the key drivers for thinking about scalability over time. In our office at A16Z, there are probably 20 conversations a day about disk space and/or Moore’s Law. And they’re not getting less frequent.

Odd: “Moore’s Law is an old maxim that computing power will double. We’ve gone exponentially away from Moore’s law, [since] that interim period.” You don’t go “exponentially away from” the law that says that what you are dealing with grows exponentially. Who is this person?

Source: @pmarca tweets1,2,3,4,5,6


It Doesn’t Matter Who Created Bitcoin

For what it’s worth, the smartest Bitcoin people I know don’t think that the Newsweek story is correct. (I myself don’t know.) In fact, they didn’t think it was correct before Dorian S denied it later in the day. (Again, I myself don’t know.)

My view is that it doesn’t matter who Satoshi is. The ideas stand on their own, the math stands on its own, the code stands on its own.

In general, there is a growing CP Snow-style divide between people who trust math/science/tech and people who trust people/institutions. Bitcoin is a perfect flashpoint instance of the divide. All the smartest computer scientists I know don’t think Satoshi’s identity matters.

A challenge for the general press–and business press–is to hire/train more reporters who are on the math/science/tech side of the divide. It is going to get far harder to understand–or explain–the world from here for people who aren’t deep in math/science/tech.

Corollary: It is becoming much more important for math/science/tech people to be able to explain things to non-math/science/tech people.

Important: Within the technology community, libertarians are a small minority. The “typical” US Silicon Valley technologist is mostly a normal Democrat.The idea that most computer/Internet people now are raving anti-government libertarian anarchists is simply wrong. It’s a false caricature.

Source: Andreessen’s tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10


Press on Bitcoin and Crypto-Currencies

What passes for a good press column on Bitcoin and crypto-currencies in early 2014: Our Flawed Financial System is Reflected in Bitcoin.

  • Opening giant photo of physical gold coins that completely misrepresents the topic being discussed — CHECK!
  • Preemptive and condescending sneering that Bitcoin could be useful in any way — CHECK!
  • Nearly willful ignorance about technical specifics about Bitcoin, such as divisibility — CHECK!
  • Handwavy praising of a theoretically far superior system (“Bitnote”) that does not actually exist — CHECK!

And yet, some really good macro points that are worth considering — which is what makes it a good piece on balance. Pieces like this read IDENTICALLY to comparable pieces 20 years ago about the Internet, even the same sequence of points! So fascinating.

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Netscape Memories (Part 1)

Twenty years ago this month, Jim Clark and I were planning the company that became Netscape. In the coming months, I may post the occasional memory from that time! To start, some thoughts on Jim Clark himself…

When I came to Silicon Valley in 01/94, Jim Clark was regarded like Elon Musk or Larry Page today. Top-top-top tech visionary and entrepreneur. Jim’s first company, Silicon Graphics Inc (SGI), was viewed much like Google today – the tech powerhouse all the genius engineers wanted to join. SGI invented modern 3D computer graphics-from Jurassic Park to today’s Call of Duty and Oculus Rift, including core tech “GL” (now OpenGL).

Jim had been a professor at Stanford. He and his grad students spun off into SGI and created entirely new worlds, one of best SV companies ever. Jim is a Silicon Valley renaissance man: academic, inventor, entrepreneur, business builder, visionary, marketer, leader, philanthropist.

My great stroke of luck happened when Jim left SGI in 1993, stayed on the SGI board and so couldn’t recruit cofounders for the next company out of SGI. This changed my life, since there were easily hundreds or thousands of SGI engineers way better than me! But Jim needed new blood. And so Jim’s desire to start a new company and his inability to recruit from SGI led to The Email that turned into Netscape. To be continued…

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

San Francisco’s Housing Problem

photo credit: Thomas Hawk - cc

photo credit: Thomas Hawkcc

It is time for fundamental reform of SF’s insane restrictions on residential building. Whenever I tweet about need for more housing supply in San Francisco, people respond that new high-end housing won’t help lower-income people. That is exactly backwards. New high-end housing supply will redirect demand that is currently causing prices of existing housing to rise.

If you want existing SF housing prices to stop rising or fall, you should logically cheer for as much new high-end building as possible. And of course, any/all building restrictions that are holding back BOTH high-end and low-end housing construction should be reformed ASAP.

The root cause of SF’s housing problem is the basic rule of supply and demand. Time to end the madness, including restrictions and price controls. The most effective way to protest SF’s housing problems is to exert pressure on the SF Board of Supervisors. They are the key. “Our approach to housing in San Francisco is very dysfunctional,” said Scott Wiener, a SF supervisor who is a proponent of new housing. “…The system is intentionally designed to make it as difficult as possible to build new housing.”

Andreessen’s tweets on the SF housing problem: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8


We Live In John Law’s World

john-lawThe most interesting person in Western history who most people have never heard of is John Law, the inventor of the concept of paper money. Born in Scotland, Law began by killing a man in a duel over the affections of Elizabeth Hamilton, former mistress of King William III. Law fled to the continent, and ultimately — and improbably — became Finance Minister to King Louis XV of France in 1716.

Law believed that money is only a means of exchange that doesn’t constitute wealth in itself, and that wealth flows from trade. As such, Law proposed and implemented paper money issued by the French government, and banned gold and silver currency. Contemporary economists screamed in protest, and yet the paper money plan worked. French economy roared to life.

Sadly, Law’s other project — the Mississippi Company — spectacularly imploded. Law fled France and died broke in Venice in 1729. Law was right. The international monetary system finally fully dropped the gold standard in 1971, 300 yrs after Law was born. We live in John Law’s world.

Schumpeter later wrote: “Law is in a class by himself. Brilliant and profound, placed in the front ranks of monetary theorists of all time.” I am willing to lay odds that Satoshi Nakamoto is John Law’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson.

Recommended Reading:

Sources: Andreessen’s tweets on John Law – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

America Didn’t Decline. It Went Global

Outstanding piece in Politico by Sean Starrs: America Didn’t Decline. It Went Global

We’ve been obsessing over the decline or persistence of American power [and American economy] for more than three decades now…Debating wrong data…[US economy judged by] national accounts: GDP, trade, debt, world share of manufacturing; versus other nations…This made sense before globalization–production largely contained within national borders; US firms export to compete abroad…Now, as largest companies have vast operations across the globe, equation between national accounts and national power breaks down…Even though China has virtual monopoly on export of iPhones, it is Apple that reaps the majority of profits from iPhone sales…More broadly, more than three-quarters of the top 200 exporting firms from China are actually foreign, not Chinese….National accounts like GDP & trade seriously underestimate American power, and seriously overestimate Chinese [& other] power…Of 25 economic sectors, American firms have leading profit share in 18 sectors, and dominate (w/profit share of 38%+) in 13 sectors…US firms dominate tech with whopping 84% of profit share…plus 89% of health care equipment+services sector, 53% of pharma and bio…US dominance of financial services has increased since 2008 crash, from 47% in 2007 to an incredible 66% profit share in 2013…US companies still ultimately owned by US citizens–of top 100 US transnational companies: average of 85%+ of the shares are owned by Americans. 

Source: Andreessen’s tweets quoting the article: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12


Senator Joe Manchin’s Position on Bitcoin

manchinLet’s explore the newly announced positions of American Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVa):

  • Manchin is FOR suppressing pro-consumer and pro-small business innovation in financial services to increase choices, lower fees, and sell globally.
  • Manchin is FOR continuation of 2008-era US financial services industry for the long term; entrenchment of status quo and Too Big To Fail.
  • Manchin is FOR maintaining high credit-card fees for much of American economy, reducing standard of living for many Americans including poor.
  • Manchin is FOR sustaining ~10% remittance fees for hardworking immigrants toiling 60-hour hard labor in US to send money back to families.
  • Manchin is FOR crippling high-job-growth US tech industry in important new field; forcing Bitcoin innovation and jobs to foreign countries.
  • SUMMARY: Manchin is FOR high fees for regular consumers and poor immigrants, 2008’s brittle US financial system, and kneecapping the US tech industry.

Source: Andreessen’s tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7