Consider the Tractor

Consider the development of the tractor, which mechanized virtually all of agriculture over the 20th century. Somehow new desires and demands sprung up for new kinds of manufactured goods, many of pure entertainment value, and people stayed employed and real wages kept rising.

Capital Eats the World – by Suresh Naidu

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3


Stance on Net Neutrality

Since people asked, my own “strong views weakly held” personal stance on Net Neutrality: We need to somehow both retain permissionless Internet innovation and telcos ability to get a return on capital for network investment.

My preferred policy route would center on promoting regulation/deregulation and incentives for more last-mile broadband competition. I see the potential for at least 5-way last-mile broadband competition, at least in non-rural areas:

  • A: Cable
  • B: Telco
  • C: Google Fiber
  • D: Mobile carrier networks LTE and beyond
  • E: Wifi and future derivatives

There are a whole bunch of things that could accelerate and enhance C, D, and E. We should identify and do those things ASAP. One key topic is wireless spectrum; need to get a lot more in the hands of both mobile carriers and into unlicensed classification. Wifi in particular seems underestimated: If a lot more/different spectrum were available, it could go much faster and longer range.

In addition, there are a variety of new ideas including satellites/drones, Steve Perlman’s DIDO, etc.; we should warmly embrace those. With sufficient local competition, regulatory pressure much reduced: If one provider plays games, consumers can switch to another.

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10


The Great Under-Appreciated Miracle of the iPhone

photo credit: Christopher Chan - cc

photo credit: Christopher Chancc

The great under-appreciated miracle of the iPhone — couldn’t make a reliable phone call for approximately 3 years, yet it was a glorious success anyway!

Question: To what extent was that the origin of the current phenomenon of users abandoning voice calls in favor of texting + social networks? The ultimate rope-a-dope marketing strategy. “Aha, you thought you were buying a phone? Guess again!!”

Could that rope-a-dope marketing strategy work in other fields? Video games? Cars? Banking? Health insurance?

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5


Silicon Valley Syndrome

A growing problem I see often now, arguably the ultimate first world problem, but still a problem, and fascinating to watch. I call it “Silicon Valley Syndrome“. A high-end applied version of the Paradox of Choice applied to genius, high-potential tech whizzes. Acute strains among Stanford grads and young alumni of the largest hot companies like Google etc. But not limited to them, it can infect anyone here.

Presents as achievements and career paralysis overload of too many great choices freezes the ability to decide, commit, and stick to one thing. Do important work for a big company, take one of 20 hot start-up offers, found your own company with any of 5-10 possible co-founders and become a junior venture capitalist? Agggh!

Not nipped in the bud, it becomes chronic, damages 5-10 prime career years. The resume becomes a saga of job hopping. Once potent potential dissipates. Years later, friends and colleagues wonder, whatever happened to X? He/she seemed to have such high potential. Such a shame. Such a waste. It rarely strikes 18-22 year olds. It often starts at age 26 after four years at the hot company. Most common between the ages of 26-32. At age 35 and older, people are either lost forever or come to their senses.

Friends of new sufferers encouraged to slap you silly, exclaim “What’s wrong with you? Pick a thing and stick with it! This is not that hard!“.

Unexpected side effect: More great opportunities open up sooner than they should for new up and comers. Then the cycle repeats.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10


Advantages Of Mobile Native Apps Versus The Mobile Web

Here are the current advantages of mobile native apps versus the mobile web, at least as commonly used and deployed today.

Applications often have more mobile-native user interfaces, at least relative to web experiences that have not been extensively adapted for mobile.

Mobile native apps often have better performance than mobile web. This is meaningful given the latency issues with many mobile networks.

Mobile native apps often have better and more complete access to mobile hardware capabilities, This is meaningful given the rapid hardware evolution.

Mobile operating systems have acclimated users to having icons for mobile apps on their home screen versus icons for mobile web bookmarks.

Mobile native apps have easy monetization methods that the web has historically lacked, including in-app payments and recurring subscriptions.

Mobile native apps have access to OS notification feeds that web experiences don’t (or don’t easily).

The $64 billion question: Is there a software breakthrough on the way that will do for mobile what browsers did for desktops/laptops?

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

Characteristics of The Web Not Recreated or Partially Recreated With Mobile Apps So Far

Characteristics of the web that have not been recreated, or have only partially been recreated with mobile apps so far.

Universal client – One piece of code on each client device that runs all apps, removing the need to install and manage client code.

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One-click App Access (“install”) – Run any app by clicking on a link.

Permissionless Innovation – No approval required by anyone to bring new web apps online; no opportunity to bottleneck or censor.

Instant Universal Updating – Make a server-side change and all running instances of the app are simultaneously upgraded.

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Trivially easy creation of situation-specific apps with any programming/scripting language on any operating system. Some being just a few lines of code.

Deeply integrated Link (URL) Model, Framework, Format, Specification – Native to how apps work and how users experience them.

Trivially easy integration and layering of 3rd party services with web content apps, from search engines to social networks to Twitter.

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Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

Prevailing Beliefs on Tech Innovation

Prevailing beliefs that I do not share:

  • Tech innovation is dead.
  • Tech innovation is dead except for the part that will kill all the jobs.
  • Tech innovation is dead except for the part that will kill all the jobs and give all the money to the 1%.
  • QE is hopelessly distorting the economy.
  • Hyperinflation is right around the corner.
  • Hyperinflation is right around the corner and interest rates are about to skyrocket.
  • Five billion more people are getting access to the most amazing tools for education, information, creation, and access to markets ever…and yet they will figure out how to do… absolutely nothing with them, and are doomed to lives of spiraling poverty and despair.

Source: tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10


Critiquing Tech

A common critique of new tech from outsiders is “Yes, sure, it’s great tech, but it will never have practical value or usefulness.” I think that is almost always a form of fake sophistication. It sounds sophisticated but it’s not. It’s a hat tap followed by a slam.

Yes, sure, the automobile is great tech, but it’s not like normal people are going to use it to get from point A to point B.

Yes, sure, the television is great tech, but it’s not like normal people are ever going to prefer it to a good stage play.

Yes, sure, the refrigerator is great tech, but it’s not like you’d ever actually store your meat in it.

As such, this critique is usually what theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli called “not even wrong”. There’s no logical substance or flow. When techies critique tech, it’s more: “This new tech is interesting, but it’s missing properties X, Y, and Z to be used in that way.” That critique can be either right or wrong, and vigorous debate follows. That’s how a lot of technological progress is made. Hence, from the structure of the critique, you can often inductively determine the qualifications of the critic to make the critique.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

Degrees of Tech Cynicism

Degrees of tech cynicism from crude to nuanced?

  • That can’t possibly work.
  • It’ll work, but normal people will never use it.
  • Normal people will use it, but it’s trivial.
  • It will never replace [legacy].
  • It will replace [legacy], which is why the world is going to hell.
  • Yes, fine, but just wait until [big company] does it.
  • Yes, fine, but just wait until [hypothetical better version that doesn’t actually exist] does it.
  • I can’t believe how much money those kids made from that.
  • It’s a clear and obvious bubble.
  • Whatever, innovation is dead.

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11


Technology Shapes Human Affairs

“We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”—JM Culkin paraphrasing Marshall McLuhan, 1967.

“It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. When our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to…incorporate the whole of mankind in us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every action. The ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.” – Marshall McLuhan

Source: Andreessen’s Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5