The Man Who Makes the Future: Wired Icon Marc Andreessen

Andreessen: Airbnb makes its money in real estate. But everything inside of how Airbnb runs has much more in common with Facebook or Google or Microsoft or Oracle than with any real estate company. What makes Airbnb function is its software engine, which matches customers to properties, sets prices, flags potential problems. It’s a tech company—a company where, if the developers all quit tomorrow, you’d have to shut the company down. To us, that’s a good thing.

Anderson: I’m probably a little bit elitist in this, but I think a “primary technology” would need to involve, you know, some fundamental new insight in code, some proprietary set of algorithms.

Andreessen: Oh, I agree. I think Airbnb is building a software technology that is equivalent in complexity, power, and importance to an operating system. It’s just applied to a sector of the economy instead. This is the basic insight: Software is eating the world. The Internet has now spread to the size and scope where it has become economically viable to build huge companies in single domains, where their basic, world-changing innovation is entirely in the code. We’ve especially seen it in retail—with companies like Groupon, Zappos, Fab.

“Amazon is a force for human progress and culture and economics in a way that Borders never was.”

The Man Who Makes the Future: Wired Icon Marc Andreessen

Quote

So, our regulators go off, they blithely pass these laws, and they become part of the reality of our technological world. There are, suddenly, numbers that we aren’t allowed to write down on the Internet, programs we’re not allowed to publish, and all it takes to make legitimate material disappear from the Internet is the mere accusation of copyright infringement. It fails to attain the goal of the regulation, because it doesn’t stop people from violating copyright, but it bears a kind of superficial resemblance to copyright enforcement—it satisfies the security syllogism: “something must be done, I am doing something, something has been done.” As a result, any failures that arise can be blamed on the idea that the regulation doesn’t go far enough, rather than the idea that it was flawed from the outset.

Cory Doctorow — The coming war on general purpose computing

Quote

Elizabeth Eisenstein, our leading Gutenberg scholar, says that after the press, people no longer needed to use rhyme as a tool to memorize recipes and other such information. Instead, we now relied on text printed on paper. I have no doubt that curmudgeons at the time lamented lost skills. Text became our new collective memory. Sound familiar? Google is simply an even more effective cultural memory machine. I think it has already made us a more fact-based; when in doubt about a fact, we no longer have to trudge to the library but can expect to find the answer in seconds.

[…]

The real need for education in the economy will be re-education. As industries go through disruption and jobs are lost forever, people will need to be retrained for new roles. Our present educational structure is not built for that but in that I see great entrepreneurial opportunity.

Jeff Jarvis — Rewired youth?

Quote

While it is conceivable that PayPal could become a ‘financial API’, capitalizing all of the pieces of a production value chain, PayPal, like eBay, is an artifact of the transition to hyperconnectivity, an arbitrageur exploiting imperfections in hyperconnectivity. Once everyone is directly connected, it is possible to transfer capital between peers, without any mediating exchange service.

Given the capital flow restrictions of central banks, fiat currencies can not be employed in transactions crossing international boundaries. Instead, individuals and organizations will begin to develop their own exchange mechanisms, perhaps based on precious metals (a de facto return to the gold standard), but more likely employing virtual currencies: perhaps kilowatt-hours, abstract ‘labour units’, or other measures of value.

[…]

As capital migrates from friction-filled national and international finance markets into hypereconomic frameworks, institutions dependent upon those frictions will be threatened. Banks will not be able to collect interest. Governments will not be able to tax – customs duties and user fees look to be the only ways governments can generate revenue. Courts will not be able to seize assets. The peculiar arrangement of laws and regulations which keep our economic system stable will grow increasingly meaningless. Governments and courts will try to follow capital flows into hypereconomic zones, only to learn that their mechanisms of control and enforcement are poorly matched to such a fluid environment.

Mark Pesce — Hypereconomics

Quote

We’re living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That’s because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.

Douglas Rushkoff — Are Jobs Obsolete?

Aside

The Local-Global Flip, Or, “The Lanier Effect”. Absolutely fascinating interview. Two technologies on the cusp of going mainstream: self-driving cars and (dis)assembling robots. Also, technological efficiencies tend to have a positive benefit to the already wealthy (you save more money) but a negative benefit to the already middle-class or poor (you don’t have any money to begin with). What do we do when machines can do it better?

Colleges in crisis

The success of these online competitors and the crisis among many of higher education’s traditional institutions are far from unique. These are familiar steps in a process known as “disruptive innovation” that has occurred in many industries, from accounting and music to communications and computers. It is the process by which products and services that were once so expensive, complicated, inaccessible, and inconvenient that only a small fraction of people could access them, are transformed into simpler, more accessible and convenient forms that are also, ultimately, lower in cost. We are seeing it happen more rapidly than one could have imagined in higher education, as online learning has exploded: roughly 10 percent of students took at least one online course in 2003, 25 percent in 2008, and nearly 30 percent in the fall of 2009.

[…]

Although this transition has begun, much of online learning’s promise for higher education is still on the horizon. For example, online learning has not yet led to lower prices from the perspective of many students—even though many of the online universities operate at lower costs than the traditional universities and enable students to fit coursework around existing jobs or other responsibilities. To date, moreover, significant portions of online learning have not taken advantage of this new medium to personalize instruction and create new, dynamic and individualized learning pathways within a course for students.

Clayton Christensen — Colleges in crisis. Emphasis mine.

Aside

But not knowing what plagiarism is isn’t really the problem. It’s unfortunate that right now the university is cracking down so hard on plagiarism. And the reason the university is cracking down so hard on plagiarism is because their product is less and less valuable these days. When students plagiarize, there’s an implicit recognition that “I’m just doing this for the grade.” That’s why they do it. And that’s the way that the majority of students look at the university, and have been for some time now. At my college, the frats had rooms full of file cabinets full of plagiarized papers. Plagiarism is old news. It’s really not just that plagiarism is getting easier to do, with the Internet. The problem is now that the grade doesn’t even get you the job.

The History of Dialogue: Other People’s Papers. (via Andrew and Robin)