I’ve been lucky enough to have some time off over the previous weeks (in Florence, Singapore, Bali, and Bordeaux) and this has been the opportunity to read several long, forward-looking pieces that were in my reading list. I’m commenting on the best below. Some pieces are full of hope, others more grim — for the latter, let’s keep in mind that every problem is an opportunity — but overall they all simply highlight how important it is to step back from the short-term stuff and to think about where things are headed. I hope you enjoy reading these!
How the Internet Gets Inside Us (The New Yorker): Read this first as an intro, or last as a wrap-up. It’s a really great piece that summarizes 3 attitudes towards the change brought about by the Web. (See my individual post here for the key points.)
The End of the Future (National Review): an essay by Peter Thiel, Facebook investor formerly founder and CEO of Paypal. Thiel essentially argues that we as a society have lost our appetite for Big Accomplishments, and that we need to realize this in order to find a path back to the future. Progress is not easy, but we can’t live without it:
We need science and technology to dig us out of our deep economic and financial hole, even though most of us cannot separate science from superstition or technology from magic. In our hearts and minds, we know that desperate optimism will not save us. Progress is neither automatic nor mechanistic; it is rare.
Why Facebook’s new Open Graph makes us all part of the web underclass (Guardian): Another grim piece, this time more focused on web technology. Essentially, the issue is that Facebook (and other “social” players) are shifting the engagement (and therefore, the social recognition we all seek) towards closed ecosystems, where we are basically enslaved. This has me worried, and fighting back. We should be careful about whose property we seed our data into. Related: Why Your Personal Data Is The New Oil (I’ll post about this separately later). Ready to be worried, too? Read this excerpt:
The promise of the open web looks increasingly uncertain. The technology will continue to exist and improve. It looks like you’ll be able to run your own web server on your own domain for the foreseeable future. But all the things that matter will be controlled and owned by a very small number of Big Web companies. Your identity will be your accounts at Facebook, Google and Twitter, not the domain name you own.
You don’t pay Big Web a single penny so it can take away your identity and all your data at any time. The things you can say and do that are likely to be seen and used by any significant number of people will be the things that Facebook, Google and Twitter are happy for you to say and do. You can do what you like on your own website but you’ll probably be shouting into the void.
The End of Management(WSJ): Highlights challenges that 21st century companies need to tackle. And in particular, new companies should figure out early on how to succeed in these 3 dimensions:
- Better resource allocation
- Motivation and inspiration of employees
- Efficient information gathering
The World Is An Internet Startup Now (Searchblog): John Battelle argues enthusiastically (and I 100% agree!) that the web is transforming the way people think about business in a variety of fields:
The Internet no longer belongs to the young tech genius with a great idea and the means to execute it online. Innovation on the Internet now belongs to the world, and that is perhaps the most exciting thing about this space. It’s attracting not just the “next Mark Zuckerberg,” but also thousands of super smart innovators from every field imaginable, each of whom brings extraordinary insights and drive to play. And that’s another reason I love this industry, because, in the end, it’s not a singular business. It now encapsulates the human narrative, writ very large.
The Age of Insight (Tightwind): Kyle Baxter highlights the bright side of how things are changing: we have never enjoyed this much freedom, access to information, exposure to others’ passions and skills. But this also gives us a larger piece of responsibility than before:
This century is about having a vision for the way things should be, and the audacity to make it so. Just a decade or two ago, it took immense amounts of capital to launch an idea that could change the world. Now, it takes a few people with an idea, a computer, and the willingness to learn how to build it.
The only thing holding us back now is ourselves. We are all artists, designers, manufacturers, managers, musicians, writers, creators—if we choose to be. And that is the fundamental difficulty of this new age: we all are responsible for our own success.
Amusing ourselves to death (Stuart McMillen via Accelerating Future): we are still navigating between to rather ugly scenarios, put forth by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.
Building ships and having maps for the journey is important, but should never hide the most critical part: where we’re headed.
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