The Nature of the Tech Revolution

I’m only just diving into cryptocurrencies, the blockchain, and bitcoin et all. 

You’ve probably been hearing these words buzzing around, and not paid too much attention. I’ll try and write more in the future here to keep you clued in.

But I’m not surprised you’ve tuned out. 

At this point we’re in the middle of a revolution bringing simultaneous massive breakthroughs. 

  • Biotech advancements that augment our bodies and extend our lifespan.
  • Space travel and the switch to electric from fossil fuels. 
  • The “Internet of Things.”
  • The Ai Revolution. 

And those are just a few. 

I want to point out something simple but profound about what’s to come, that might make you pay a bit more attention. It’s why we’re living in a revolution instead of just, I don’t know, a non-revolution. 

When a revolution happens, when a new paradigm occurs, it tends to have new behaviors that are totally different than what’s come before it. 

The old adage is, “If Ford had asked what people wanted, they wold have said a better horse.”

These concepts are not a better horse. They’re a car, with profound new application opportunities. For example they might take gasoline (new input) but also have high powered breaking systems you can control (new output).

That means that the invention of the car was the invention of Big Oil.

The invention of Big Oil lead to lobbying, and some say, wars. 

The invention of the car also lead to suburbanization, since workers could head into the city easily to their jobs and return back to their own homesteads. 

The point is that the invention of the car was not a better mousetrap. It was the start of a system that lead to emergent behaviors that would shape our society. 

Cryptocurrency and Ai, are more like a new species being born, rather than just one animal. Like the entire class of mammals starting vs. the birth of a certain type of chimpanzee. 

What I mean is that Crypotcurrency isn’t a new finite invention. Neither is Ai. It’s a new system.  And when systems evolve, things change dramatically. 

As we saw with the car, suddenly people are able to move to the suburbs. And the effect shaped our culture at large. But there’s no way that we could have predicated that as a product. 

These systems are all being paved right now, so it's worth looking at their components. 

1. They are decentralized (and thus limitless).

There’s no boundary when it’s a new system, and no one is in control. (Mostly) everyone can build in them. 

2. They are built autonomously by individuals (and they adapt regularly, sometimes by mutation).

Individuals everywhere are simultaneously testing new boundaries in these fields. It’s like having 100 types of birds all living in one forest, all trying to survive. It’s Darwinian. Think: Capitalism. 

3. They are highly connected (and so we perform new behaviors, together).

The group performs together to create results, even if everyone is only working individually. We’re interdependent, yet separate. Think: Wikipedia. 

4.They aren’t predictable (because no one is in charge). 

Who runs the web?  Everyone talking about these topics is only thinking within the ways that they know things work now. But there will be unforeseen benefits and consequences. We’re all driving but no one knows exactly where, we can only all just put in our inputs into the system and hope it steers us in a direction. This is the idea of the Black Swan (as Nassim Taleb calls it).

So I guess what I’m really trying to point out for people pondering new technology is this: 

Don’t expect this to function like a new invention. This isn’t the light bulb in your house.

Look at it like a totally new system. 
A new way of work. A shift in our culture.  With strange behaviors that will replace the old behaviors. The reason we have a hard time understanding the terminology, is because it's a new way of looking at things which needs it's own lexicon. 

100 years ago we were all farmers. 

Today we’re all working on skyscrapers on the computer. 

In 50 years we might be at home picking out art on a screen to feed into a display that generates art and sound for a symphony that 1,000 people are helping create and 50,000 people are attending from home.


Why Crypto Tokens Matter - a16z Podcast