Software is eating the world.
We underestimate the increasing power of software.
4 Reasons why. First 3 are not unique to this software era.
- Technological change unfolds exponentially (like compound interest) — we overestimate the effect of technology in the short run and underestimate in the long run.
- During the transition, it gets chaotic. We shift our attention from the quiet change to the economic crises, political affairs and apocalyptic fears.
- Impact of software appears in disguised form. i.e. drones appear to be driven by hardware innovations, but it was mostly software innovations.
- The most important and unique takeaway is that we underestimate this revolution because it is led by “brash young kids rather than sober adults."
Using software as leverage, people don’t have to follow a strict social order to create economic, political and social wealth, unlike before.
To get ahead, you must adopt a hacker ethos — "a problem solving sensibility based on rapid trial-and-error and creative improvisation. "
Software has disrupted the traditional life script, which went like this: 12 years of regimented industrial schooling, 4 years devoted to specialization, lifetime employment with predictable seniority-based promotions, and middle-class lifestyles.
- “Instead of software, the traditional script runs on what we might call paperware: bureaucratic processes constructed from the older soft technologies of writing and money. Instead of the hackers ethos of flexible and creative improvisation, it is based on the credentials ethos of degrees, certification, licenses and regulations. Instead of being based on achieving financial autonomy early, it is based on taking significant debt (for college and home ownership) early.”
- This was once a life style that worked but not anymore. Despite that, many people are still following that path and betting on the old social order.
Software is a Promethean technology: it emerged within a mature, industrial social order (AT&T, IBM, DARPA, MIT), but its true potential was unleashed by an emerging one (Silicon Valley), which gains power as a result.
Each of us are faced with a dilemma: "should I abandon some of my investments in the industrial social order and join the dynamic new social order, or hold on to the status quo as long as possible?”
- While some are breaking out of it, others are choosing to hold on to it more tenaciously than ever.
- the latter can be said to have a “pastoral mindset” — one marked by yearning for lost or unattained utopias.
- “The future depends on increasing numbers of people choosing the Promethean option."
The main takeaway I got from this essay is the importance of shifting our mindset. To get ahead in this new wold dominated by software, we need to embrace the uncertainties. We need to be open to experiment and stop relying on the predictable and rigid path that was laid out during the industrial era.
To do this, we need to adopt an entrepreneurial sensibility, where we do less planning and more creating through trial-and-error. Software is so accessible that anyone connected to the developing world can be like this.
This essay elicits frustration from me because, when I look around, I see many people betting on the old path. I see many young kids being put on a system that no longer sets them up for success. I see many parents that believe in the importance of traditional school and college more than ever. I see many people who think the solution to our lagging educational system is to throw more money at it.
Many people are unknowingly setting themselves up, or being set up, for failure. This will continue unless they fundamentally change their mindset.