You spend more time than almost anyone else looking at tech news stories. What is your favorite story in tech from the last year and why?
The so called rise of the creator economy. Marc Andreessen has this theory that there were three ages of the Internet so far. In age one, no one would pay for anything. In age two, everything was paid for via advertising support. Now, he says we’re in age three where people are finally willing to pay for stuff. As someone who’s been around long enough to remember when people were skeptical if Amazon could take off because no one would ever put their credit card online, I think it’s fascinating and validating to see anyone can make money on the internet at long last. And by make money, I mean, can be paid directly for their work. Now, that is the upside of it: the long promise of the democratization of creativity fulfilled. The dark side might be: someday the whole economy is just creating content for others to buy. We’re all trying to get each other to watch each other’s livestream or something in some sort of vicious circle. That would be the dystopian outcome, I guess.
Who did you look up to while growing up and who inspires you today?
I looked up to writers and filmmakers. I say a lot that in the 80s and 90s, you didn’t have this worshipping of entrepreneurs and business folk. If you felt you wanted to make a “dent in the universe” you tried to be an artist. A rock star or something. So I grew up wanting to be Tarantino. I was part of the exact generation where that changed and Tarantino was supplanted by Steve Jobs in people’s minds.
I guess today I’m inspired by people who make things because they think they’re cool, not because they want to be a billionaire. So, maybe to bring it full circle, I’m inspired by founders who found because of their driven by their own internal creativity. The artist as an entrepreneur, I guess.
How would you describe the themes of the last decades of tech? What do you think will be the themes of the next decade?
The 2010s were about Tech Taking Over The World! There was like 1 tech company in 2000 that was in the top 10 of most valuable companies. Now there are 8 or more, depending on the day. Also, the last decade was the tech landscape coalescing into this oligarchy of like half a dozen big firms that run everything. Now, maybe that will continue, i.e. network effects lead to platforms lead to oligarchs. Or maybe this new creator economy really will allow a thousand flowers to bloom.
What is one contrarian view you have on the future of tech?
I have so many! We are STILL a decade (or more) away from self-driving cars taking over in a meaningful way. I’ve been waiting for 30 years for VR to go mainstream and feel like I could wait another 30. Though, I’m much more bullish on AR getting to be meaningfully important by the end of this decade. In the here and now, I’m very skeptical that the remote work revolution will be as all encompassing as people think. And put me in the Elon Musk camp: I do not welcome our AI overlords. I do think that the AI revolution of the coming decades will create vast improvements to society, but are we literally training our replacements, in the evolutionary sense?
If you could go back and be there for one moment in tech history what would it be and why?
All of them! But to pick one? Those first meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club when Gates and Jobs and everyone was there just as a bunch of dorks obsessed with a hobby, but and industry was accidentally being born at the same time.