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So what do you think are the big problems being worked on today which people are overlooking because the technology isn't as sexy as self-driving cars? I agree with you that funding chases the flashy stuff, and real businesses are built on substance. I'm just curious what you think will end up breaking out from this era of funding.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but I heard an interesting tidbit from a famous investor about the dot com bubble: you either invested in Google or you didn't. I wonder if things will turn out similar this time as I still haven't seen a good IPO from a tech company in years (would love for people to provide counter-examples as I don't track this very closely).




If I knew that, I'd a.) be a lot richer than I am and b.) wouldn't tell the Internet.

I just feel that we're looking in the wrong places for the next big idea. The next big idea invariably seems to grow out of the next small idea; ideas that are big from the beginning almost never work. (Gall's Law: "A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.")


I'm sympathetic to the small idea thing (I wrote a long comment to your original reply). But that doesn't seem true in the case of the web and the PC.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee

This project is experimental and of course comes without any warranty whatsoever. However, it could start a revolution in information access.

- (19 August 1991), the announcement of the first WWW hypertext browser on the Usenet newsgroup comp.sys.next.announce.

TBL knew that the WWW would be "world wide". He explicitly designed it that way.

So I would say the web is small TECHNOLOGY, but not a small idea. It was a huge idea.

Although honestly, I don't think the tech was that small for the day either. GUIs + networking was not super easy in 1991. There were still a lot of unsolved problems (e.g. DOS wasn't even a multi-tasking OS, I remember you had to download WinSock or whatever to use NetScape on Windows 3.1).

Likewise, Wozniak wanted to "own his own computer" so he built one. I don't think that's a small idea either. I guess you can say that it is one that most people wouldn't understand the utility of though.


Linus Torvald's first email re: Linux belongs here:

> I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones.


Yeah that quote definitely crossed my mind. However I think the OP is confusing ideas vs. systems:

The next big idea invariably seems to grow out of the next small idea; ideas that are big from the beginning almost never work.

That doesn't really make sense with respect to ideas. The real quote is about SYSTEMS, from this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Systems-Bible-Beginners-Guide-Large/d...

The system is the realization of the idea. You can have a big idea, but you can't implement it all at once. TBL had a big idea, which is necessarily a big system. So he grew it from a very small piece of code (HTTP 1.0 was ridiculously simple.) There was an unbroken chain from small system to big system.

The misleading thing about Linux is that it IS IN FACT a big idea -- it's just not a technological idea. We already knew how to write monolithic kernels. But the real innovation is the software development process. The fact that thousands of programmers can ship a working kernel with little coordination is amazing. That Linus wrote git is not an accident; he's an expert in software collaboration and evolution.

Linux is a universal hardware abstraction layer, which is an easy idea in theory, but extremely difficult in practice until Linus figured out how to make it work.

So Linux is a big idea too, as well as a small system that grew into a big system.

-----

This reminds me of Paul Graham's advice: http://www.paulgraham.com/ambitious.html

Let me conclude with some tactical advice. If you want to take on a problem as big as the ones I've discussed, don't make a direct frontal attack on it. Don't say, for example, that you're going to replace email. If you do that you raise too many expectations. Your employees and investors will constantly be asking "are we there yet?" and you'll have an army of haters waiting to see you fail. Just say you're building todo-list software. That sounds harmless.

Empirically, the way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things. Want to dominate microcomputer software? Start by writing a Basic interpreter for a machine with a few thousand users. Want to make the universal web site? Start by building a site for Harvard undergrads to stalk one another.

I think that's pretty much in line with what's said here. You can have a big idea, a big 10 year goal, but you have to break in into steps. Gates had an explicit goal of "a PC on every desk" and Zuckerberg had an explicit goal of "connecting the world" (at some point, not at the very beginning). But they necessarily started small.


> The next big idea invariably seems to grow out of the next small idea;

Spot on and the key words here are "grow out". It seems that most Big Things simply slowly grow.


Well you didn't live up to your username.


A huge problem is Education. It's hard to tell which way the solution lies in, yet.


I have no idea what the big problems are but VCs are chasing a lot of stupid ideas. The one I can think of right now is Juicero. I can't believe even Google Ventures funded it! Really are people willing to spend $600 for a machine and $8 a pack of juice? What kind of market analysis did they do? And the founder had not engineering background. And they overdesigned the machine. How about something hand-cranked like a pasta press for 10% of the cost? You can even put a eco friendly twist to it.


It's not what you know, it's who you know.


What does the tidbit mean? That the success or failure of a VC / Investor during those times was whether you invested in Google?


> So what do you think are the big problems being worked on today which people are overlooking because the technology isn't as sexy as self-driving cars?

Making computers disappear.


I totally disagree with this.

1. "computers" HAVE disappeared; AKA ubiquitous surveillance is already here.

2. I dont want to see a bunch of people flailing their arms. I dont want a new crop of "lip readers" who are looking at the body movements of others and intercepting their actions intentions (imaging ML/AI/CV applied to watching a crowd of people and IDing all the apps/interactions/intentions they are performing)

3. Organic Humanism will be a thing. Fuck technology - I literally want to walk into Yosemite and not have a single digital thread connecting me to the outside world.

4. Central control. "invisible computers" literally means that ALL power over human thought shall exist in the "cloud" -- where all control/tech/physicality is abstracted from any naive mind.

5. Education flounders; Try teaching some kids about the state of the internet in 20 years when they have never seen a computer in physicality. They have only interacted (unknowingly, ubiquitously, and without their will 100% of their entire little lives) -- entering a FaceGoog.gov datacenter would literally be like Neo waking up in the Matrix vat of human sludge.

So -- as someone who was pushing for and played my tiny part in the creation of the state of things due to my awe of the imagined future of cyberpunk reality. FUCK THIS IDEA COMPLETELY and kill it with fire...

I could go on...


> I could go on

You could, but please don't because you take a one line comment, completely fail to understand it and its implications and then give a whole pile of wild exaggerations based on that misunderstanding.


Please expand. You take one line, attach some deeper meaning to it and then denigrate those who "misunderstand" a single phrase. Also, you attempt to make me look the fool by not understanding the simplistic genius of your comment. If it is so easy to get - then why didn't I get it?

So, no. Your comment is BS - making computers invisible, if its such a deeper meaning that I missed -- explain.

That's as infamous for you as the "you're holding it wrong" statement is for Jobs. :-P

Thanks


> You take one line, attach some deeper meaning to it and then denigrate those who "misunderstand" a single phrase.

No, I read all of your comment and wished you had not written it at all because it is basically just noise.

> So, no. Your comment is BS - making computers invisible, if its such a deeper meaning that I missed -- explain.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubiquitous_computing

To take your comment point-by-point:

> 1. "computers" HAVE disappeared; AKA ubiquitous surveillance is already here.

But does not necessarily have anything to do with pervasive computing, though, when mis-used can definitely be a factor. But it is perfectly possible to have ubiquitous surveillance even in the absence of computers, see the former SovBloc countries. So this does not at all follow.

What you are arguing against is 'the cloud' and the services built upon it, Facebook and Google versus systems at your command and under your control.

If you mix those two then you have something that I agree is problematic but this need not happen.

> 2. I dont want to see a bunch of people flailing their arms. I dont want a new crop of "lip readers" who are looking at the body movements of others and intercepting their actions intentions (imaging ML/AI/CV applied to watching a crowd of people and IDing all the apps/interactions/intentions they are performing)

I don't want that either. But again, the one does not follow from the other. It's a ridiculous exaggeration. Now, for sure there will be 'bad actors' who will attempt - and who might even succeed - at achieving any or even all of this.

But they do not need ubiquitous computing in order to achieve it, the stuff available today is more than powerful enough to do this.

> 3. Organic Humanism will be a thing. Fuck technology - I literally want to walk into Yosemite and not have a single digital thread connecting me to the outside world.

Some people implanting RFID markers in their bodies (which I consider just about as strange as tattoos or piercings, in other words I'm fine with other people doing it but I would never do it myself) does not translate into you not being able to walk into nature to 'disconnect'. I'm a borderline Luddite myself, don't have a smartphone, do not subscribe to Facebook or Whatsapp. I don't want my car to 'phone home' nor do I want my refrigerator to tell me what to eat or place orders on my behalf. Even so, I do not begrudge others that do want those things and I'd love to see a good chunk of RPF's 'There's plenty of room at the bottom' come to life.

For me the rule with devices is that if I own them they don't communicate unless I want them to and if that's not the case then I won't buy them.

> 4. Central control. "invisible computers" literally means that ALL power over human thought shall exist in the "cloud" -- where all control/tech/physicality is abstracted from any naive mind.

That's utter science fiction and unlikely to come to pass within the foreseeable future.

Again, I agree that control is the key and if this stuff is going to happen then I will do what I can to make sure that control remains with the ultimate beneficiary: the user. So no 'Nest' for me, and no 'Siri' or 'Ok, Google'.

> 5. Education flounders; Try teaching some kids about the state of the internet in 20 years when they have never seen a computer in physicality. They have only interacted (unknowingly, ubiquitously, and without their will 100% of their entire little lives) -- entering a FaceGoog.gov datacenter would literally be like Neo waking up in the Matrix vat of human sludge.

Ridiculous. Getting an education about anything has never been easier than it is today. Computers have never been more accessible than they are today. I had to save for two whole years in order to be able to buy a minimally capable system in the 80's. Today $35 and change will get you a Raspberry Pi that will run circles (and tight ones too) around that good old 6502 and it will allow you to write and run programs that I could only dream of back in the day.

Even your browser serves as a pretty powerful computing environment these days.

Getting hung up on the hardware aspect of computing is weird in a way, after all computing is operations on data, that's a totally abstract thing that it requires hardware at some level is nice and good but in the end it is the results that matter.

If you wanted to have a discussion at what the impact of this change will/would be then you missed an opportunity by filling it in with your wildest imagination set to 'dark' rather than something realistic and with a reasonable chance of actually happening.

So, in closing, you utterly missed the point and no matter how long your list would be I highly doubt it would be more connected to reality than the list you already gave.


Bullshit. If it was "noise" then you wouldnt need to expain yourself. as you are making the arrogant assumption of everyone to 'know' what you mean. Thus you pointing to a wikipedia explanation "see look you should already have known of this wiki page!!!" type of comment.

--

1.1.:

>see the former SovBloc countries. So this does not at all follow

Uh, were the analog agents that were sittin monitoring the activities not the analog (to wit) of the "invisible computer that is ubiquitous???

They didnt gather al their intel passively in the walls with no sensors, human or otherwise. So, I disagree.

I am not arguing against the cloud - but the Stasi, et al, ARE the modern cloud.

2: Now, for sure there will be 'bad actors' who will attempt - and who might even succeed

Sure, but please define for me a "good actor" - how shall one ID a good one? FB? Nope. Reddit? Nope. Palantir? NOPE.

All surveillence tech is being embedded in "good actor consumer services" such that the lines are blurred.

I would submit that your perception of "good actor" vs "bad actor" is simplistic; 'Does the consumer USE the service and not bitch?'== good actor in your world view (this is not an attack, but an obversatorial-question)

3. -- We agree, except:

I want to walk under a natural realm not covered by .gov satellites and invisible computers/sensors watching my every move to make sure I am staying "within the rules". Such environs become plastic at the point where I cannot ensure complete privacy (I wonder why the elite build underground???)

4. Nope. We live in "utter science fiction" TODAY. We all, including yourself, are guity of reading "utter science fiction" and then developing that which we imagine. To quote the Masons/Mayans/Essenes: All existed in thought first.

We imagined it -- that which we imagined is made manifest.

5. "easier" does NOT mean accessible -- Sure it may be easy to get an education at an extremely high level, assuming you have the -rereqs "BUILD MORE PYLONS" -- yeah - tell some unknown genius from rural wherever that education is easy... that's different than ACCESS GRANTED to said education.

You're an accomplished, privileged, educated, great person... so why cant the gulley-dwarf pull himself up buy-his-mud-straps? You had to SAVE $ in the 80s? Where did you get such to save??? How did you eat if you were instead saving????

(Poor people, without access to resources, cannot even begin to understand the idea of "saving" when they cant defer EATING to save...)

---

We disagree... So, show me how the browser shall save the educational aspirations to those without food, water and power.


> If it was "noise" then you wouldnt need to expain yourself.

Right, you ask for a larger explanation and then turn around and use that as a new grounds for your complaint.

Really?

I did not need to do anything, I did you a service by spending a bunch of time. You could have just as easily educated yourself on the subject.

> but the Stasi, et al, ARE the modern cloud.

No, they are not, not even close. Having dealt with the Stasi at two occasions I guarantee you that they are not the same.

> Does the consumer USE the service and not bitch?'== good actor in your world view

You must have missed my writings on Google 'AMP' then if you think that is my position. So no, you are simply wrong here.

> I want to walk under a natural realm not covered by .gov satellites

So change your government and use your vote. Educate your fellow voters and hold your politicians accountable.

> and invisible computers/sensors watching my every move

Paranoid much?

> to make sure I am staying "within the rules".

You mean like speed cameras? I can't stand them, especially not when they result in fines. Better still, in spite of all the cameras on our highways car theft is still a problem. So my conclusion - for now - is that unfortunately the system works as intended, well enough for me to get caught speeding, not so well that a car thief can't make his getaway.

> Such environs become plastic at the point where I cannot ensure complete privacy

There are plenty of places where you can have complete privacy and most likely will always be able to have complete privacy. But this will come at a cost: you most likely will have to make a conscious effort at this, it will not be automatic.

> (I wonder why the elite build underground???)

Tell me, why do they? Again, paranoid much? The 'elite' do not as far as I know build underground.

> We imagined it -- that which we imagined is made manifest.

So, you'll have to imagine something better. If all you can see is bad stuff to come out of tech then this discussion is utterly pointless. You and a lot of people here have the collective power to steer these things and to re-imagine them in a positive way rather than to hand the keys to the weapons locker to your boss for a paycheck. Ethics matter.

> "easier" does NOT mean accessible -- Sure it may be easy to get an education at an extremely high level, assuming you have the -rereqs "BUILD MORE PYLONS" -- yeah - tell some unknown genius from rural wherever that education is easy... that's different than ACCESS GRANTED to said education.

We'll have to disagree on this.

> You're an accomplished, privileged, educated, great person...

Oh is that so?

> so why cant the gulley-dwarf pull himself up buy-his-mud-straps?

Well, I was one of those gulley-dwarfs when I started out and between the public library and a pretty heavy physical job I managed to claw my way out of what would have otherwise been either poverty or crime. So much for your assumptions.

> Where did you get such to save???

The mail room of a bank. You know, hauling mailbags heavier than I was.

> How did you eat if you were instead saving????

Mostly very cheap pasta and peanut butter sandwiches.

> (Poor people, without access to resources, cannot even begin to understand the idea of "saving" when they cant defer EATING to save...)

Right. Well, again, at the time and given my knowledge of my surroundings I was relatively poor. But at the same time I'm well aware that being born in the country I was in was a very high degree of privilege. But don't come to me with your 'accomplished, privileged, educated' bs because that came at a pretty high price.

> So, show me how the browser shall save the educational aspirations to those without food, water and power.

You must have missed Africa coming online in the last decade and the kind of change it is bringing.

If you're in a dark mood of sorts I'm fine with that but the one thing you can't argue with if you want to stick to the facts is that the internet has enabled a very large number of people to either get or improve on their education.

For me the greatest achievements of the internet are the Khan Academy and Wikipedia, the runner up after those would be the Gutenberg project. Open access is changing the world as we speak.


>>>the internet has enabled a very large number of people to either get or improve on their education.

For me the greatest achievements of the internet are the Khan Academy and Wikipedia, the runner after those would be the Gutenberg project. Open access is changing the world as we speak.

1000%% agree on this, but being in the position I am; I am in a position to have the perspective that allows; where I have benefited from it all, contributed a tiny amount to some of it - but not tarnished by money+power to see that this is still not enough.

Look - I think very highly of you, but I am also of the position that just because some person did well on their internet eureka, doesnt automatically make them a good person.

Too many pricks made millions in the tech industry, then attempted to paint themselves as nice people after-the-fact.


So, what's stopping you? Get there first and do it right!

That's the only way anything will ever be done different.

I'd rather see someone with your present attitude do this than 'one of the pricks to make millions in the tech industry'. The trick will be to maintain that attitude in light of future developments. You can count on me to remind you if you ever deviate from the true path ;)


I am trying...

Wanna help make Municipal Government a Good Thing (TM) -- then join me.

Ill reach out to you to see how you might want to do a Tech-Talk to the city of [East-Bay-city] Where I am cloudifying-them shortly...


Which would be ... ubiquitous AR? What is the end vision for this idea?


See Vinge's novel Rainbows End. It's a combo of the AR plus having sensors/effectors/networking embedded in all the stuff around you for computing to work with. The "internet of things" starts to go that way, but what I've heard of hasn't sounded that impressive. Seems like it needs to get way better at security and interoperability, though it's not my field.


Ubiquitous computing without proper security and interop is a non-starter.

The present day internet of things to me looks mostly like companies that are in the 'goods' business that are desperately trying to get into the 'services' business because they would like themselves some slice of that recurring revenue.


Yes, I want to buy things that can talk only to my network, while apparently they want me to pay to host XYZcorp's botnet.


Make someone rich, as is any idea.




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