PG is absolutely right about email. If you ever had a chance to see what the inbox of someone important looks like compared with what they would like it to look like, you would know that the seemingly reasonable recommendation to consolidate email accounts with GMail is far from optimal.
Was he just reading the transcript to the guys? A keynote should be without any "uhh"s and "ehmmm"s otherwise you will not get audience IMO.
Edit: of course, this is more of a description of how my subconscious works. Consciously I try my best to ignore these things and focus on the information content alone and feel like I should downvote you for letting yourself miss interesting content because of the speaker's presentation style. (Though to be fair at least you have the text version for 99% of the content.)
When I hear this kind of complaint about pg's speaking style I'm reminded of Enzo Ferrari ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzo_Ferrari
'I don't sell cars; I sell engines. The cars I throw
in for free since something has to hold the engines
in.' Enzo Ferrari
1. The next product visionary will have a great example in Jobs and Apple.
2. The next Apple probably won't start with a consumer product, but they might be able to make some consumer thingy like Jawbone does.
Nest creates a great consumer thingy that's relatively cheap and it's run by an ex Apple employee. Tony Fadell might say he's not pursuing Apple's business, but is it unreasonable to think he might when the Apple pirate ship starts sinking?
I realize that pg wasn't particularly prepared to be dealing with questions unrelated to the talk, but it was the first time I've seen him not easily handle questions with grace. His responses came off as glib and eventually he had to qualify and edit his previous statements to provide somewhat of a satisfactory response.
It's easy to over-believe ideas that are put forth with clarity and match your natural disposition towards clean logic and historical examples. Though pg has intriguing and useful perspectives, I encourage people to study these problems far more in-depth before forming a personal opinion.
On a somewhat related note, it was alarming that pg didn't have a clear moral position when asked about his decision-making process. It's fine for the young and uninfluential to "wing it" when it comes to moral decision-making, but seems irresponsible for someone with his level of power in Silicon Valley.
Entering into a discussion about objective morality is a dead end.
I would prefer it if people didn't force pg to qualify his statements like a politician.
Obviously he could add "of course, this is just a good idea as long as the expected utility of the humanity at large is greater with it than without it on a reasonably long time line." but it would just be an empty phrase.
We need powerful people to be more open like pg, what we don't need is more people putting on a PR-mask just for the sake of seeming Responsible, Serious and Altruistic.
Additionally, it was strange that you projected your own Utilitarian belief system onto pg. I've never read or heard him articulate his moral position; he alludes to one in "Things you can't say," but obviously doesn't say it.
I think a lot of the HN crowd is very good at examining hard subjects like science but is under-developed in the humanities. That's an obvious statement due to the nature of this forum, but it doesn't hurt as a reminder that maybe there are unknown unknowns to the human condition you may have not considered.
Funny side note: moral positions, in the abstract, aren't usually things you can't say. They usually sound eminently reasonable, until you work out the consequences. This is more or less the history of ethics.
1) if pg doesn't have some well thought out and articulated perspective on moral questions, that's OK - he's not a priest
2) Saying it's alarming is basically pushing him and people like him into taking a (probably artificial) position for the sake of taking one.
3) Just because one is powerful doesn't mean one has to be a role model in all areas of life. This is unnecessary pressure on an individual who hasn't asked for it - he's basically a sort of VC, he isn't running for president - and I don't see anything good coming out of it.
I chose a utilitarian belief system as an example because it felt like the most non-controversial one to make a point. Incidentally, I don't subscribe to it.
Agreed about humanities, but I don't really see the connection to your OP.
Here's a highly related essay by pg, by the way: http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html
Overall, I think pg was just thrown off-guard by the question and could probably come up with a more adequate answer off-stage, particularly because he has a background in philosophy. I was using him, wrongly, as an example of the technocratic tendency to not consider morality in decision-making. However, I'll continue here with a response to your objections pretending he really is a less well-rounded VC:
I think your responses are emblematic of a current societal tendency to be easy on leadership and powerful people, because they're "just human." I don't agree with that tendency to not hold leaders accountable to a higher standard, and I don't think it's right for a person with that much power to not have a clear moral position on who he or she does business with. We can all disagree on what we think is right, but I think there are many who have been led to believe that they simply can't expect more out of certain people because it's not "fair." I'm merely providing a counter-opinion to that.
About the humanities, that was said out of frustration that you/others may not have been exposed to moral frameworks outside of the traditional religious and political tie-ins. It was an incorrect sweeping generalization, but regardless, it doesn't hurt anyone to be reminded of these subjects now and again :)
There is probably an essay there, too bad I don't write them anymore (43.30 in video, regarding "moral compass outsourcing")
Have you stopped writing essays? Does that mean you're shifting your focus to YC 100% or going back to work on arc again? Or are you talking about non-startup essays?
Writing essays depends on having uninterrupted blocks of time. Between kids and the growth of YC I don't have as many of those as I used to. I should try to arrange things so I have more.
PG seems down on Google from the initial statement that it may have peaked, to making fun of its search results as similar to the scientologist principle of "what's true is what's true for you" or something that makes you feel like you are being A-B tested, to Gmail being painfully slow. PG said he would pay $50/month for a good email replacement, and after just having talked about his friend at Google complaining of too much email and saying Gmail was slow, I think he was implying that Gmail needs to be replaced.
So, what interests me most about this is his mention of his friend at Google.
Matt Cutts (search engine God of Google) said "I’ll stop with a story. I have a friend at Google who is really good at noticing things that annoy him. While walking from his car to his desk in the morning, he can easily find six things that irritate him because they should be improved."
Matt says this is "his" friend, but is Matt Cutts PG's Google friend? This sounds very similar, and there is a hint of their relationship at the end of this article when PG got him to personally handle an issue with HN not being listed first in search results: http://getoffmyinternets.net/2011/11/25/paul-graham-knows-ho...
However, a better guess is probably that it is Peter Norvig, Director of Research. There are examples of their relationship around, like Peter reading a draft of his: http://www.paulgraham.com/softwarepatents.html and http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=355984
It's interesting that PG is pushing for someone to compete with Google though. It is almost like these comments were meant to be a public criticism of Google by his friend via PG rather than just to provide startup ideas.
No. Why would I allow myself to be used in that way?
If true, it's especially interesting that Paul B. was the creator and lead developer of Gmail and that he corrected PG by stating that "GMail has become painfully slow" instead of "GMail is painfully slow" thereby humorously dissociating himself from the act of having developed something slow.