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'The Golden Age of Silicon Valley Is Over, and We're Dancing on its Grave' (theatlantic.com)
197 points by waxymonkeyfrog on May 18, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments

Steve Blank is a respected Valley veteran who has written highly insightful and informative materials about the history and development of the Valley (see http://steveblank.com/secret-history/) and so his opinion is worthy of note.

That said, I have been in the Valley since 1968, have watched its ups and downs professionally since the early 1980s, and can say without question that it is currently bursting at the seams with opportunity from every conceivable angle. Yes, the days when silicon was king are well past their "golden" stage but they have been replaced by an era where founders have decided leverage and power to realize great visions without having to overcome the resource/knowledge barriers that predominated just a decade ago, where innovative investors have more ability than ever to leverage early-stage situations in ways that used to be monopolized by just a few top-tier VCs, and where the disruptive impact of technological change generally is leaving old-guard companies staggering as startups who vigorously challenge them proliferate - all to the great benefit of society at large. Plans are afoot at every top-tier company - Facebook, Google, Apple, etc. - to grab control of the whole process and eventually dictate to others how they might participate in it, but such plans have not yet succeeded even when they once seemed almost inevitable (thinking of 90s Microsoft here). As long as companies remain free to innovate, there likely will be successive stages of greatness in the Valley (and, of course, elsewhere where comparable elements exist) and it is a mistake, in my view, to attempt to label any particular outstanding stage in the past, or any particular mode of growth, as "golden" in some special way. As long as human nature is what it is, enterprise will take many forms, each suitable to its time and no one form more particularly special than the other. The key is to capitalize on the opportunities as they exist, leaving history to play itself out as it will.

I don't think the point you make contradicts Steve Blank's at all; to me, Blank's thesis is that startups in the Valley no longer choose to pursue truly disruptive technological innovation because our ecosystem now almost exclusively rewards areas such as social media, where you have to run as fast as you can just to stay where you are, to the detriment of "hard tech" such as biotech, robotics, and the semiconductors of old.

Elon Musk made his fortune with Paypal, an internet company. Google made its fortune on the internet. There is nothing that prevents people from making the easier dollars first in something like Zynga and then going and putting their personal $10M to work on something of substance.

Google is fundamentally different from Facebook because they solved a really hard problem really well and then found an excellent way of monetizing their solution. People still use Google today largely because it works better than the other options out there. Further, the other options are worse not because the others aren't trying hard enough or spending enough on search.

To me, Google falls squarely in the disruptive and hard category. I mean no disrespect to Zuckerburg, but there's a reason Google was founded by two Stanford PhD students and not a bunch of bored undergrads.

Funny, the more I learn about Facebook, the less I believe to this distinction. You've got to see how much people FB hired out of Goog to see that they've got some technical talents, and I can hardly imagine they are idling. Facebook may not be solving all the same problems than Goog, but they probably have an equivalent advanced DC management. See their work on devops, PHP compiler, and how they opened their server architecture. There is a part of truth, but I think Google PR has created itself a good image of "engineer wizards" which may be a bit overstated.

Facebook now have a lot of very difficult technical problems to solve and are doing a great job solving them. But what got them here wasn't a great algorithm, it was good execution on a fairly simple concept.

110% correct.

This. A lot of people forget that Elon Musk spent a large portion of his own money to fund new ventures from Paypal. Bill Gates is helping many disadvantaged people around the world with the money he earned from Microsoft. I'd also like to point out that a lot of these Internet companies contribute to charities, so the money isn't just a 100% flow up the hierarchy.

This doesn't hit the root of the problem. If we rely on the current SV enterprise model, we're basically just hoping that the billionaires that come out of this social media binge will be socially aware enough to invest in hard problems themselves, and in that sense, they become almost feudal lords.

This is a case where I think, just like Blanks states, the government's responsibility to counteract market forces for the common good plays a role. We should be tripling our research grant budgets for hard science. I feel like every week I'm hearing of an MIT PhD student making major breakthroughs in nanotube battery capacity or thorium reactor tech, but these aren't valuable investments for private VCs because the returns will not be quick and will not be as outrageous as a site that can go live tomorrow with the virality of the Ebola virus.

But that's just the way the cookie crumbles, ie, the market forces at work. I don't think it makes sense on a society level to be investing as much as we are in social ventures, and I hope we do find a way, public or private, to shift some of that investment back into solid tech. Wildcard prediction: biotech is the next big boom.

Taking money from everyone to fund science... could be argued, I suppose. Taking money from successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to fund government science would be merely stupid. In other words, what I object to about the parent comment is the notion that the U.S. government could possibly, possibly, be better-intentioned and wiser in practice, on average in real life, than the winners of the great startup contest.

As I understand it, I think they're disagreeing like this:

Blank: The valley used to invest in hard problems that made the world a better place. Now that era is gone for good. Because social media makes so much money, no one will ever want to invest in hard problems in comparison.

Grellas: Yes we are no longer investing in hard problems. But that era isn't gone for good. Because the valley is such a good place for innovative startups, eventually, startups will start solving hard problems again.

There is a growing number of individuals doing hard tech. They just focus on working, and not on getting Likes.

The valley may be full of social media photo sharing people, but don't forget that the Valley still has strong roots on the homebrew side.

For every social app out there, there are ten hackers pushing code on the local HackerSpace.

"THOMPSON: Is Facebook worth $100 billion?

BLANK: In the last bubble there were no customers. Facebook makes $4 per user. The users are customers. They produce real revenue. Nobody's debating whether Facebook can make money. They're debating how much more valuable Facebook's hundreds of millions of users can be, and how fast can they can grow that value. That's an execution problem."

Facebook makes $4 per user from advertisers who LOSE money when they pay Facebook. In other words, Facebook's users LOVE their product. Facebook's customers (advertisers) get nothing from it. Click through rates suck, and actual ROI is negative. Eventually, the new advertisers who show up and realize it's a waste of money will stop paying for nothing, and then the $4/user goes away. Users and the media LOVED Groupon. The businesses who were Groupon's actual customers HATED it. This is no different. Don't get me wrong, a billion users is incredibly monetizable. Just not the way Facebook is trying to do it. The social B.S. will eventually fade to the real stuff.

It depends on what the users are using. I think it's extremely hard to get people on a platform to socialise* and then get them to do something else that generates revenue. With the exception of purchasing game credits etc, there's no easy way to do it.

* blanket term for status/photo/video sharing

The advertisers are the customers, they are the ones paying Facebook. The 'users' are the audience that the advertisers are paying to reach.

What's the real stuff?

Cars that drive themselves. Distributed power generation. Web connected sensors in everything. You know, things that have a material effect on people's quality of life. As opposed to Facebook.

It's important to realize that Facebook has done a tremendous job of connecting the non-digerati who previously communicated via infrequent mail or rare phone calls.

While I am very bearish on a 100 P/E, the reality of Facebook's userbase and its engagement is not something to blow off. Facebook has distinctly impressed itself on the communication modality of many many people.

Don't underestimate that.

> things that have a material effect on people's quality of life. As opposed to Facebook.

As much as I dislike Facebook, there is some scientific evidence that increasing one's social ties produces measurable improvements to health, including longevity. If Facebook increases social connectivity, which in my limited experience it does, it's not a stretch to suggest that it could materially improve one's quality of life.

My money's still on google though for the long run ...

>As much as I dislike Facebook, there is some scientific evidence that increasing one's social ties produces measurable improvements to health, including longevity.

Yes, increasing those ties in person. I have yet to see any evidence social media has the same effect.

Also, those studies may have the causality arrow going the wrong way. Sick people tend to stay at home and not get out much, so it may be that you're more likely to have social ties if you're healthy than the other way around.

>I have yet to see any evidence social media has the same effect.

Have you looked for these studies? Are you an expert on this corner of the literature?

There have been studies and they do show that internet socialization has an effect on a variety of relevant measurements. To summarize, Internet socialization is not equivalent to face-to-face socialization but it does provide some of the benefits and is also able to provide benefits that face-to-face cannot provide.

I find it strange how people such as yourself will make statements about the literature as if your opinion had value. Your opinion about the literature is only valuable if you have studied the literature. If you have not, then you should remain silent if you want to be a valuable contributor.

Perhaps you can cite the research with which you're so familiar.

Anyone genuinely interested in these facts could check Wikipedia, Google Scholar, or a Google Books textbook and find copious citations.

To be perfectly honest, I find your behaviour more interesting than the actual topic.

Why do people who have clearly not exhaustively studied a particular field put forth their own ignorance as an argument in their favor?

"I'm an evangelical Christian who has never gone to university and I've never seen any evidence of evolution. My ignorance is a strong argument against evolution! I am going to use my ignorance as a bludgeon in this debate and make everyone else do all the work of digging up citations, which I won't read anyway."

Am I wrong in thinking this is a uniquely American form of entitled debating style? "Everyone has the right to spread their ignorant opinion" or something?

>Anyone genuinely interested in these facts could check Wikipedia, Google Scholar, or a Google Books textbook and find copious citations.

That's what I thought. You have no idea what you're talking about.

>Why do people who have clearly not exhaustively studied a particular field put forth their own ignorance as an argument in their favor?

Oh, the irony. It burns!

I believe that that evidence is based on close friends. I think Facebook tends to make it easier to maintain lots of light friendships, but doesn't do much for close friendships.

The entire internet population (or at least close to it) binded by one global network -- it's a mistake to think of Facebook as just another social network in the same league as Twitter, Foursquare, etc... rather, it's probably more useful to think of it as an alternative internet, or even an operating system.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen dreamed of putting a personal computer in every home in 1975, and that dream came true over the decades following. Facebook's dream is just beginning and we're going to see big waves in internet, media, telecom, and commerce over the next few decades.

Facebook(the platform, not the company) was pretty instrumental for the Arab Spring.

Mark Zuckerberg doesn't think so. http://www.charlierose.com/view/clip/12125

One, you presume that advertisers are incredibly naive and don't measure returns. Obviously cleanly measuring advertising returns from fb is hard, but it's still being done.

Second, fb can put up the first credible alternative to adsense since they collect browsing info from their fb login and other widgets. In fact, they can do better than adsense: fb can mix in very accurate demographics alongside the page context. Adsense makes google nearly $10B/year and I'd bet fb could eat half of that. And many pubs that lean heavily on adsense are desperate for a competitor. So I'd say fb is -- at bare minimum -- a $5B/year company. Plus another billion or two from taxing every bit of money that flows through social gaming. Plus it seems like zynga will be able to do poker for money now. Plus I don't believe all the ads on fb proper are worthless, so roll that into the mix.

Finally, from your comments below, you seem to think advertising in general is worthless. If you think companies (US only) spend $400B/year because they're stupid, then I'm too dumbfounded to formulate a response.

> One, you presume that advertisers are incredibly naive and don't measure returns.

Working in digital media (in Australia) I would say this is actually accurate.... People measure returns not on the impact on sales because its difficult to account for... people are using metrics such as "likes" and size of the email list to know if a campaign is working. The top advertisers do measure the impact down to the user... but most are not willing to pay the money it costs to gather and analyse the data. Instead they follow the trends, under the impression that if everyone else is doing it, it must be right.

Part of the problem is that

- Most companies run digital through a different team from press, broadcast and other media.

- The digital team is almost always very lightly funded compared to the other mediums (its also cheaper to run). Due to the lighter funding it tends to have the more junior marketers.

- Many companies run each brand in their portfolio through a different marketing team, so that your dealing with small teams (3-10) of people even for large national brands.

- These people are typically not mathematically and technologically trained and typically work with outside vendors to do their work.

Don't overestimate the value of facebook ads, they work really well for certain things (some impulse buys, things on the facebook platform, etc), but It doesn't work well (at the moment) for many other products (expensive, niche).

Facebook has a lot of potential to adapt this going forward but I am thinking that people are betting on facebook like its a sure thing and am not yet convinced they will pull it off.


Advertising isn't worthless, but advertisers are very naive. You talk about companies spending money because they are stupid. I SUSPECT, but only Facebook has the data to KNOW, that there is a high turnover in companies advertising on Facebook. New companies coming in every day, but also many who realize they aren't getting a return on investment and leaving. I think a lot of big companies advertise on it strictly for brand presence, rather than for direct sales. That's fine. But let's not pretend that there is remotely the click-thru rate that Google has.

You realize that brand advertising isn't measured via clickthrough, right? Most people on the net don't click -- see the infamous natural born clickers study. Yet nonetheless, brand advertising via display can be demonstrated to be very effective on an roas basis via A/B testing by geo.

Also -- ctr doesn't matter as long as your cpc compares. So 1/100 the ctr is fine w/ 1/100 the price, etc.

> One, you presume that advertisers are incredibly naive and don't measure returns.

What if there were enough naive newbies to keep things afloat even in the face of advertisers who became disillusioned?


(via: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholiday/2012/05/17/why-i-los... )

That is possible but extremely unlikely. Companies who spend interesting amounts of money on advertising don't just hand you $100k or something. Instead, they hand you $10k for a month or a quarter and tell you to demonstrate what you can do. You only get more as long as you can show something going up and to the right. So you can certainly get to million dollar accounts but it's going to take at least a year of demonstrating performance and going out and demanding quarterly increases in spend.

Now, to your claim: could fb get $2B in ad spend w/o demonstrating that performance? Sure. It's damn unlikely though because the companies that will eventually spend $1m/year with you don't start there. If your theory is there is super high churn, then 2e9/(10k) = 200k different advertisers spending $10k for a quarter then churning. That seems dubious. Now obviously they make some money from tax, etc, but just look at the rough order of magnitude of new suckers you would have to find every year and estimate whether it's likely.

I see a lot of comments addressed to "this guy" referring to Steve Blank. Let's not forget he's been involved in silicon valley startups since the 70s, including founding semiconductor companies. While they're no hello world rails startup, he has a proven track record and a first-hand experience of how the valley has evolved.

I suspect many of you haven't seen his take on the history of the valley, which might give context to his views.


Yeah, it amuses me to read the number of people here saying he doesn't get Silicon Valley. He might be wrong, but he certainly isn't ill-informed. You can also read his 10-part history of Silicon Valley on his blog:


The problem Steve Blank is pointing out is one of solving quality of life problems, and sustainability problems when there is easier money to be made in entertaining consumers. Facebook just accentuates the point. Its a bit idealistic to think that Silicon Valley ever really had it right or that government funding is the solution to innovation of 'real' problems.

People have a large dimension of needs. Some of these needs, while necessary for survival thousands of years ago, are now obsolete as a survival utility function. McDonald's designs french fries to exploit these needs; Facebook builds social mechanisms. These needs will always be there - but at the same time there is a finite limit to the amount of attention on earth that can be expended fulfilling these old-world needs - it will plateau when human attention is exploited to the fullest. Meanwhile, there is arguably no cap for fulfilling the set of user needs that make the quality of human life better, and give our civilization the ability to sustain its own existence. Over the long-term, the set of human needs that have utility in our current environment should present the best investment opportunities - at least I sure hope so.

Upvote and comment: for many users, Facebook is indeed solving a "quality of life" problem -- how do I stay in touch with people? It's a first-world problem, sure, and maybe it looks a bit like entertainment, but it's a real problem that they are solving.

Something that has been concerning to me over the past few years is the shortsightedness at the national level.

Sure, a national endeavor for growth can include tax policies, broadband programs, educational reform, capital investments, flexible monetary policies, etc.

BUT, I think one of the most important and worthwhile goal should be the decentralization of high-growth job centers.

Setting up shop in Silicon Valley these days is ridiculously expensive. Besides, basing a large percentage of your high-growth businesses in an area that may be ravaged by a natural disaster at a moment's notice is clearly unwise.

Furthermore, the success of the nation should not be tied to the fate of Silicon Valley, or the fate of 3-5 major job centers. Hence, a national priority should be to decentralize this economic activity across the country.

There is no catch-22 here, contrary to what people say. ("We set up shop here because all the qualified workforce is here.")

With real estates, school expenses, public transportation capacity and urbanization reaching unsustainable levels, there is no doubt start-ups would benefit from setting up shop in less expensive areas, where their employees could live without mortgaging themselves to retirement or sacrificing the well-being of their family members.

While centralization has its risks, the benefits of an entire industry being in close proximity to helping good ideas spread cannot be understated.

Agreed, but it can also lead to herd behaviors, where every other start-up aims to become another Facebook, Twitter, Google or whatever symbol of the day.

You mean like Austin, Seattle, Boulder, Huntsville, D.C., and so forth, just to rattle a few off the tip of my finger? The Bay Area is already not the center of the tech universe, contrary to what the HN Opinion Amplifier might lead you to think.

Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin, Chapel Hill, Boston/Cambridge, New York ~= 90% of the pie. I guess that's not concentrated enough for you.

I'm not sure if I buy his argument, but if you accept it, I think there's a natural limiting factor: recruiting.

The best engineers will produce the best products, either for local-mobile-social apps or space exploration. At some level, good software people are somewhat fungible -- a great engineer could work on either, given some orientation.

I believe the best engineers would rather cure cancer, colonize space, create anonymous digital currencies, etc., and produce infrastructure and developer tools which support those things, rather than work on ad networks, games, photo sharing sites, etc., given equal access. The reason people haven't gone into space for the past 30-40 years is that working for NASA is a horrible experience for an entrepreneur, and creating software or technology startups is much easier.

Now that "software has eaten the world" (which I do believe), a great software engineer can effectively start a space company. Sure, your first 10-20 employees at a new ad network or game company might be able to make enough on equity to do it, but employee 50 or employee 500 would sure rather be working on something amazing like space than yet another ad network.

Given the macro trend of "software is eating the world", its very likely that investors will chase $$ for dot com startups (or mobile apps nowadays). I completely agree that SpaceX, Tesla, Google Self-driving cars are proper engineering projects but I will try to be devil's advocate. Google (even thought its a Internet company) revolutionized the information organization and retrieval, we are much better because of it. Facebook connected the whole world on the Internet. LinkedIn created professional network where it is much easier for people to connect and benefit (especially Sales guys and recruiters). Twitter is helping in democratic movements across the globe. GroupOn made it easier for local SMBs to advertise. And there are companies like AirBnB who made it possible to profit from entirely new concepts.

Of course, for every Facebook there is a Zynga whose major accomplishment is pasting cows on the Internet. Unfortunately, too many "real engineers" are jumping on SoLoMo bandwagon and that is hampering real innovation.

Prof. Blank's blog entries aimed at selling his "Startup Manual" are creepy. Framed as stories of walking through the woods with former students it just stinks of cheap, manipulative internet marketing. Is this what he is teaching kids? Then at the end a link to his book on Amazon. Just terrible.

Thanks for lowering the bar, Mr. Blank.

"Where the money is." Indeed. Money that could be invested in more worthwhile research. He's right. Thank God for NIH, NSF and the SBA, because now we have educators giving in to the lure of low brow internet marketing. Sad.

I think the valuations are a bit of a bubble, but social media is real.

In the dotcom bubble of 2001 I heard the same thing except with "internet" replacing "social media".

In the last bubble there were no customers. Facebook makes $4 per user. The users are customers. They produce real revenue. Nobody's debating whether Facebook can make money.

This may be true but how much of that $4 per user is driven by the bubble itself? How much advertising is coming from companies that are within the Silicon Valley gravity well? If the (so-called) tech bubble pops, people will still need cars, vacuum cleaners and food so how well does Facebook do with those kinds of advertisers?

The reason a bubble is scary is because it distorts your normal metrics of what a healthy company is. It doesn't matter how much money you're making selling hotdogs at the boardwalk if one day people stop going to the beach.

Thinking about this some more the part that drives me crazy is this: Facebook makes $4 per user. The users are customers.

That just doesn't follow. The advertisers are the customers. They happen to pay $4 for every person right now. If the advertisers dry up - because say, they go out of business or decide facebook isn't great value - then the facebook users are 'worth' a lot less.

This. Of course social media is real, of course having 900M customers is worth something. But trowing infinite amounts of money means you spend more that what is worth, in other words, it is a bubble.

In Spain we had this houses boom, and everybody said: but houses are real, you need them, they are necessary so they will never go down.

It is not qualitative, but qualitative. They make $4, but they need $100 for the stock to be fair price.

Fb founders are selling as much as they let them, Goldman S are going to sell at least 50%. This is the biggest scam I had seen for a while.

Social media is not going to be "where the money is" when all these companies founded by 20-year-olds hit the wall because Facebook is the only one making any money off social. Eventually VCs will realize, hey maybe we should fund some of these guys with big ideas over here. Social is just a gold rush, but these things are cyclical.

TLDR: Agree with parts of Steve Blank and Grellas...

15 year veteran of the valley here, and as much as I agree with Steve Blank that the herd money is chasing social media right now (and why not?), I don't agree that the long-term payout investments are gone - just look at Planetary Resources for an instant counterexample (I know, they're based in Seattle so they don't count, right?).

But more importantly, all of Web 2.0's 30ish billionaires are as mortal as the rest of us. The difference is that they actually can throw money at that problem and stand a good chance of at least a modest payout (just look at Sergei Brin and Parkinson's research). And while I agree with Steve Blank about the importance of government funding for long-term technological development, I think we're about to see a Cambrian explosion in biotech as these guys try to fight off the inevitability of death. Because what good are all their toys if they don't stick around long enough to play with them?

Meanwhile, the north end of Silicon Valley has quietly transformed itself into a mecca for biotech and bioinformatics in recent years. Silicon Valley itself started out as farmland and look at it now. I see this as just the latest in a series of transformations to whatever is the next big thing.

If you have doubts about what he means, he is essentially saying this: The state of mobile and social has come to such an advantageous point for startups that it is not feasible for investors to go for the hard, truly disruptive things. And he is very right.

Thanks to Apple products, now you can reach millions of people by writing an app. Due to the viral nature of social apps, you can now expect a useful app to reach for the masses without spending on marketing and advertisement. Can we say the same for anything other than mobile/web and social? No.

Until the social/mobile market matures, we will see each potential founder working on a mobile phone application instead of attacking a non-viral problem with a doubtful market/new technology.

Have you ever launched an app that reached the masses? What do you even mean by viral nature?

A social app has a potential to go viral, e.g. spread by word of mouth or via means built into the application. Spreading to all social contacts for example. You can't do that with a startup involving hardware or anything non-social.

Apps that have gone viral usually have gone viral because of tremendous effort put into marketing before the app was released. You can't expect to just release something in the App Store, have it spam your friend's FB wall, and contacts and expect a million users by next month. It doesn't work that way, though the guys at Techcrunch, and Mashable may give that appearance.

The key perception is that VCs and entrepreneurs believe apps are easier to go big relative to hardware. It's not about whether it's easy to go big with apps at all. I think we can agree that it's easier to build and distribute an app than it is to build an distribute a novel piece of studded silicon.

I agree with how hard it is to get traction in any application. Let's assume it is an application whose value is increased with the number of people interacting. Then if you are past the initial chicken-egg problem, you can grow exponentially. You cannot do that in any other business. Usually your marketing and sales efforts would remain linearly parallel with your growth.

Reading through these comments I feel that people are focusing on the wrong issue. At a high-level, let's not focus on high-tech vs. relatively low-tech. Rather, as Steve is, we should be discussing whether companies are pushing to solve significant world problems and pushing real sciences forward, or whether entrepreneurs and VCs are eager to tackle gimmicky but real quick buck businesses.

I feel that we have brilliant minds looking for quick paydays, which is understandable, but does not say much about our community. We need more Palantirs, Fusion IOs, and SpaceX type companies and fewer email, flash sales, and gaming companies.

The last commercial Fab in the valley closed some five years ago. Many of the companies that were essential still have their HQ in the valley, but are transferring more of their operations over seas, Applied Materials for one.

The valley has evolved over time too, and in order to be an interesting place it must continue to evolve. I have yet to see an end to interesting conversations, ideas, and things coming out of here.

Who cares what this guy thinks? He doesn't count either the iPhone or iPad among the most important innovations of the last 5 years, but two of his 4 choices are about cars, and another is Google Goggles.

He also surmises that Silicon Valley is dead because of a few observations about Facebook, while ignoring that Apple has become the largest company in the history of the known universe.

No doubt his comment about "Dancing on the grave of Silicon Valley" will join counterparts like "640K ought to be enough for anyone" and "Who wants to print faster than they can read?"

It is a bit short sighted, and while I disagree with the premise I'm certainly fine with Blank having an opinion that the 'glory days' of Silicon Valley are behind it.

But when I read that article I thought to myself, "Wow, here is someone that doesn't 'get' the valley at all." Because he didn't seem to remember that the valley "died" in 1984, if you recall that is when semi-conductor companies started going out of business and silicon was dead, it was all going off shore. Except that systems companies like Sun were being born, and Cisco, and a host of other infrastructure plays that were going to lead into the a huge up welling of innovation (and sadly patents). Then the dot com bubble burst and Silicon Valley 'died' again, no more would anyone build innovative tech companies in 'the valley' after all it was a wasteland, a burned out cinder that had burned brightly for half a dozen years, only to leave behind an infertile plain of concrete layups and landfills with t-shirts from companies nobody would ever remember. And now we've got Google, a re-born Apple, Ebay Etc. Facebook's IPO heralds the "end" of Silicon Valley? Really?

So when ever someone tells me that the valley is dead, and can't explain why this time it is actually going to die when the last several times it didn't die, I know that they don't understand why it lives, and thus can't reliably prognosticate about its death.

Its always interesting to read though. And when folks things it's dead, well smart people go out looking for the saplings.

>Who cares what this guy thinks?

"This guy" is Steve Blank[1]. He's kind of a big deal in SV and the startup scene in general. Whether or not you agree with his assessment of Valley culture, his personal cachet is such that it behooves you to take notice.

[]1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Blank

Be careful not to give him credibility just because he's an expert.

While we should take notice because he has a track record of knowing what he's talking about, we should evaluate his claims on its own, regardless of who makes the claim.

Is it true that VCs no longer invests in the hard sciences? I don't think so. There's VCs that invest in cleantech and biotech.

Is it true that VCs like quick returns and will increase investments in social media? Probably. In addition, they can only invest in what entrepreneurs are building.

>Be careful not to give him credibility just because he's an expert.

Absolutely. While his argument should be evaluated on it's own merit, the fact that it's Steve Blank means it's likely worth evaluating.

Steve has a track record as an entrepreneur, investor, and mentor. He has spent a lot of time in this space. His argument may be wrong, but he really does have the credentials to make it worth thinking about.

Thank you for explaining who this guy is; I honestly did not know. I agree that if a person has a record like that, it's reasonable to give them a listen.

But I still disagree with this particular opinion of his. :)

He's absolutely correct. Automated cars will have a much bigger effect than iPads. So much time is wasted driving.

If time is wasted driving, is building more efficient cars really the solution? I would venture that technology that makes the world a lot smaller and puts information at your fingertips, e.g., tablets, phones, social networks, etc. will be a much bigger disrupter in the way we live our current lives. Maybe in the future we won't have to drive as much since we can just get things done without having to waste time in cars.

Many people spend 10% of their waking lives in cars, and more of it earning money to afford their cars. Automatic driving with the associated ease of fractional car ownership is potentially huge. Keep in mind that not everyone works at a desk job that can almost as easily be done remotely.

Social networks really, really aren't nearly as impactful in the the productive sense. They've mostly made it easier to chat with more people, and browse through more photos - things that are intensely interesting to people, but not really useful.

I am not sure how things like this will change our lives to be honest, I think it is too early to say which will have a bigger impact.

To your latter point, I can understand that most people use social networks to merely chat and browse drunken photos of friends, but that is like saying that all the invention of the telephone did was make it easier to share mindless banter with your friends. There are fringe benefits that arise from these kinds of technologies that could be really impactful. Twitter's use during the Arab Spring comes to mind as the most recent example of this.

I admit that Facebook doesn't provide any great "technological"/scientific achievement, but it does have a strong network effect supporting it; and that is something that can be impactful in a very productive sense.

Information is one thing, but for many things you just can't do remotely. You can't transport iPhones from the airport to your home remotely, can't send kids to school remotely, can't go to a nice restaurant remotely.

Many people actually have to do things in certain physical places. I do most of my driving getting to and from bike races. Better access to information will not help with that.

It's not just efficiency. The parent is slightly wrong on that point. Remember that Steve Blank's original point is driverless cars, not efficient cars. Driverlessness changes the game in ways that mere efficiency does not. That disruption has been analyzed and commented on in many other places, so I'm not going to rehash it (and I don't really feel qualified to).

> If time is wasted driving, is building more efficient cars really the solution?

To first approximation, humans have a fixed amount of daily attention span.[1] Automated driving will effectively increase the workforce by ~5%. The base rate of "maintenance attention" is already supplied, so much of the 5% will go to the margins, increasing the rate of progress. Since progress compounds exponentially over time, this is huge.

[1]Research I have read on the optimal length of work week, and other research on performance after sustained vigilence.

I think you should include the iphone and ipad together because they're pretty similar.

Cheap smartphones/tablets will totally transform the third world.

One good example is education:a billion+ people in the third world have awful or nonexistent education.Just imagine them having access to the best teaching in the world via khan academy, coursera etc. How will this change the world ?

What else could cheap smartphones/tablets do for the third world ? help tranform healthcare ? let them organize into big groups to achieve things? let marketers of usefull stuff cheaply reach them ?

The thing is that wasting commute time is a small problem relative to the problems the third world suffer from.And smartphones might have a big role to play in solving those.

How about living in, or building, cities that have good enough public infastructure that cars aren't needed. That would have an even larger effect.

I wonder how much is cause and how much is effect. One of the reasons that we have the suburbs is everyone owning cheap cars and getting cheap petrol. Not to discount good urban design and public infrastructure, but if there are autonomous cars, I suspect there will be corresponding influence on urban planning. Likely for the better.

This is just blatantly wrong. Yes automated cars will be a huge deal, but discounting the iPad is just prejudice pretending to be insight. The mobile OS experience and the tablet PC are very much the next phase of evolution of the computer. Right now the iPad is trailblazing the way as a very high markup luxury good but even so it's proving to be enormously disruptive. When the second shoe drops on the tablet PC revolution the entire industry and indeed the entire world will be shaken up. In a few decades the market for computing devices and software will be vastly larger than it is today. People in Sudan will have dirt cheap solar powered tablet PCs. The degree of disruption on the horizon due to these devices cannot be overstated.

Edit: how are tablet PCs disruptive? In several ways:

First, they have fewer components than any other form-factor complete computer and are cheaper to produce. Cheaper computers means more people that can buy computers which exponentially increases the number of people who buy computers when you consider the developing world. This is a feedback loop, technologically it's likely to be possible to make a profit on tablet pcs in the near future in a price range of tens of dollars per device.

Second, they are more user friendly for average users and their form factor offers advantages for normal users (portability, etc.) This makes them desirable as replacements for laptops and desktops for many people, as witnessed by the massive number of tablet pcs that have already been bought.

Third, they are excellent gaming platforms and will almost certainly compete on equal if not superior footing with other handheld gaming devices (which have sold hundreds of millions of devices already, not including software sales) and even traditional consoles and pcs. That industry is already larger than the film industry and growing rapidly, the growing market share of tablet gaming is nothing to scoff at.

Fourth, tablets don't require the same level of infrastructure as other computers. They have long battery life and low power usage, they don't necessarily need a hardline internet connection or a constant source of electricity. Someone in 2030 living in a 3rd world country could pay 1/100th their annual income for a tablet pc which has an e-ink display and can recharge via solar power. They could use it as an ebook reader most of the time and use it for other purposes such as communication and whatnot when they visit a city or someplace with free wifi or they could communicate point to point with folks with similar devices (using them as phones or relays, for example). That technology will change what it means to live in the 3rd world.

Fifth, the way that apps work on tablets is a natural match for line of business apps and corporate IT deployment and management. Future generations of tablets will make huge inroads in office computing, which is a huge business.

Yes, today they are sometimes toys, but there is a lot of money in toys, and such devices are far less toys than the original PCs were.

I think you're vastly overstating the disruption potential of the iPad. Most people who use tablet computers use them as internet-connected televisions to stream videos. A TV that can play Angry Birds isn't a disruptive technology.

Most people in the world don't have any use for a computer, and a computer you consider dirt cheap is impossibly far out of reach for people who're wondering where their next meal is coming from. And even if they can afford the hardware, who do you suppose is going to pay for the wireless infrastructure, and why?

Okay, what about a TV that can play Angry Birds, take a picture and send it via SMS or email, and let's you surf, chat, share your life, and meet new people.

"Most people in the world don't have any use for a computer"

Wow, so short-sighted I don't even know where to begin. You must not know how deeply mobile technology has penetrated on earth. The fact that phones are now becoming small computers seems to completely escape you.

"And even if they can afford the hardware, who do you suppose is going to pay for the wireless infrastructure, and why?"

3rd world countries have wireless coverage. There are villages in Asia and Africa where a kid comes through on a bike (or horse!) with a car battery to charge people's phones in the slums for around a US penny or thereabouts.

>Okay, what about a TV that can play Angry Birds, take a picture and send it via SMS or email, and let's you surf, chat, share your life, and meet new people.

Yes, it's a great first-world toy for teenagers and young adults.

>Wow, so short-sighted I don't even know where to begin. You must not know how deeply mobile technology has penetrated on earth. The fact that phones are now becoming small computers seems to completely escape you.

Likely not, as I work for a wireless provider and know, up to the minute, what our customers are doing (in the aggregate, of course). Mobile phones penetrated the market because you can use them as phones. That's the killer app. Sure, they're little computers and can do other things too. But they'd have the same penetration as the old Palm Pilot if they didn't make calls.

Tablets are too big to carry around with you everywhere. You might buy a phone and a tablet, but if money is tight you're not going to get both, and the phone is more useful.

>3rd world countries have wireless coverage. There are villages in Asia and Africa where a kid comes through on a bike (or horse!) with a car battery to charge people's phones in the slums for around a US penny or thereabouts.

Yes, but for what they pay they're not going to get the bandwidth you need to take advantage of a tablet. It makes perfect sense for people in far-flung villages to buy mobile phones - they can do things like arrange business transactions or check the latest prices for their crops. But they don't need an expensive data service to do it.

I could play games, take pictures, send them to friends, surf the web, chat, "share my life" and meet new people with computers fifteen years ago. The iPad has made that process easier and better, and to some extent cheaper. And it's a great product.

But that's not "disruption", it's just plain old improvement.

People could do everything an Apple II or IBM PC could do fifteen years before those machines came out. But most people didn't, because it was extremely expensive and cumbersome.

Right, and that made the microcomputer a disruptive technology. Web browsing fifteen years ago wasn't "extremely expensive and cumbersome", it was cheap and pervasive.

Ergo: the iPad is not a disruptive technology. It's just an improvement on existing stuff.

"I could play games, take pictures, send them to friends, surf the web, chat, "share my life" and meet new people with computers fifteen years ago. The iPad has made that process easier and better, and to some extent cheaper."

and more accesible to ordinary people.

"Ordinary people" weren't browsing the web 15 years ago? I have a truck full of AOL disks and one stock market boom/bust cycle that says otherwise.

That seems to presume that ordinary people have static capabilities needing technologies to move them along. But a huge part of the reason ordinary people are doing these things more than they were 15 years ago is (1) the pervasiveness of those basic technologies has deepened, creating more exposure overall, and (2) people have had time to learn and to help others learn to use them.

Neither of these can be directly linked to the iPad or any tablet as a primary cause.

The third world would not be well served by ipads. How much time have you spent there? Reading is not a common activity or ability. But who knows what 20 years will hold. For what it's worth, Ipads and other tablets are already sold there. Typically, as soon as afforded, the devices are used for facebook, twitter and games. Internet usually turned off due to exorbitant prices.

Arduinos and Raspberry Pis have more potential for really making a difference in the lives of people in said countries. It is very important that the children have devices that are open and frictionless to tinker on and with many user serviceable parts. Framing works for more than words. The right (lack of) packaging will prime curiosity. The imposing closed sleek finish of an ipad is more an object to be admired and treated with care. It would only engage the intellect of the most innately curious.

In an environment with little resources and infrastructure people have to resort to human ingenuity to cobble up solutions that satisfice. A computing device amenable to being cobbled with cheap odds and ends, for disparate scenarios, will have the more readily compounding effect.

What will it disrupt exactly? Example? As far as I can tell, it is merely a device that affords convenience.

The disruption in mobile & social already happened, the iPhone, iPad and Facebook are just indicators that the industry has moved in to a very mature stage.

What did mobile and social disrupt?

-Authoritarian governments. -Print media -Broadcast and cable TV -Anything people occupied their time with before it

What will/has the iPad disrupt/disrupted?

-Microsoft -Desktop & Laptop hardware manufacturers -Print books (asta la vista Borders) -Television sets

Steve Blank's complaint is basically that the margins are so good in this "new" market that all the money is being invested here and the next big disruptors are getting ignored.

I think as processing power continues to drop in price and mass market access to gigantic data sets grows, this will become a non-issue. The question is, will those disruptions come from somewhere outside of Silicon Valley?

Well one thing are those god awful POS systems like Micros: http://www.micros.com/

How is a device that afford convenience not disruptive?

I can walk from Seattle to Portland if I desired, the only advantage a car offers is convenience. Yet through that dramatic increase in convenience the car has proven to be one of the most disruptive inventions in history. Similarly, one can communicate, do graphic design, mix audio, produce movies, write letters and novels without a computer but the convenience afforded by computers and the internet has fundamentally transformed all of those activities.

Those comparisons aren't even nearly on the same scale. A car doesn't just offer convenience, it offers trips that were previously impossible. It is not possible to walk from Seattle to Portland in any kind of meaningful timeframe.

An iPad, on the other hand, makes a few tasks marginally quicker, but is incapable of other tasks. It is marginally more portable. Yes, there are other benefits (as you state) but they are nothing compared to the amount of time that would be generated by self-driving cars. The average US citizen spends 7% of their life driving:


Imagine the difference that could make. We could all play on our iPads more.

Those comparisons aren't even nearly on the same scale. A car doesn't just offer convenience, it offers trips that were previously impossible. It is not possible to walk from Seattle to Portland in any kind of meaningful timeframe.

It's only 2-3 days by horse. You could do it in about a week on foot.

What makes a timeframe meaningful? Many of the settlers of the American West (including Portland and Seattle) walked there from Missouri alongside their wagons.


It has nothing to do with the journey itself, it is what that journey allows you to do. The settlers of the American West could not make that trip with any kind of regularity because it took so long. These days, you could live in Portland and work in Seattle. Admittedly, it would be miserable, but still. The ability to commute is life-changing.

Compare that to the iPad. It does make reading my e-mail slightly more convenient, yes. It allows a number of different UI interactions. None of these are life changing.

A car makes commuting possible. That changes how cities are built. It integrates states and countries economically and socially.

There's a difference between "makes this already-very-feasible thing a bit more convenient" and "makes this thing feasible."

Right, so cell phones are irrelevant then because when they were introduced it was already already-very-feasible to call people, indeed it happened millions of times a day all across the country, telephone calls were routine. But even though cell phones made a feasible thing even more convenient and easier they were still a very transformative and very lucrative technology.

No, cell phones made it possible to call someone while they weren't at home or at the office. That's extremely important, and the main reason for cellphone adoption. It wasn't for pleasure calls. It was for reliable, anywhere communication.

Try and overstate it as an exercise for yourself.

Tablets shouldn't be discounted, but I can't see how they'll change more peoples' lives more than automated driving.

In terms of your points. (I'm assuming tablet = pad type of computer such as ipad, kindle, etc.):

1. Cheaper: Is this true compared to an ultra-low cost laptop, such as the OLPC X 1.75? They might have less components (no keyboard/mouse/touchpad), but capacitive touch screens aren't cheap (I believe $40 in the ipad2). So unless pricing closes in on keyboards (which go for around $10?), I see tablets as being pricier than laptops.

2/3. Agreed

4. Again, see #1. power consumption for low-end laptops is on-par with a tablet if not below. (XO 1.75 is 2W. XO-3 claims 1W).

5. Why is this so much different than a windows program?

So yes, I agree that tablets change things, but how much do they fundamentally improve a person's life? I agree some percentage of people will be taken from "not having a computer" to "having a computer/using it better", but in the end the tablet is just a lighter laptop you can use standing up and with friends easier. So ya, there's benefit, but world changing? I'd argue the laptop was just as, if not more, revolutionary than pad-formatted computers.

On the other hand, I feel automated cars are truly revolutionary. From the point of view of America:

1. 1% of Americans will die in a car crash and countless more will be injured. Automated systems will be an order of magnitude better than human drivers, so we'll see thousands of lives saved a year.

2. Without having to pay for a taxi driver or for expensive liability insurance, the price of a taxi will at least halve. At this point, there is less incentive to own cars and car ownership rate plummets, resulting in far fewer cars being produced (and cars being utilized at much higher rates). (I'm summarizing this famous post: https://plus.google.com/103583939320326217147/posts/TpN1g1oS...)

2a. Americans spend something like $300billion a year on new cars. Automated driving will save >$100B (1% of economy) annually.

3. Again, automated cars drive much better and can operate in situations too dangerous for humans (extremely close driving). With a good communication network, congestion operation will be much more efficient, leading to far less traffic and a reduced need to build more roads.

3a. Auto insurance industry a fraction of its original size. $150B+ savings

4. Driving jobs (taxi, truck) eliminated. That's over 4 million jobs. (2% of the workforce). Incredibly significant and another $100B in economic savings (of course assuming successful redirection to other economically productive activities).

Bottom line: In addition to regaining substantial time lost driving, America alone will save at least $350B a year. That's 2.5% of US GDP (and 25% of transportation gdp).

We spend something like 5-10% of our time driving. Automated driving would allow us to save that and use it for something useful. Not many innovations have saved people that much time.

You'll still be sitting in the car during that time (these are driverless cars, not personal teleporters), so I wager that the extra time will be spent on Angry Birds or watching TV on your phone.

True, you'll see some reduction in time though:

1. Less congestion

2. No need to find parking

> I'd argue the laptop was just as, if not more, revolutionary than pad-formatted computers.

Wouldnt it be more fair to say that the tablets finally do, what they promised us laptops would do?

I think the change to touch is quite radical, and that because all the ui stuff had to be reinvented, we were able to break away from all the desktop paradigmas.

These mobile OSes are fundamentally different: they allow a person to run managed untrusted applications, while minimizing battery life and maximizing security. This is a complete opposite of a desktop OS that is meant to run trusted applications with as much power, access and performance as possible.

The OLPC was great, but the tablets did make that compromize the new default for everybody.

Then again, i fully agree that self driving vehicles are more disruptive.

Good stuff, just one remark:

>technology will change what it means to live in the 3rd world

There is no 3rd world. Its 2012, not 1930. Income gaps are becoming localised, rather than globalized.

I understand your point, but i just hate the phrase, since it symbolizes the cartoonesque ignorance of the western world.

I am a gamer and I totally disagree with your point about gaming. Try playing FIFA 2012 on iPad vs. try playing it on laptop or PC. You will feel the difference.

The only reason I would buy an automated car is so that I will have more time to play with my iPad :)

I sort-of agree with you, but I wonder whether the effects of automated driving will be positive. Firstly, I doubt most current drivers will be extra productive in the time they gain once they have an automated car. Secondly, I worry whether those who currently drive cars professionally will get any job at all once we have automated cars.

And curing cancer will have an even greater impact. But as of today, cancer still kills millions and I am unable to buy an autonomous vehicle. However, I'm writing a comment on HN on my iPad.

I think that autonomous vehicles will be revolutionary, but it's going to be 5-10 years before such claims are anything more than bold prognostications.

The iPhone and iPad were absolutely not a "project" (the word he uses in the article) of the past five years. They're part of a project that started more than ten years ago. I certainly don't think they're old technology - they're still ahead of the tablet and arguably the smart phone market, I think - but I don't really classify them as small projects that have a lot of potential that were just invented in the past five years. Heck, you could easily argue that the iPad is the fruition of a vision, and a project, that Steve Jobs started decades ago. And if you want to get technical, the iPhone was in active development before five years ago.

There's a couple of problems with that argument. Apple is a great Silicon Valley success story, but they don't make products in Silicon Valley. They design them there, but they are manufactured elsewhere. In its heyday, Silicon Valley used to make things. Tangible things.

Manufacturing companies not only provide direct labor employment opportunities, but they also create 2-3 jobs in the local economy for every direct labor position.

The hardware companies of yesteryear made products that had a compounding value in the economy. Test and measurement equipment, processors, workstations, etc., were put to use making other products that had value, hence the compounding effect. I'm sure Apple products have a compounding value effect, but a company like Facebook probably doesn't, at least to the degree the old SV companies and their products did.

iPhone and iPad are not innovations, they're just very very good iteration of existing tech.

He is lamenting the number of talented high school kids playing baseball, not who won the World Series.

Largest _publicly_ traded company; I believe there is at least one privately held oil company worth more.

I believe he's talking about the current crop of startups and research that's getting funded right now.

agreeing with what others have said. Blank has basically redefined the study of entrepreneurship (in addition to starting and exiting quite a number of companies).

Apple does not need VC money.

>while ignoring that Apple has become the largest company in the history of the known universe

Sorry that's Microsoft, not Apple (even if during the dot com boom).

From Wiki:

Record Market Capitalization

On December 30, 1999 Microsoft reached an intraday high share price of $119.94[3]. With 5,160,024,593 outstanding shares (as of November 30, 1999),[4] it had a market capitalization of $618.9 billion. This was the highest market capitalization ever reached by a publicly traded company[5]. Adjusting for inflation to 2012, Microsoft's market capitalization would be $846 billion[

Apple only reached $600B.

He's Steve Blank. He probably has way more accomplishments, credentials, followers and respect than you do. You really should look before you leap before making comments like that. Also, he's clearly speaking at a strategic, coarse-grained level.

Elon Musk: I think we can put a man on Mars within 10 years.

Bud: Who cares what this guy thinks? (...)

see what I mean?

"In the last bubble there were no customers. Facebook makes $4 per user. The users are customers."

Nope. The users are the product, not the customers.

My take on this article is this: it's short-sided to put so much money into one particular sector, and to encourage others to pull them out of longer-to-realize-profit sectors. That the end result is a diminishing return in the long run for the country, or region as a whole. This being caused by a lack of "long-term tech investment."

However, the striking problem with the statement is that it is not backed up by data. How much money that would've been invested in "core" technology (technology used to enable other technology), pharmaceutical, or other investments was instead funneled for short-term gains into social start-ups? I'd understand that if one just read tech news, one might think all investment goes to SV software firms these days, but I have a hard time believing that's a fact and not just a matter of media selection.

Innovation can come from unlikely places, especially when people connect and come together. I don't think social is just about where the money is, I think it can be powerful force in the way we live our lives and also a source for future innovation. I'm not just talking about Facebook, but tools that bring the world a lot closer together.

I wonder if people criticized the telephone as much when people instead of "working" spent time chatting on the phone with their friends. Sure there will be people who waste time doing that, but I think in broader terms, it will help open up communication channels, enable new collaborations, allow a free exchange of ideas, and also lead to more innovation. It's just hard to see where things are going, but I would bet that they are headed in a positive direction.

It's easy to downplay the impact of Facebook compared to the kind of stuff Elon Musk is doing, but it was only last year that we saw dictators being overthrown with the help of social networks like Facebook. That's pretty cool too, no?

I think you are vastly overestimating the impact Facebook had on the so-called Arab spring. Internet penetration in that part of the world is not high enough for social media to trigger an uprising at that scale. Also, just because a dictator is overthrown doesn't mean things automatically change for the better. See Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and much of subsaharan Africa.

I like Steve Blank. In fact, he is one of my "mentor idos" (people I would lie to emulate, but no hero worship here). I also think he is wrong.

There is no "true path" of SV that it can fall off of and be over. Instead, there is a continued cycle of very technical people working together to build significant equity that is then recycled for more new tech people to do the same.

When that stops happening, SV will die. In the meantime (like any other time), there are sparkly things drawing people's attention. And I would be willing to wager the crop of people making big exits today aren't going to be happy investing everything in what they just did.

If he thinks the Valley is bad he should try to get investors to invest in something long term on the east coast (Boston).

On the East coast the first question is "What are your Sales number?".(yes they really are like Kevin O'Leary from Shark Tank). And "How is this going to scale?" (Cause lets face it social scales very well yet ironically in the east we didn't have the vision to first invest in it :) )

There must not be much going on in the world right now. So many headlines have similar grandiose statements recently. The valley is not dead. There are future disruptive companies being ran by two guys in a garage all over silicon valley. Sadly, you have to have the foresight to wait five years while they build momentum. There's never not a next big thing.

Actually, I want to amend that a little bit. Rocket city, spaceport, JPL, etc., I feel space travel is on the same precipice that tcp/ip and compuserve were in the 80's. The next 20 years will be fun.

This has always been the case. VC money has always gone to the last stage of commercialization of technology and not for basic science or long term engineering projects. That is why you are supposed to have research universities and research government agencies and foundations.

What he says is generally correct, but it is not new. So his pessimism is largely unwarranted.

To a large extent the investment in all that silicon is why developers can play the commodity game today. Many smart people are working on the next substrate for the next revolution and everything will change again. The differences are the breadth of the commodity wave and our consciousness of the time between breakthroughs.

Wouldn't cars be the domain of Detroit or Tokyo, not the Valley? Why would it? Perhaps the technology behind some of it would come from there, but doesn't that start from consumer electronics anyway?

He's being a bit too forward-thinking, decrying the absolute cultural sea change social media represents for almost all walks (and aspects) of our lives, relationships, and ways to do business. It's, IMO, the biggest revolution in the truest sense since the invention of the Web itself. That it came from the Valley is just a testament to the mindboggling creativity of that small patch of sand in the US.

We'll get to driverless cars and rocketships with HAL and novel cancer cures and all that soon(ish?) enough; but it can't all come from the Valley and (as he correctly posits) alot of it may come from Asia. Yet it won't be because Asia has the inside track to those innovations, or because they poached Valley talent away (Wall St. does enough of that with quant trading); it'll be because the money is so very fluid there and doesn't sit in VC silos to be doled out to the MIT-Stanford-Harvard-Berkeley idea factory.

Have you been to Detroit lately?

I'm just really happy that this made it to the front page of hacker news.

Kickstarter is starting to fill this gap.

This trophe is older than time its self people always say that yesterday was a golden age and those pesky kids today are ruining it.

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint" (Hesiod, 8th century BC).

SV is changing but I am sure people complained when software took over from hardware in SV

The problem with that quote of Hesiod is that, for all we know, the youth of Hesiod's time and place were worse behaved than their parents. And in any case, it's a question of how much technical innovation is coming out of an economic center, not whether we're disciplining our kids as well.

If you want to apply some ancient wisdom, here is some: change is constant. And it's not always for the best.

Is it me or does this feel like a blatant Google PR article?

Google Goggles is an augmented reality app that basically layers Yelp reviews over Google Maps Streetview. Did he mean Google Glass, the AR glasses that Google made a video about? Does this guy really think that the Google Glass project is groundbreaking? If it's so Earth-shattering, why am I typing this on an iPad and not through some next generation AR display on my head?!

The fact that you're not using it yet is almost a necessary condition for it being groundbreaking. The basic technology for the iPad has been around for ages, but the real innovation of the iPad is getting everything working smoothly and cohesively in a way that previous devices didn't. You may well be using AR of some variety at some point in the future but it will be some refined version with the kinks ironed out.

I'm willing to bet that if Google releases their AR Goggles, Apple will wait a year and then release the iGlasses which will actually work and revolutionize the masses.

You're right! The iPad isn't groundbreaking, because it exists and I can buy one today. Something really groundbreaking exists only in promo videos, has no publicly stated timeline for release, and is only actively discussed in tech news comment echo chambers.

The point is that the iPad has already broken ground. And that truly innovative and groundbreaking things are yet in the drawing board.

Because Glass hasn't been released yet.

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