|I asked Peter if I could post some of his new book on HN. Here is Chapter Two, which I think will be interesting to people here.|
Party Like It’s 1999
Our contrarian question—What important truth do very few people agree with you on?—is difficult to answer directly. It may be easier to start with a preliminary: what does everybody agree on? “Madness is rare in individuals—but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule,” Nietzsche wrote (before he went mad). If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies hidden behind it: the contrarian truth.
Consider an elementary proposition: companies exist to make money, not to lose it. This should be obvious to any thinking person. But it wasn’t so obvious to many in the late1990s, when no loss was too big to be described as an investment in an even bigger, brighter future. The conventional wisdom of the “New Economy” accepted page views as a more authoritative, forward‐looking financial metric than something as pedestrian as profit.
Conventional beliefs only ever come to appear arbitrary and wrong in retrospect; whenever one collapses, we call the old belief a bubble. But the distortions caused by bubbles don’t disappear when they pop. The internet bubble of the ’90s was the biggest of the last eight decades, and the lessons learned afterward define and distort almost all thinking about technology today. The first step to thinking clearly is to question what we think we know about the past.
A Quick History of the ’90s
The 1990s have a good image. We tend to remember them as a prosperous, optimistic decade that happened to end with the internet boom and bust. But many of those years were not as cheerful as our nostalgia holds. We’ve long since forgotten the global
context for the 18 months of dot‐com mania at decade’s end.
CONTINUE HERE: http://pastebin.com/NuxLFmW4