What is your favorite Silicon Valley myth?

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I find myths fascinating.
Myths matter, even or especially when they are wrong.
Myths shape the perception of people believing them.
Myths therefore shape their actions as well.

What is your favorite myth in the startup / silicon valley / internet culture? Ideally something widely believed but that you know is wrong.

Why is it wrong?
What part of it is true and what is the correct take?
Do you expect the myth to die anytime soon?

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We respect your privacy.

Even if I could trust a random person on the internet, even if I could trust them to never change their mind, even if I could trust their security to be flawless... I cannot trust the company that will buy their data at some point in time.

 

Great one.
They could even genuinely respect your privacy and have perfect security, but then be acquired by a bigger company who can do whatever it wants with your data.

 

I will start.

The myth: We are living an unprecedented wave of innovation.

The myth is everywhere, both explicit and implicit.
For example the justification for introducing reforms like the universal income.
That reform may be good or bad, I don't have a strong opinion on it.
But the justification is this: look, have you heard about automation and AI and machine learning? Jobs will disappear any time soon. We need a totally different system for those totally new conditions.

Why it's wrong: saying that the robots are coming to take our jobs totally miss the point that they have been coming to take our jobs since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Jobs didn't disappear just yet. They evolved to satisfy other human needs.

But maybe the pace of the change is accelerating?

Can you spot this acceleration on this chart of US productivity?

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "paul krugman productivity"

That's right, the productivity if anything slowed down since the IT sector became huge.

"If the numbers are bad, it must be because they are wrong". That's basically what some researchers at Google tried to show. The numbers do not, they say, reflect properly the impact of the digital revolution.

Well no. Yes, the numbers underestimate the impact of our current wave of innovation. But they did the same with the previous waves of innovation. The previous waves had bigger numbers because they happened to matter more.

Think about it this way: some things like finding information quickly with Google and Wikipedia are obviously a big productivity booster.

Others aspects of the digital revolution would more happily waste your time. That includes chasing the hot new JavaScript framework, becoming more disconnected by going on Facebook every day, and the never ending stream of notifications that destroys your focus.

The global impact is positive of course.

It's just not as much a big deal as the innovations from let say 1880-1930.

Think about the container, an invention that completly changed to world economy. Or the agricultural revolution that enable 7 billions of humans to not starve. Or washing doctor hands so that women don't die when they give birth - it used to be more dangerous to give birth than to have a cancer.

What is true about the myth: we do really live in golden times for making money out of innovations.

The innovators of the past just rarely got as rich as quickly as did Bill Gates and Marc Zuckerberg. What changes everything is the concept of increasing returns at scale while before diminishing returns had been the norm. Google basically prints money for free at that point. Every additional ad they print cost them basically zero.

Not everybody reach that state of course, but it happened often enough that a lot of money is chasing around the next lucrative thing. And you don't have really to find it, it's enough if you can make venture capitalists believe you may have it. If you produce a good myth.

Read this hilarious takedown of We Work

Neumann created a company that destroyed value at a blistering pace and nonetheless extracted a billion dollars for himself. He lit $10 billion of SoftBank’s money on fire and then went back to them and demanded a 10% commission. What an absolute legend.

bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/201...

Do I expect the myth to die anytime soon?

No.

 
 

What does it mean in practice?
Knowing the right people, how to sell yourself and being lucky?

 

I.e., what any kind of success in capitalism had been based on already.

And yes.

 
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