Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Long Bet

Last post in my epic week.  This one is again mostly not EVE.  Be sure to check out the rest of this week's posts:


A favorite book of mine is The Nudist on The Late Shift.  It's a collection of short stories from some of the behind-the-scenes cute stories of companies and ideas that actually survived the 90's .com bubble.  Stories about Paypal and Hotmail, and the innovators that made these topics absolutely ubiquitous in our modern day.  A bit different than your standard "how they did it" biography... more silly pub stories than serious analysis.  Go read it.

One story that really stuck with me was about the 10,000 year clock.  Though I was always tickled with the logistics of such an ambitious project (how do you write a manual to last 10,000 years?), the part I really took to heart was their concept of the long bet.  Though I could yammer on and on about specific long bets or how one makes a long bet, I really want to focus in on taking long bets in the technology sector.

One of my favorite classes from school was Dr Anura Jayasumana's Introduction to Computer Networks.  Dr Jayasumana would bookend his classes with big top-level lectures on the bleeding edge of a topic, then work it into the class.  In networks, his research in distributed internet of things was a glimpse into a future full of sensors and autonomous machines quietly crunching behind the scenes; watching, monitoring, alerting us to dangers, and making decisions for us.

At the end of the networks class, he asked us to all make our long bets on what personal computing would look like in 10 years.  I was appalled by the lack of vision my classmates shared in their responses.  "more mobile applications", "smaller, more powerful chips", "sensors monitoring public places".  These can all be filed under "well... duh".  No big, risky, predictions like "the death of the desktop computer and a return to a terminal/mainframe architecture", no "major disruption in services due to the ever-increasing power cost (J/bit) of communication and 'cloud' services (may have paywall)".  Only parrots of what we already know is happening.

Similarly, I find it maddening when the pillars of tech spew out how "innovative" some product is, when it's just another revision of what already exists.  Yes, iPhone/iPod/Blackberry were all innovative in their early revs, but there is no reason to pee yourself in excitement over the iPhone 5.  It kind of boils down to the Henry Ford quote, "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have told me 'a better horse'".  It's not ground breaking if you are just iterating the tech.

Why bring this up?  My streams were a-buzz with news of the PS4 press conference.  And the live-tweets as developer after developer took the stage announcing their offering for the new product only made my heart sink.  Developers carting out old ponies for console release, the today-average hardware offering...

Let me cut to the chase: I think we're going to see more bad news for hardware developers because the age of the console is coming to a close.  Yes, in the last decade, I carted around a phone, iPod, portable gaming system, laptop, etc.  Yes, in my house were each person's desktops, a game console, a VCR (dating myself), DVD player, and they didn't interconnect.  But this was the past... and continuing to "innovate" for that techspace is a recipe for failure.  Mark my words: the day of the console is coming to an end... as is the death of the desktop tower... Enjoy your console/uber-gamer-rig while it lasts, I think this decade is the end of that trend.

As a closing remark, let me tie this back to Prosper; talk is cheap.  Because my personal vision is one of ubiquitous access across all platforms with a centrally hosted "cloud" service, I have structured Prosper to mirror this vision.  The entire design is based off a central hub pushing data out to any spoke that wants it.  From designing the interface to be mobile friendly, to planning for an android app, the system is mean to be universally accessible.  Though some might talk big, they rarely deliver.  The other half of my vision is to build a robust enough "black box" to allow for all the crap work and human mistakes to be automated out, freeing managers from the painful choice "work or play".  Combining both offerings into a solid cloud application should make "Prosper Everywhere"... though we will see if I can afford or actually reach my vision.

What's the point in dreaming if you don't dream big?