A New Soft Technology

A tweetstorm summary of Session 1 of the Breaking Smart workshop, based on essays 1-3.


1/ Since 2000, s/w has been leading, h/w has been following. Before 2000, it was the reverse. This is at the heart of software eating the world.

2/ When hardware led, Moore’s Law was cashed out for performance. With software leading, it is cashed out for low cost and low power.

3/ Software is third major soft technology to “eat” the world, after written language and money. Software eats both and does more.

4/ Impact of software is miscalibrated for four reasons. First is Amara’s Law: we overestimate short term, underestimate long term.

5/ Second, we have shifted from what Carlota Perez calls the installation phase to deployment phase, with different feel.

6/ Third, a lot of the impact of software is disguised. Genomics, robotics, 3d printing are software revolutions in disguise.

7/ Fourth, and most important, s/w revolution is led by teens breaking smart, adults following. We underestimate what they can do.

8/ Kids naturally get hacker ethos, resist credentialist ethos of degrees, certification. They have to be “schooled” into latter.

9/ Credentialist ethos leads to utopian, pastoral visions and deterministic, over-scripted problem-solving, which fails.

10/ Hacker ethos naturally leads to pragmatic, Promethean visions and probabilistic, improvised problem-solving, which works.

11/ We cannot predict what and when, but we can say four key things about how the future will emerge, based on hacker ethos.

12/ First, the US is still the most likely global leader of the transformation for immediate future, due to Promethean culture.

13/ Second, the future will unfold through small (two-pizza) groups having large impacts, not Organization Man type institutions.

14/ Third, gradual, buggy messy progress, not sudden arrival at utopia. What Brad deLong @delong calls ‘Slouching Towards Utopia.’

15/ Fourth, progress through rapidly declining costs, including in historically resistant sectors like healthcare and education.

16/ This may look like it’s all about consumers, but new wants/needs will take care of the jobs “problem” as even Keynes foresaw.

17/ Overall outcome will be what Edmund Phelps calls Mass Flourishing: a world breaking smart.