So…I’ve been reading this book called WTF? What’s the Future and Why it’s Up to Us. It’s really good! The author endeavors to use what we’ve learned from technological history and apply it to a technology present that we are losing control of. I had never heard of Tim O’Reilly before picking up this book but he seems to have been around to witness the last few decades of technological changes. This book is basically filled with his own anecdotes and thoughts on where things are going.
Tim reminisces about how the open-source under dog went on to change the landscape of software and technology distribution by defeating monopolistic giants like Microsoft and IBM. It’s a feel good story about how smart every day people working together can change the world. He shares his personal stories about Jeff Bezos; times when they are at odds and times when they worked together towards a common goal. He dissects how innovative tech companies like Amazon, Uber, and Google create platforms that deify users and customers.
But tt’s not all sunshine and roses. Tim also warns of our present world where algorithms are not yet sentient, but that they may no longer be serving the interest of humans all the same. One example he brings are the financial algorithms that flow in and out of stocks to scalp value over incredibly small time frames. They are born from a world where the share price of a company is the most significant metric when assessing corporate success. How did humans create a world where humans are not valued? Maybe it’s because we have been letting algorithms think and and make decisions for us.
I haven’t finished it as of writing this post, but I find it to be a balanced perspective on how technology has developed over the past few decades. I will say, the author is a bit self indulgent, always putting himself on the good, benevolent side of history. I’m sure Tim also thinks that he is very clever for changing the “WTF” acronym to something other than the traditional expletive meaning. However, even if the narrator is flawed, I still appreciate how he organizes thirty years of his experiences into concepts and ideas that could be passed onto me. Tim’s voice is worth hearing.