Sam Altman

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pages: 332 words: 97,325

The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups by Randall Stross

affirmative action, Airbnb, AltaVista, always be closing, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, barriers to entry, Ben Horowitz, Burning Man, business cycle, California gold rush, call centre, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, don't be evil, Elon Musk, high net worth, index fund, inventory management, John Markoff, Justin.tv, Lean Startup, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, medical residency, Menlo Park, Minecraft, minimum viable product, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, QR code, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, social graph, software is eating the world, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Startup school, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, TaskRabbit, transaction costs, Y Combinator

When he sees a strong team of founders with the qualities that he believes favor success, he will overlook a weak idea.2 “I believe this could be Altair BASIC,” he tells the Kalvins, who all were born many years after the first microcomputer, the Altair, was introduced in 1975. “Do you know what Altair BASIC was? Microsoft’s first product, right?” Printing photo books could be their start, their Altair BASIC, but Graham wants to know: “What do you expand into from this?” “We basically believe in the power of memory, nostalgia. We could go into lots of physical products—” a Kalvin begins. Another YC partner jumps in. Sam Altman is an alumnus from Y Combinator’s inaugural batch, summer 2005, and holds a day job as the chief executive of Loopt, the company that came out of that experience.3 But he’s also a part-time YC partner and sits in on the finalist interviews when he can. “I believe you on the memories and nostalgia,” says Altman. “But are people still printing books like that?” “Yeah. Last year, the photo book printing market was over $1 billion.

Graham permits Dolphin to proceed, fielding questions about the technology that he and O’Doherty have developed—an Android app used to evaluate the performance of individual cell towers. The two young men think the data that the app collects may be useful to consumers who wish to compare the reliability of different wireless carriers’ service. The technical expertise embodied in their testing software impressed him, and even more important, impressed Sam Altman, the resident expert in the room on wireless technology. After a few minutes, however, Graham cannot wait any longer to inquire what possible reason accounts for O’Doherty’s seeming defiance of YC’s requirement that all founders be present. “Why did you not come to the interview?” he asks of O’Doherty through Dolphin’s open laptop. “At the moment I’m actually supposed to be studying for pretty major final exams at my school, and the parents sort of just axed the idea of coming out,” answers the disembodied voice of O’Doherty.

The company has also “partnered” with Greek houses that were willing, for a donation, to drape a large CampusCred banner outside. Graham cannot contain his excitement. “If I were you, I’d essentially write a program, executed by humans, for how to colonize a new college. And you just colonize all of them. There’s no limit! Do them all next month!” The founders laugh, thinking Graham could not possibly be serious, but he is. Sam Altman, whose voice is always serious, asks the CampusCreds, “Is there a reason you haven’t done that?” “We need a rep at most of the campuses,” one answers. It is the rep who enlists local businesses and sets up the deals that are sold on the site. Altman notices something else that is impressive: at the large deal sites, like Groupon, about 85 percent of the customers are women. But CampusCred’s customers are almost evenly divided between women and men.


We Are the Nerds: The Birth and Tumultuous Life of Reddit, the Internet's Culture Laboratory by Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

4chan, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, Bernie Sanders, big-box store, bitcoin, blockchain, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Heinemeier Hansson, Donald Trump, East Village, game design, Golden Gate Park, hiring and firing, Internet Archive, Jacob Appelbaum, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Joi Ito, Justin.tv, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, medical residency, minimum viable product, natural language processing, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, QR code, recommendation engine, RFID, rolodex, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, semantic web, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, slashdot, Snapchat, social web, South of Market, San Francisco, Startup school, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, technoutopianism, uber lyft, web application, WikiLeaks, Y Combinator

Mikhail Gurevich, his cousin Greg Gurevich, and their buddy Mikhail Ledvich pitched an idea for remedying online click fraud, which—theoretically, at least—could boost the effectiveness of online advertising. They called it ClickFacts. Greg Gurevich adeptly and confidently answered Graham’s technical questions. (What Graham and Livingston didn’t know was that Greg was mostly winging it. He had a talent for mustering confidence; perhaps the shots of vodka chased with Listerine that he, his cousin, and their buddy had just downed helped.) Nineteen-year-old Sam Altman pitched Loopt, a location-aware social networking application, with two other founders. Only by the time of the interview, Altman’s cofounders seemed like they were bailing out. Upon hearing that Altman would be flying solo, Graham emailed him, brushing off a cofounderless endeavor: “You know, Sam, you’re only a freshman. You have plenty of time to start a startup. Why don’t you just apply later?”

Graham had told each group to wait for a call around 7 p.m. on Sunday, not long after the interviews wrapped up. The YC partners made quick work of whittling down from twenty interviews the eight they wanted to fund. Livingston wrote a short list on the whiteboard in their Garden Street office, simply listing nicknames she’d made for each group, such as “The Kikos,” the Yale group with the great four-letter domain name. They made the cut. Sam Altman, the solo sophomore: yes. The Russians, whom Graham had started to think of as “The 3 Mikhails” (never mind that one of them was named Greg): yes. Aaron Swartz, the Internet phenom: yes. Promptly at 7 p.m., Graham started dialing numbers. Huffman and Ohanian were crashing that weekend with their friend Felipe Velásquez, who belonged to one of Harvard’s elite finals clubs, the Fly Club, and they spent time roaming the clubhouse at Two Holyoke Place near Harvard Square.

* * * When Wong pulled his ocean-blue Tesla onto Pioneer Way, a cul-de-sac in downtown Mountain View, in the spring of 2014, he saw several open parking spots in the lot to the side of Y Combinator’s headquarters. But he drove past them. He wasn’t trying to look ostentatious, and he knew his car was a little flashy. He wanted to make a good first impression with the guy he’d heard so much about: Sam Altman. As Wong parked a good distance from the door, he noticed in his rearview mirror another Tesla—this one an even flashier lighter shade of blue. He trained his eyes on the mirror and saw it slowly pull into a spot. A couple seconds later, out stepped Altman. If Wong’s vision of growing and evolving Reddit as a “city-state” and trying to appease the community was rough going, his other objective, to move the company toward profitability, was tougher.


pages: 393 words: 91,257

The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class by Joel Kotkin

Admiral Zheng, Andy Kessler, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Bernie Sanders, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, clean water, creative destruction, deindustrialization, demographic transition, don't be evil, Donald Trump, edge city, Elon Musk, European colonialism, financial independence, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, gig economy, Gini coefficient, Google bus, guest worker program, Hans Rosling, housing crisis, income inequality, informal economy, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, Joseph Schumpeter, land reform, liberal capitalism, life extension, low skilled workers, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, megacity, Nate Silver, new economy, New Urbanism, Occupy movement, Parag Khanna, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post-industrial society, post-work, postindustrial economy, postnationalism / post nation state, precariat, profit motive, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, Richard Florida, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Sam Altman, Satyajit Das, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, superstar cities, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Future of Employment, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, trade route, Travis Kalanick, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, universal basic income, unpaid internship, upwardly mobile, We are the 99%, Wolfgang Streeck, women in the workforce, working-age population, Y Combinator

CHAPTER 18–THE TOTALITARIAN URBAN FUTURE 1 Kevin Carty, “Tech Giants Are the Robber Barons of Our Time,” New York Post, February 3, 2018, https://nypost.com/2018/02/03/big-techs-monopolistic-rule-is-hiding-in-plain-sight/. 2 Henry Grabar, “Building Googletown,” Slate, October 25, 2017, https://slate.com/technology/2017/10/sidewalk-labs-quayside-development-in-toronto-is-googles-first-shot-at-building-a-city.html; Sophie Davies, “WiFi but No Water: Can Smart Tech Help a City’s Poor?” Reuters, January 4, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-cities-tech-inequality/wi-fi-but-no-water-can-smart-tech-help-a-citys-poor-idUSKBN1EU0JF. 3 William Mitchell, City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), 50. 4 Luke Stangel, “Sam Altman wants Silicon Valley to sign on to a core set of common values,” Silicon Valley Business Journal, April 19, 2017, https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2017/04/19/sam-altman-donald-trump-silicon-valley.html. 5 Jane Wakefield, “Tomorrow’s Cities—nightmare vision of the future?” BBC, February 22, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37384152. 6 Greg Ferenstein, “Silicon Valley’s political endgame, summarized in 12 visuals,” Medium, November 5, 2015, https://medium.com/the-ferenstein-wire/silicon-valley-s-political-endgame-summarized-1f395785f3c1. 7 Geoff Nesnow, “73 Mind-blowing Implications of Driverless Cars and Trucks,” Medium, February 9, 2018, https://medium.com/@DonotInnovate/73-mind-blowing-implications-of-a-driverless-future-58d23d1f338d; Steve Andriole, “Already Too Big to Fail—The Digital Oligarchy Is Alive, Well (& Growing),” Forbes, July 29, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveandriole/2017/07/29/already-too-big-to-fail-the-digital-oligarchy-is-alive-well-growing/#71125b7667f5. 8 Marisa Kendall, “Tech execs back California bill that aims to build more housing near transit,” Mercury News, January 25, 2018, https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/01/24/tech-execs-back-bill-that-aims-to-build-more-housing-near-transit/. 9 Ferenstein, “Silicon Valley’s political endgame, summarized in 12 visuals.” 10 Nellie Bowles, “Dorm Living for Professionals Comes for San Francisco,” New York Times, March 4, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/04/technology/dorm-living-grown-ups-san-francisco.html; Emmie Martin, “Facebook and Google are both building more affordable housing in Silicon Valley,” CNBC, July 10, 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/07/facebook-and-google-are-building-affordable-housing-in-silicon-valley.html; Avery Hartmans, “Facebook is building a village that will include housing, a grocery store and a hotel,” Business Insider, July 7, 2017, https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-building-employee-housing-silicon-valley-headquarters-2017-7. 11 Ben Tarnoff, “Tech’s push to teach coding isn’t about kids’ success—it’s about cutting wages,” Guardian, September 21, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/21/coding-education-teaching-silicon-valley-wages. 12 Gerard C.

Most, Ferenstein adds, believe that an “increasingly greater share of economic wealth will be generated by a smaller slice of very talented or original people. Everyone else will come to subsist on some combination of part-time entrepreneurial ‘gig work’ and government aid.”11 Ferenstein says that many tech titans, in contrast to business leaders of the past, favor a radically expanded welfare state.12 Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Travis Kalanick (former head of Uber), and Sam Altman (founder of Y Combinator) all favor a guaranteed annual income, in part to allay fears of insurrection by a vulnerable and struggling workforce. Yet unlike the “Penthouse Bolsheviks” of the 1930s, they have no intention of allowing their own fortunes to be squeezed. Instead, the middle class would likely foot much of the bill for guaranteed wages, health care, free college, and housing assistance, along with subsidies for gig workers, who do not receive benefits from their employers.13 This model could best be described as oligarchical socialism.

“The rise to power of net-based monopolies coincides with a new sort of religion based on becoming immortal,” writes Jaron Lanier.30 Potentially the most radical and far-reaching of the emerging creeds, transhumanism is a distinctly secular approach to achieving the long-cherished religious goal of immortality.31 The new tech religion treats mortality not as something to be transcended through moral actions, but as a “bug” to be corrected by technology.32 Although it sounds a bit like a wacky cult, transhumanism has long exercised a strong fascination for the elites of Silicon Valley. Devotees range from Sergei Brin, Larry Page, and Ray Kurzweil (of Google) to Peter Thiel and Sam Altman (Y Combinator). Kurzweil celebrates new technologies that allow for close monitoring of brain activity.33 Y Combinator is developing a technology for uploading one’s brain and preserving it digitally.34 The aim is to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”35 In some ways, transhumanism seems natural for those who hold technology above all other values.


pages: 559 words: 155,372

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez

Airbnb, airport security, always be closing, Amazon Web Services, Burning Man, Celtic Tiger, centralized clearinghouse, cognitive dissonance, collective bargaining, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, disruptive innovation, drone strike, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, financial independence, global supply chain, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, hive mind, income inequality, information asymmetry, interest rate swap, intermodal, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, Malcom McLean invented shipping containers, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Maui Hawaii, means of production, Menlo Park, minimum viable product, MITM: man-in-the-middle, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Paul Graham, performance metric, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, Scientific racism, second-price auction, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, social web, Socratic dialogue, source of truth, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, undersea cable, urban renewal, Y Combinator, zero-sum game, éminence grise

It involved pitching a mini version of our eventual Demo Day presentation to a select group of elite YC investors. As with a talent show, those investors then voted on which companies they wanted to talk to, and after computing the tally, we were given two angels to prepare us for the eventual fund-raising hootenanny. We drew two very notable Silicon Valley figures: Jean-François “Jeff” Clavier and Sam Altman. Sam Altman is the current head of Y Combinator, and the person whom Paul Graham has entrusted with transforming his brainchild into a long-lived and scalable institution. In 2010, he was CEO and founder of Loopt, a company that had pioneered the location-check-in product that Foursquare would later eclipse (only to itself stumble), and which Facebook eventually worked into its product. At the time, though, Loopt was still a location player, and Sam would take an hour out of his busy week, usually late afternoon on a Friday, to field whatever questions I had, no agenda required.

In my desperation to find an in with Microsoft, I had stalked people on LinkedIn like some recruiter trying to poach a hire, searching for an intersection point with Microsoft. Sama was one of those highly connected nodes that pepper the Valley; you know him, and you’re not more than two hops from anybody that matters. Sam Altman assured me he’d try to do the best he could, and promptly cut off the call. A week went by. Driving on the 280, I saw his number flash on my phone and pulled over; Sam Altman cannot be dealt with at eighty miles per hour. “So I talked to [name redacted], who is Adchemy’s business-development contact at Microsoft. He assures me he brought up the AdGrok issue in one of their meetings with Adchemy. He stated it was going to be problematic if Adchemy was embroiled in litigation while discussing the Microsoft deal.”

Let’s be blunt: ours was a relationship of pure convenience, and I exploited you as much as you did me. As they say, the ideal deal is one where both parties walk away feeling slightly screwed. Here’s to our perfect deal. Thanks to Matt McEachen and Argyris Zymnis, my fellow comrades in the startup trenches. I told you this Y Combinator thing would be big. To Paul Graham, Jessica Livingston, Sam Altman, and the rest of the Y Combinator partners and founders involved in the AdGrok saga. In a Valley world awash with mammoth greed and opportunism masquerading as beneficent innovation, you were the only real loyalty and idealism I ever encountered. Lastly, thanks to my former Facebook colleagues, who provided such an amusing cast for this book, and two years of my life. Many of you will surely excommunicate me following publication.


pages: 477 words: 75,408

The Economic Singularity: Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Capitalism by Calum Chace

3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Airbnb, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, call centre, Chris Urmson, congestion charging, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Douglas Engelbart, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flynn Effect, full employment, future of work, gender pay gap, gig economy, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, ImageNet competition, income inequality, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of the telephone, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, lifelogging, lump of labour, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, McJob, means of production, Milgram experiment, Narrative Science, natural language processing, new economy, Occupy movement, Oculus Rift, PageRank, pattern recognition, post scarcity, post-industrial society, post-work, precariat, prediction markets, QWERTY keyboard, railway mania, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Rodney Brooks, Sam Altman, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, software is eating the world, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber for X, uber lyft, universal basic income, Vernor Vinge, working-age population, Y Combinator, young professional

[xcvii] IBM says that its cognitive computing business, which depends heavily on machine learning, now accounts for over a third of its $81 billion annual revenues, and is the main focus for the company’s growth. IBM Watson’s best-known work today is in the medical sector, but it is also carrying out large-scale projects in food safety with Mars, and in personality profiling for recruitment firms and dating apps.[xcviii] In December 2015, Elon Musk and Sam Altman, president of the technology incubator Y Combinator announced the formation of a new company called Open AI. They had recruited a clutch of the top machine learning professionals despite the efforts of Google and Facebook to hang onto them with eye-watering financial offers. There is some uncertainty about whether other companies controlled by Musk and Altman (like Tesla and Solar City) will have privileged access to technologies developed at Open AI, but the thrust of the company is to make advanced AI techniques more widely available in the hope that will de-risk them.

The Dutch cities of Utrecht, Groningen, Wageningen and Tilburg are asking their national government for permission to carry out trials, and a referendum is expected during 2016 in Switzerland. All these initiatives are looking for ways to tackle problems with existing social welfare systems. We have to go to Silicon Valley to find an experiment specifically designed to explore the impact of UBI in the context of a jobless future when machine intelligence has automated most of what we currently do for a living. Just such an experiment was announced in January 2016 by Sam Altman, president of the seed capital firm Y Combinator, which gave a start in life to Reddit, AirBnB and DropBox. Altman's task is not trivial: he will have to figure out a way to quantify the satisfaction his guinea pigs derive from their UBI, and whether they are doing anything useful with their time.[cccv] Socialism? With all these experiments bubbling up, the concept of UBI has become a favourite media topic, but it is controversial.

[xcii] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-23/speech-recognition-better-than-a-human-s-exists-you-just-can-t-use-it-yet.html [xciii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/05/28/microsoft-unveils-near-real-time-language-translation-for-skype/ [xciv] http://www.technologyreview.com/news/544651/baidus-deep-learning-system-rivals-people-at-speech-recognition/#comments [xcv] https://youtu.be/V1eYniJ0Rnk?t=1 [xcvi] http://edge.org/response-detail/26780 [xcvii] http://techcrunch.com/2016/03/19/how-real-businesses-are-using-machine-learning/ [xcviii] http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-cutting-edge-ibm-20160422-story.html [xcix] http://www.wired.com/2016/04/openai-elon-musk-sam-altman-plan-to-set-artificial-intelligence-free/ [c] http://www.strategyand.pwc.com/global/home/what-we-think/innovation1000/top-innovators-spenders#/tab-2015 [ci] 2013 data: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/rdit1/gross-domestic-expenditure-on-research-and-development/2013/stb-gerd-2013.html [cii] http://insights.venturescanner.com/category/artificial-intelligence-2/ [ciii] http://techcrunch.com/2015/12/25/investing-in-artificial-intelligence/ [civ] http://www.wired.com/2015/11/google-open-sources-its-artificial-intelligence-engine/ [cv] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/13/google-updates-tensorflow-open-source-artificial-intelligence [cvi] http://www.wired.com/2015/12/facebook-open-source-ai-big-sur/ [cvii] The name Parsey McParseFace is a play on a jokey name for a research ship which received a lot of votes in a poll run by the British government in April 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/googles-open-source-parsey-mcparseface-helps-machines-understand-english-1463088180 [cviii] Assuming you don't count the Vatican as a proper country. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/google-project-loon-provide-free-wifi-across-sri-lanka-1513136 [cix] https://setandbma.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/who-coined-the-term-big-data/ [cx] http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/37701/amara-s-law [cxi] http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n05/john-lanchester/the-robots-are-coming [cxii] Haitz's Law states that the cost per unit of useful light emitted decreases exponentially [cxiii] http://computationalimagination.com/article_cpo_decreasing.php [cxiv] http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/07/technology/circuits/07essay.html [cxv] . http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/02/intel-forges-ahead-to-10nm-will-move-away-from-silicon-at-7nm/ [cxvi] .


pages: 300 words: 76,638

The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future by Andrew Yang

3D printing, Airbnb, assortative mating, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Ben Horowitz, Bernie Sanders, call centre, corporate governance, cryptocurrency, David Brooks, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, falling living standards, financial deregulation, full employment, future of work, global reserve currency, income inequality, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Khan Academy, labor-force participation, longitudinal study, low skilled workers, Lyft, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, Narrative Science, new economy, passive income, performance metric, post-work, quantitative easing, reserve currency, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, self-driving car, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, single-payer health, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, supercomputer in your pocket, technoutopianism, telemarketer, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, unemployed young men, universal basic income, urban renewal, white flight, winner-take-all economy, Y Combinator

Economists measured labor rates and found no reduction in hours worked—if anything they found people in the service industry expanded their businesses. This is hugely indicative because of the enormous sample size—Iran has 80 million people, equivalent to the combined total of New York, California, and Florida—over an extended period of time. Most recently, a small trial launched in the United States. Starting in early 2017 in Oakland, California, Sam Altman, the head of the technology firm Y Combinator, is giving 100 households in Oakland approximately $1,000 to $2,000 per month for about a year to measure the impacts on recipients. The goal is to roll out a larger five-year trial afterward. Sam and his friends are giving away $2 million and hiring researchers just to see what will happen. I love the fact that Sam is putting up the resources to study this problem.

The most direct way to do so would be to move toward a single-payer health care system, in which the government both guarantees health care for all and negotiates fixed prices. Medicare—the government-provided health care program for Americans 65 and over—essentially serves this role for senior citizens and has successfully driven down costs and provided quality care for tens of millions. Most everyone loves Medicare—it’s politically bulletproof. Sam Altman, the head of Y Combinator, suggests rolling out Medicare across the population by gradually lowering the eligibility age over time. A gradual phase-in would give the industry time to plan and adjust. This is an excellent way forward, and a “Medicare-for-all” movement is currently gathering steam. There would inevitably remain a handful of private options for the super-affluent, but most everyone would use the generalized care.

Lauren Zalaznick, Cheryl Houser, Eric Bahn, Miles Lasater, Bernie Sucher, Kathryn Bendheim, Daniel Tarullo, Miika Grady, Scott Krase, Eric Cantor, Lawrence Yang, Owen Johnson, Chip Hazard, Chris Boggiano, Marian Salzman, Guillermo Silberman, and many others provided phenomenal insight into early drafts. Albert Wenger, Josh Kopelman, Rutger Bregman, David Brooks, J. D. Vance, Jean Twenge, Lisa Wade, Victor Tan Chen, Yuval Harari, Steve Case, David Autor, Krystal Ball, Ryan Avent, Alec Ross, Mark Zuckerberg, Sam Altman, Chris Hughes, Derek Thompson, Steve Glickman, John Lettieri, Rana Foroohar, Tim O’Reilly, Dylan Matthews, Annie Lowrey, Ross Baird, Nick Hanauer, David Rose, and Scott Santens shaped my thinking on many points, generally without knowing it. Thank you to Zeke Vanderhoek for being such a great partner and friend. This, too, is your legacy. Thank you to Muhan Zhang, Andrew Frawley, Katie Bloom, Matt Shinners, and Zach Graumann for being a part of the new story very early on.


pages: 179 words: 43,441

The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab

3D printing, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, bitcoin, blockchain, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, clean water, collaborative consumption, commoditize, conceptual framework, continuous integration, crowdsourcing, digital twin, disintermediation, disruptive innovation, distributed ledger, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, future of work, global value chain, Google Glasses, income inequality, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of the steam engine, job automation, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, life extension, Lyft, mass immigration, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, more computing power than Apollo, mutually assured destruction, Narrative Science, Network effects, Nicholas Carr, personalized medicine, precariat, precision agriculture, Productivity paradox, race to the bottom, randomized controlled trial, reshoring, RFID, rising living standards, Sam Altman, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, smart cities, smart contracts, software as a service, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stuxnet, supercomputer in your pocket, TaskRabbit, The Future of Employment, The Spirit Level, total factor productivity, transaction costs, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, working-age population, Y Combinator, Zipcar

As theoretical physicist and author Stephen Hawking and fellow scientists Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark and Frank Wilczek wrote in the newspaper The Independent when considering the implications of artificial intelligence: “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all…All of us should ask ourselves what we can do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks”.60 One interesting development in this area is OpenAI, a non-profit AI research company announced in December 2015 with the goal to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return”.61 The initiative – chaired by Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, and Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors - has secured $1 billion in committed funding. This initiative underscores a key point made earlier – namely, that one of the biggest impacts of the fourth industrial revolution is the empowering potential catalyzed by a fusion of new technologies. Here, as Sam Altman stated, “the best way AI can develop is if it’s about individual empowerment and making humans better, and made freely available to everyone.”62 The human impact of some particular technologies such as the internet or smart phones is relatively well understood and widely debated among experts and academics.


pages: 307 words: 82,680

A Pelican Introduction: Basic Income by Guy Standing

bank run, basic income, Bernie Sanders, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Black Swan, Boris Johnson, British Empire, centre right, collective bargaining, cryptocurrency, David Graeber, declining real wages, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial intermediation, full employment, future of work, gig economy, Gunnar Myrdal, housing crisis, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, intangible asset, job automation, job satisfaction, Joi Ito, labour market flexibility, land value tax, libertarian paternalism, low skilled workers, lump of labour, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, mass incarceration, moral hazard, Nelson Mandela, offshore financial centre, open economy, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, Paul Samuelson, plutocrats, Plutocrats, precariat, quantitative easing, randomized controlled trial, rent control, rent-seeking, Sam Altman, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, sovereign wealth fund, Stephen Hawking, The Future of Employment, universal basic income, Wolfgang Streeck, women in the workforce, working poor, Y Combinator, Zipcar

Supporters in this fourth wave include: Nobel Prize winners James Buchanan, Herbert Simon, Angus Deaton, Christopher Pissarides and Joseph Stiglitz; academics Tony Atkinson, Robert Skidelsky and Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labour under Bill Clinton; prominent economic journalists Sam Brittan and Martin Wolf; and leading figures in the BIEN movement, such as German sociologist Claus Offe and the Belgian philosopher Philippe van Parijs. Latterly, the idea has been taken up by Silicon Valley luminaries and venture capitalists, some putting up money for the cause, as we shall see. They include Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, Sam Altman, head of the start-up incubator Y Combinator, Albert Wenger, a prominent venture capitalist, Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, Elon Musk, founder of SolarCity, Tesla and SpaceX, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent. Some people have rejected basic income on the rather crude reasoning that support from this quarter means it must be wrong!

A consensus view could probably be created around the idea that, while it cannot be predicted with certainty that technological change will result in mass displacement of human labour, such an eventuality cannot be ruled out. And we can be reasonably sure that these changes will continue to worsen inequalities and be seriously disruptive, in often unpredictable ways that will hit many people through absolutely no fault of their own. In these circumstances, introducing a basic income system now would be sensibly precautionary and an equitable way to respond to the already visible disruption and inequality. Sam Altman, president of the American start-up incubator Y Combinator, has justified his allocation of funds to a basic income pilot (discussed in Chapter 11) on the grounds that we need to know how people would respond if the jobless future were to be realized and a basic income introduced. He told Bloomberg, ‘I’m fairly confident that at some point in the future, as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs and massive new wealth gets created, we’re going to see some version of this [basic income] at a national scale.’21 In another interview, he put that point at ‘no fewer than 10 years’ and ‘no more than 100’.22 However, the immediate problem is one of income distribution rather than a sudden disappearance of work for humans to do.

Segal has recommended a monthly income guarantee of C$1,320 per person, about 75 per cent of the provincial poverty line, with an extra $500 for disability, to be paid for a minimum of three years. Y Combinator, California In 2016, the start-up ‘accelerator’ Y Combinator announced a plan to conduct a small-scale basic income pilot in Oakland, California, for which $20 million has been put aside, probably to be supplemented by other donors. A ‘pre-pilot’ was launched in September 2016 to test logistics and study design, and a three- or four-year pilot was set to start in mid-2017.14 Sam Altman, the young venture capitalist who is president of Y Combinator, has said he wanted to fund a study on basic income because of the potential of artificial intelligence to eliminate traditional jobs and widen inequalities. He is not primarily interested in studying the impact on employment, assuming that there will not be many jobs out there. Rather he wants to find out what people choose to do when basic needs are taken care of.


pages: 283 words: 81,376

The Doomsday Calculation: How an Equation That Predicts the Future Is Transforming Everything We Know About Life and the Universe by William Poundstone

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Black Swan, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, digital map, discounted cash flows, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, double helix, Elon Musk, Gerolamo Cardano, index fund, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, John von Neumann, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, Sam Altman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, time value of money, Turing test

“The strongest argument for us being in a simulation,” Musk said at the 2016 Recode conference, “is the following: 40 years ago, we had Pong. Two rectangles and a dot. Now 40 years later we have photorealistic 3D simulations with millions playing simultaneously. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality. It would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is 1 in millions.” In 2016 a New Yorker profile of venture capitalist Sam Altman mentioned in passing that “two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation.” This promptly led to speculation that one of the billionaires was Musk. Others wondered how it was even possible for simulated beings to break out of their simulation. Journalist Sam Kriss complained that “the tech industry is moving into territory once cordoned off for the occult.”

The United States has the Future of Life Institute at MIT, founded by Max Tegmark and Skype cofounder Jaan Tallinn, with a board of advisors including the ubiquitous Elon Musk (who donated $10 million). Silicon Valley has two such think tanks: the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, founded by computer scientist Eliezer Yudkowsky and tech entrepreneurs Brian and Sabine Atkins; and the OpenAI Foundation, founded by Musk, Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, and others. If this zeitgeist has a single axiom, it is that existential risks are different. Bostrom wrote: We cannot necessarily rely on the institutions, moral norms, social attitudes or national security policies that developed from our experience with managing other sorts of risks. Existential risks are a different kind of beast. We might find it hard to take them as seriously as we should simply because we have never yet witnessed such disasters.

“Putin Says the Country That Perfects AI Will Be ‘Ruler of the World.’” Engadget, September 4, 2017. engt.co/2HPsATL. Flam, F. D. “The Odds, Continually Updated.” New York Times, September 29, 2014. Franceschi, Paul. “A Third Route to the Doomsday Argument.” Journal of Philosophical Research 34 (2009): 263–278. Friedman, Milton, and Rose Friedman. Two Lucky People: Memoirs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Friend, Tad. “Sam Altman’s Manifest Destiny.” The New Yorker, October 10, 2016. Gardner, Martin. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. New York: Putnam, 1952. . “WAP, SAP, FAP & PAP.” New York Review of Books 33 (1986): 22–25. Gerig, Austin. “The Doomsday Argument in Many Worlds.” September 27, 2012. arXiv:1209.6251v1 [physics.pop-ph]. Glanz, James. “Point, Counterpoint and the Duration of Everything.” New York Times, February 8, 2000.


pages: 561 words: 157,589

WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us by Tim O'Reilly

4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Alvin Roth, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Bill Joy: nanobots, bitcoin, blockchain, Bretton Woods, Brewster Kahle, British Empire, business process, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computer vision, corporate governance, corporate raider, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, deskilling, DevOps, Donald Davies, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Flash crash, full employment, future of work, George Akerlof, gig economy, glass ceiling, Google Glasses, Gordon Gekko, gravity well, greed is good, Guido van Rossum, High speed trading, hiring and firing, Home mortgage interest deduction, Hyperloop, income inequality, index fund, informal economy, information asymmetry, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of movable type, invisible hand, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jitney, job automation, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, Lao Tzu, Larry Wall, Lean Startup, Leonard Kleinrock, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, microbiome, microservices, minimum viable product, mortgage tax deduction, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, Oculus Rift, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Buchheit, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, Ponzi scheme, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Sam Altman, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, SETI@home, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, social web, software as a service, software patent, spectrum auction, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strong AI, TaskRabbit, telepresence, the built environment, The Future of Employment, the map is not the territory, The Nature of the Firm, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Davenport, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, transportation-network company, Travis Kalanick, trickle-down economics, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, ubercab, universal basic income, US Airways Flight 1549, VA Linux, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We are the 99%, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, yellow journalism, zero-sum game, Zipcar

In Norway, by contrast, Autor said, “All kinds of work are valued. Everybody works, they just work a little less.” The generous redistribution of oil profits and a strong social safety net funded by the wealth that is understood to belong to all makes Norway one of the happiest and wealthiest countries in the world. For a technology perspective, I turned to Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail and now a partner at Y Combinator, and Sam Altman, the head of Y Combinator. In a 2016 conversation, Paul said to me: “There may need to be two kinds of money: machine money, and human money. Machine money is what you use to buy things that are produced by machines. These things are always getting cheaper. Human money is what you use to buy things that only humans can produce.” The idea that there should be different kinds of “money” is a provocative metaphor rather than a concrete proposal.

Rutger Bregman, the author of Utopia for Realists, a book about basic income, divides the pie differently, pointing out that rather than providing an income to those who don’t need it, we could use a negative income tax to give cash only to those who actually need it. Writers Matt Bruenig and Elizabeth Stoker calculated that in 2013, the amount needed to bring all of the Americans living below the poverty line up to at least its level would cost only $175 billion. Sam Altman explained that those who argue about how we would pay for a universal basic income today miss the point. “I am confident that if we need it, we will be able to afford it,” he said in a 2016 discussion of UBI at venture capital firm Bloomberg Beta with Andy Stern and the Aspen Institute’s Natalie Foster. One major factor that isn’t being considered, as Sam expanded on it in our subsequent conversation, is that the possible productivity gains from technology are enormous, and these gains can be used to reduce the price of any goods produced by machines—a basket of goods and services sufficient to support basic needs that costs $35,000 today might cost $3,500 in a future where the machines have put so many people out of work that a universal basic income is required.

Sunil Paul, Logan Green, Kim Rachmeler, Matt Cutts, Danny Sullivan, and Dave Guarino, you filled in critical details and context for key moments in this history. Satya Nadella, Reid Hoffman, Jeff Immelt, Peter Schwartz, Peter Bloom, Andy McAfee, Erik Brynjolfsson, David Autor, Larry Katz, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Sebastian Thrun, Yann LeCun, Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, Mike George, Rana Foroohar, Robin Chase, David Rolf, Andy Stern, Natalie Foster, Betsy Masiello, Jonathan Hall, Lior Ron, Paul Buchheit, Sam Altman, Esther Kaplan, Carrie Gleason, Zeynep Ton, Mikey Dickerson, Wael Ghonim, Tim Hwang, Henry Farrell, Amy Sellars, Mike McCloskey, Hank Green, Brandon Stanton, Jack Conte, Limor Fried, Phil Torrone, Seth Sternberg, Palak Shah, Keller Rinaudo, Stephane Kasriel, Bryan Johnson, Patrick Collison, Roy Bahat, Paddy Cosgrave, Steven Levy, Lauren Smiley, Bess Hochstein, Nat Torkington, Clay Shirky, Lawrence Wilkinson, Jessi Hempel, Mark Burgess, Carl Page, Maggie Shiels, Adam Davidson, and Winnie King, you also gave me the gift of your time and insight during the research and writing that led up to this book.


pages: 170 words: 49,193

The People vs Tech: How the Internet Is Killing Democracy (And How We Save It) by Jamie Bartlett

Ada Lovelace, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Keen, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, Boris Johnson, central bank independence, Chelsea Manning, cloud computing, computer vision, creative destruction, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dominic Cummings, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Filter Bubble, future of work, gig economy, global village, Google bus, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Julian Assange, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mittelstand, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, Nicholas Carr, off grid, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, payday loans, Peter Thiel, prediction markets, QR code, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Renaissance Technologies, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Mercer, Ross Ulbricht, Sam Altman, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, smart cities, smart contracts, smart meter, Snapchat, Stanford prison experiment, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, strong AI, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, technoutopianism, Ted Kaczynski, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, too big to fail, ultimatum game, universal basic income, WikiLeaks, World Values Survey, Y Combinator

And, on the same street, techies wearing white earbuds entered the gleaming offices of a company that promises to let you ‘belong anywhere’. Epilogue: Universal Basic Income At some point all this creative destruction becomes bad even for the winners. No one wants to live in a world comprising a handful of trillionaires and hordes of unemployed or extremely poorly paid people – not even the trillionaires. A growing number of people are proposing a bold new idea to deal with this. In 2017 I interviewed Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, the most important fund in Silicon Valley for tech start-ups. Thousands of businesses apply every year to access Y Combinator’s funding and guidance, in exchange for a small slice of their company. Sam is a Princeton dropout and frequently wears a hoodie, yet when I met him, he was only 31 years old and already a multi-millionaire. He is often described as ‘the man who invents the future’.

And who would pay for UBI is not clear to me, especially at a time when the tech firms seem keen to pay as little tax as possible. (In fact, the issue of how to pay for UBI is a quite interesting problem. If you were to divide up all current US spending on social welfare by capita, it would amount to only $2,300 per person per year, which is clearly not enough. Advocates for UBI rely on assumptions about the falling future costs of essential goods. Sam Altman, for example, in a 2016 discussion on the subject, said that it would be affordable in the future because of huge increases in productivity and a reduction in the cost of necessities. I doubt this would be a strong enough basis to persuade most policy-makers in government). ‘It strains credulity,’ writes tech critic Nicholas Carr, ‘to imagine today’s technology moguls, with their libertarian leanings and impatience with government, agreeing to the kind of vast wealth distribution scheme that would be necessary.’13 Certainly their behaviour to date does not bode well.


pages: 389 words: 112,319

Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, airport security, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, Andrew Wiles, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, autonomous vehicles, Ben Horowitz, Cal Newport, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, dark matter, delayed gratification, different worldview, discovery of DNA, double helix, Elon Musk, fear of failure, functional fixedness, Gary Taubes, George Santayana, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Inbox Zero, index fund, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, late fees, lateral thinking, lone genius, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mars Rover, meta analysis, meta-analysis, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, multiplanetary species, obamacare, Occam's razor, out of africa, Peter Thiel, Pluto: dwarf planet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Upton Sinclair, Vilfredo Pareto, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, Whole Earth Catalog, women in the workforce, Yogi Berra

Michael Belfiore, “Behind the Scenes with the World’s Most Ambitious Rocket Makers,” Popular Mechanics, September 1, 2009, www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/a5073/4328638. 55. Junod, “Musk: Triumph of His Will.” 56. Andrew Chaikin, “Is SpaceX Changing the Rocket Equation?,” Smithsonian, January 2012, www.airspacemag.com/space/is-spacex-changing-the-rocket-equation-132285884/?no-ist=&page=2. 57. Sam Altman, “How to Be Successful,” Sam Altman (blog), January 24, 2019, http://blog.samaltman.com/how-to-be-successful. 58. X, “Obi Felten, Head of Getting Moonshots Ready for Contact with the Real World,” https://x.company/team/obi. 59. Davies, “Inside X, the Moonshot Factory.” 60. Thompson, “Radical Creativity.” 61. Jessica Guynn, “Google’s Larry Page Will Try to Recapture Original Energy as CEO,” Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2011, www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2011-jan-22-la-fi-google-20110122-story.html. 62.

Marie Curie’s attempts to break gender barriers in science? Preposterous. Nikola Tesla’s vision of a wireless system for transmitting information? Science fiction. Often, our moonshots aren’t impossible enough. If people want to chuckle at your seeming naivete or call you unreasonable, wear it as a badge of honor. “Most highly successful people have been really right about the future at least once at a time when people thought they were wrong,” Sam Altman writes. “If not, they would have faced much more competition.”57 Today’s laughingstock is tomorrow’s visionary. You’ll be the one laughing when you cross the finish line. Shocking the brain through moonshot thinking doesn’t mean we stop considering practicalities. Once we have our wacky ideas, we can collide them with reality by switching from divergent to convergent thinking—from idealism to pragmatism.


pages: 301 words: 78,638

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

"side hustle", Atul Gawande, Cal Newport, Checklist Manifesto, choice architecture, clean water, cognitive dissonance, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, en.wikipedia.org, financial independence, invisible hand, Lao Tzu, late fees, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Paul Graham, randomized controlled trial, ride hailing / ride sharing, Sam Altman, Saturday Night Live, survivorship bias, Walter Mischel

Here are some of my favorite articles and books on the subject: Leo Babauta, “The Power of Habit Investments,” Zen Habits, January 28, 2013, https://zenhabits.net/bank; Morgan Housel, “The Freakishly Strong Base,” Collaborative Fund, October 31, 2017, http://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/the-freakishly-strong-base; Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect (New York: Vanguard Press, 2012). Accomplishing one extra task: As Sam Altman says, “A small productivity gain, compounded over 50 years, is worth a lot.” “Productivity,” Sam Altman. April 10, 2018, http://blog.samaltman.com/productivity. Habits are a double-edged sword: I’d like to credit Jason Hreha with originally describing habits to me in this way. Jason Hreha (@jhreha), “They’re a double edged sword,” Twitter, February 21, 2018, https://twitter.com/jhreha/status/966430907371433984. The more tasks you can handle without thinking: Michael (@mmay3r), “The foundation of productivity is habits.


pages: 252 words: 78,780

Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us by Dan Lyons

Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, Apple II, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, business process, call centre, Clayton Christensen, clean water, collective bargaining, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, cryptocurrency, David Heinemeier Hansson, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, full employment, future of work, gig economy, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, hiring and firing, housing crisis, income inequality, informal economy, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, job-hopping, John Gruber, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Lean Startup, loose coupling, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, McMansion, Menlo Park, Milgram experiment, minimum viable product, Mitch Kapor, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, new economy, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, Paul Graham, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, precariat, RAND corporation, remote working, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, Skype, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, software is eating the world, Stanford prison experiment, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, TaskRabbit, telemarketer, Tesla Model S, Thomas Davenport, Tony Hsieh, Toyota Production System, traveling salesman, Travis Kalanick, tulip mania, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, universal basic income, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator, young professional

“Are Tesla’s Self-Proclaimed ‘World’s Safest Cars’ Actually Among the World’s Deadliest?” ZeroHedge, May 29, 2018. https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-05-29/are-teslas-self-proclaimed-worlds-safest-cars-actually-among-worlds-deadliest. Friend, Tad. “Tomorrow’s Advance Man.” New Yorker, May 18, 2015. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/18/tomorrows-advance-man. ———. “Sam Altman’s Manifest Destiny.” New Yorker, October 10, 2016. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/10/sam-altmans-manifest-destiny. Hoffman, Reid. “If, Why, and How Founders Should Hire a ‘Professional’ CEO.” Reid Hoffman website, February 9, 2017. http://www.reidhoffman.org/if-why-and-how-founders-should-hire-a-professional-ceo-2. Kantor, Jodi, and David Streitfeld. “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.” New York Times, August 15, 2015. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html.


pages: 286 words: 87,401

Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies by Reid Hoffman, Chris Yeh

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, autonomous vehicles, bitcoin, blockchain, Bob Noyce, business intelligence, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, database schema, discounted cash flows, Elon Musk, Firefox, forensic accounting, George Gilder, global pandemic, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, hydraulic fracturing, Hyperloop, inventory management, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Joi Ito, Khan Academy, late fees, Lean Startup, Lyft, M-Pesa, Marc Andreessen, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, minimum viable product, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, Oculus Rift, oil shale / tar sands, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, recommendation engine, ride hailing / ride sharing, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart grid, social graph, software as a service, software is eating the world, speech recognition, stem cell, Steve Jobs, subscription business, Tesla Model S, thinkpad, transaction costs, transport as a service, Travis Kalanick, Uber for X, uber lyft, web application, winner-take-all economy, Y Combinator, yellow journalism

If a company can’t achieve “venture scale” (generally, a market of at least $1 billion in annual sales), then most VCs won’t invest, even if it is a good business. It simply isn’t large enough to help them achieve their goal of returning more than three times their investors’ money. When Brian Chesky was pitching venture capitalists to invest in Airbnb, one of the people he consulted was the entrepreneur and investor Sam Altman, who later became the president of the Y Combinator start-up accelerator. Altman saw Chesky’s pitch deck and told him it was perfect, except that he needed to change the market-size slide from a modest $30 million to $30 billion. “Investors want B’s, baby,” Altman told Chesky. Of course, Altman wasn’t telling Chesky to lie; rather, he argued that if the Airbnb team truly believed in their own assumptions, $30 million was a gross underestimate, and they should use a number that was true to their convictions.

Lisa DiMona, Megan Casey, David Sanford, Saida Sapieva, Brett Bolkowy, and Ian Alas on our team offered critical support throughout this journey. Mehran Sahami, sponsored our CS183C class at Stanford, which we taught with our friends and fellow instructors Allen Blue and John Lilly. Thanks as well to the guests who shared their stories with the class, many of which made it into the book, including Sam Altman, Brian Chesky, Patrick Collison, Michael Deering, Diane Greene, Reed Hastings, Marissa Mayer, Shishir Mehrotra, Ann Miura-Ko, Mariam Naficy, Jennifer Pahlka, Eric Schmidt, Selina Tobaccowala, Nirav Tolia, and Jeff Weiner. Many thanks to everyone at Greylock Partners for their support of this project, including Joseph Ansanelli, Jerry Chen, Josh Elman, Chris McCann, Stacey Ngo, Simon Rothman, and Elisa Schreiber.


pages: 326 words: 91,559

Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy by Nathan Schneider

1960s counterculture, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, altcoin, Amazon Mechanical Turk, back-to-the-land, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, Clayton Christensen, collaborative economy, collective bargaining, Community Supported Agriculture, corporate governance, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Debian, disruptive innovation, do-ocracy, Donald Knuth, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, Food sovereignty, four colour theorem, future of work, gig economy, Google bus, hydraulic fracturing, Internet Archive, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, Lyft, M-Pesa, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, means of production, multi-sided market, new economy, offshore financial centre, old-boy network, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, post-work, precariat, premature optimization, pre–internet, profit motive, race to the bottom, Richard Florida, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Sam Altman, Satoshi Nakamoto, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Slavoj Žižek, smart contracts, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, transaction costs, Turing test, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, underbanked, undersea cable, universal basic income, Upton Sinclair, Vanguard fund, white flight, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, working poor, Y Combinator, Y2K, Zipcar

At the Singularity meeting, he was the chief proponent of universal basic income, an idea that at the time still seemed novel. He cited recent basic-income experiments in India that showed promise for combating poverty among people the tech economy has left behind. Diamandis later reported having been “amazed” by the potential.12 That year, also, celebrity investor Marc Andreessen told New York magazine that he considered basic income “a very interesting idea,” and Sam Altman of the elite startup accelerator Y Combinator called its implementation an “obvious conclusion.”13 Those were just the early salvos. What people generally mean by universal basic income is the idea of giving everyone enough money to provide for the necessities of life. Imagine, say, a $20,000 check every year for every US citizen. The idea appeals to hopeful longings for a humane, egalitarian sort of commonwealth—a recognition that people, including those who are currently poor, will know better than any top-down welfare program what to spend the money on.

I have been a guest speaker at Singularity University’s Global Solutions Program. 12. Peter Diamandis, “I Am Peter Diamandis, from XPRIZE, Singularity University, Planetary Resources, Human Longevity Inc., and More. Ask Me Anything,” Reddit AMA discussion (July 11, 2014), reddit.com/r/Futurology/comments/2afiw5/i_am_peter_diamandis_from_xprize_singularity/ciulffv. 13. Kevin Roose, “In Conversation: Marc Andreessen,” New York (October 19, 2014); Sam Altman, “Technology and Wealth Inequality” (January 28, 2014), blog.samaltman.com/technology-and-wealth-inequality. 14. Recent overviews of universal basic income include Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght, Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy (Harvard University Press, 2017), and Rutger Bregman, Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World (Little, Brown, 2017). 15.


pages: 307 words: 88,180

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee

AI winter, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, business cycle, cloud computing, commoditize, computer vision, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, crony capitalism, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, full employment, future of work, gig economy, Google Chrome, happiness index / gross national happiness, if you build it, they will come, ImageNet competition, income inequality, informal economy, Internet of things, invention of the telegraph, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Lean Startup, low skilled workers, Lyft, mandatory minimum, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, minimum viable product, natural language processing, new economy, pattern recognition, pirate software, profit maximization, QR code, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Robert Mercer, Rodney Brooks, Rubik’s Cube, Sam Altman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, special economic zone, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, strong AI, The Future of Employment, Travis Kalanick, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, universal basic income, urban planning, Y Combinator

At the time, advocates saw a GMI as a simple way to end poverty, and in 1970 President Nixon actually came close to passing a bill that would have granted each family enough money to raise itself above the poverty line. But following Nixon’s unsuccessful push, discussion of a UBI or GMI largely dropped out of public discourse. That is, until Silicon Valley got excited about it. Recently, the idea has captured the imagination of the Silicon Valley elite, with giants of the industry like the prestigious Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator president Sam Altman and Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes sponsoring research and funding basic income pilot programs. Whereas GMI was initially crafted as a cure for poverty in normal economic times, Silicon Valley’s surging interest in the programs sees them as solutions for widespread technological unemployment due to AI. The bleak predictions of broad unemployment and unrest have put many of the Silicon Valley elite on edge.

A BLUEPRINT FOR HUMAN COEXISTENCE WITH AI move to a four-day work week: Seth Fiegerman, “Google Founders Talk About Ending the 40-Hour Work Week,” Mashable, July 7, 2014, https://mashable.com/2014/07/07/google-founders-interview-khosla/#tXe9XU.mr5qU. creative approaches to work-sharing: Steven Greenhouse, “Work-Sharing May Help Companies Avoid Layoffs,” New York Times, June 15, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/16/business/economy/16workshare.html. Y Combinator president Sam Altman: Kathleen Pender, “Oakland Group Plans to Launch Nation’s Biggest Basic-Income Research Project,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 21, 2017, https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/networth/article/Oakland-group-plans-to-launch-nation-s-biggest-12219073.php. Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes: The Economic Security Project, https://economicsecurityproject.org/. gives a thousand families a stipend: Pender, “Oakland Group.”


pages: 294 words: 96,661

The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese

agricultural Revolution, AI winter, artificial general intelligence, basic income, Buckminster Fuller, business cycle, business process, Claude Shannon: information theory, clean water, cognitive bias, computer age, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, estate planning, financial independence, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, full employment, Hans Rosling, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Hargreaves, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, lateral thinking, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Mary Lou Jepsen, Moravec's paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, pattern recognition, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Rodney Brooks, Sam Altman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Von Neumann architecture, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, working poor, Works Progress Administration, Y Combinator

In that regard, they may be like the pantheon of Greek gods, all both powerful and idiosyncratic, relegating us to the role of pawns in their dramas. All of these are more than abstract worries. There are people working on these concerns right now. Since we probably couldn’t defeat a malicious AGI given that we couldn’t ever outsmart it, our best plan is to never make a malicious AGI. To that end, Elon Musk along with Sam Altman, the president of the start-up incubator Y Combinator, cochair a nonprofit called OpenAI that has as its purpose to help usher in the era of safe and beneficial AI. The initial blog post announcing its formation states, “Because of AI’s surprising history, it’s hard to predict when human-level AI might come within reach. When it does, it’ll be important to have a leading research institution which can prioritize a good outcome for all over its own self-interest.”

But there is a second path, which involves taking our consciousness, that lightning in a bottle that is each of us, and uploading it to a computer. There would be many obvious advantages to uploading our core essence, our self, to a machine. It seems like a match made in heaven. We have the consciousness, the passion, the joie de vivre. A machine has that direct connection to the Internet, that superfast processor and all that perfect storage. Could we, if you will excuse the pun, hook up? Sam Altman thinks that’s the way to go: A merge is our best scenario. Any version without a merge will have conflict: we enslave the A.I. or it enslaves us. The full-on-crazy version of the merge is we get our brains uploaded into the cloud. I’d love that. We need to level up humans, because our descendants will either conquer the galaxy or extinguish consciousness in the universe forever. What a time to be alive!


pages: 138 words: 40,525

This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook by Extinction Rebellion

3D printing, autonomous vehicles, banks create money, bitcoin, blockchain, Buckminster Fuller, car-free, carbon footprint, clean water, Colonization of Mars, crowdsourcing, David Attenborough, David Graeber, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, feminist movement, full employment, gig economy, global pandemic, ice-free Arctic, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), job automation, mass immigration, Peter Thiel, place-making, quantitative easing, Ray Kurzweil, Sam Altman, smart grid, supply-chain management, the scientific method, union organizing, urban sprawl, wealth creators

Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers – if that technology could be developed in time. That’s when it hit me: at least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the ageing process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from the very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic and resource depletion.


pages: 523 words: 143,139

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths

4chan, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anthropic principle, asset allocation, autonomous vehicles, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, Bill Duvall, bitcoin, Community Supported Agriculture, complexity theory, constrained optimization, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, Danny Hillis, David Heinemeier Hansson, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, diversification, Donald Knuth, double helix, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Firefox, first-price auction, Flash crash, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, global supply chain, Google Chrome, Henri Poincaré, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, knapsack problem, Lao Tzu, Leonard Kleinrock, linear programming, martingale, Nash equilibrium, natural language processing, NP-complete, P = NP, packet switching, Pierre-Simon Laplace, prediction markets, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Robert X Cringely, Sam Altman, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, sorting algorithm, spectrum auction, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Steve Jobs, stochastic process, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, traveling salesman, Turing machine, urban planning, Vickrey auction, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

It’s as exciting a sport as ever, but as athletes overfit their tactics to the quirks of scorekeeping, it becomes less useful in instilling the skills of real-world swordsmanship. Perhaps nowhere, however, is overfitting as powerful and troublesome as in the world of business. “Incentive structures work,” as Steve Jobs put it. “So you have to be very careful of what you incent people to do, because various incentive structures create all sorts of consequences that you can’t anticipate.” Sam Altman, president of the startup incubator Y Combinator, echoes Jobs’s words of caution: “It really is true that the company will build whatever the CEO decides to measure.” In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to come up with incentives or measurements that do not have some kind of perverse effect. In the 1950s, Cornell management professor V. F. Ridgway cataloged a host of such “Dysfunctional Consequences of Performance Measurements.”

duels less than fifty years ago: If you’re not too fainthearted, you can watch video of a duel fought in 1967 at http://passerelle-production.u-bourgogne.fr/web/atip_insulte/Video/archive_duel_france.swf. as athletes overfit their tactics: For an interesting example of very deliberately overfitting fencing, see Harmenberg, Epee 2.0. “Incentive structures work”: Brent Schlender, “The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes,” Fast Company, May 2012, http://www.fastcompany.com/1826869/lost-steve-jobs-tapes. “whatever the CEO decides to measure”: Sam Altman, “Welcome, and Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part I,” Stanford CS183B, Fall 2014, “How to Start a Startup,” http://startupclass.samaltman.com/courses/lec01/. Ridgway cataloged a host of such: Ridgway, “Dysfunctional Consequences of Performance Measurements.” At a job-placement firm: In this tale, Ridgway is himself citing Blau, The Dynamics of Bureaucracy. “Friends don’t let friends measure Page Views”: Avinash Kaushik, “You Are What You Measure, So Choose Your KPIs (Incentives) Wisely!”


pages: 499 words: 144,278

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 4chan, 8-hour work day, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, Asperger Syndrome, augmented reality, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, blue-collar work, Brewster Kahle, Brian Krebs, Broken windows theory, call centre, cellular automata, Chelsea Manning, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, computer vision, Conway's Game of Life, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Danny Hillis, David Heinemeier Hansson, don't be evil, don't repeat yourself, Donald Trump, dumpster diving, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ernest Rutherford, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, Firefox, Frederick Winslow Taylor, game design, glass ceiling, Golden Gate Park, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, Grace Hopper, Guido van Rossum, Hacker Ethic, HyperCard, illegal immigration, ImageNet competition, Internet Archive, Internet of things, Jane Jacobs, John Markoff, Jony Ive, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, Larry Wall, lone genius, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Shuttleworth, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, microservices, Minecraft, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Nate Silver, Network effects, neurotypical, Nicholas Carr, Oculus Rift, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, planetary scale, profit motive, ransomware, recommendation engine, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rubik’s Cube, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Satoshi Nakamoto, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, single-payer health, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, social software, software is eating the world, sorting algorithm, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, TaskRabbit, the High Line, Travis Kalanick, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, universal basic income, urban planning, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, Zimmermann PGP, éminence grise

Joel Spolsky, the cofounder of Fog Creek Software, once wrote in a blog post about how when he was at Juno, an online service and free email provider, they had a bug checker named Jill McFarlane. She “found three times as many bugs as all four other testers, combined. I’m not exaggerating, I actually measured this. She was more than twelve times more productive than the average tester. When she quit, I sent an email to the CEO saying ‘I’d rather have Jill on Mondays and Tuesdays than the rest of the QA team put together.’ ” As Sam Altman, the head of the famous start-up accelerator Y Combinator, suggests, the idea of singular geniuses in code shouldn’t be surprising; every insight-based field has standout individuals. “It doesn’t seem that controversial in other fields,” he tells me. “There are 10X physicists, and we give them Nobel Prizes and that’s fine. There are 10X writers and we give them number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list.”

But you can’t exactly make a living revolutionizing philosophy, Phillips figured, so when he graduated, he went into coding. He founded a hackerspace in Santa Barbara, and after meeting several friends there—including the then 16-year-old Bahnken, who wandered in one day to learn to code—they founded a string of start-ups. Phillips was laser focused on his entrepreneurship, too. He devoured online videos by Y Combinator head Sam Altman, and he imbibed Zero to One, the business-building tome of Silicon Valley’s archlibertarian icon Peter Thiel. “Peter Thiel’s book on entrepreneurship is brilliant,” he tells me. “The idea of, you gotta do something fundamentally better—it can’t be a little bit better. But I don’t mention the name Peter Thiel in certain places because I hate his politics.” Ideologically, in fact, Phillips had wandered all over the map, searching for a political home.


pages: 222 words: 70,132

Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by Jonathan Taplin

1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, American Legislative Exchange Council, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, back-to-the-land, barriers to entry, basic income, battle of ideas, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, bitcoin, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Clayton Christensen, commoditize, creative destruction, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, data is the new oil, David Brooks, David Graeber, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, equal pay for equal work, Erik Brynjolfsson, future of journalism, future of work, George Akerlof, George Gilder, Google bus, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, income inequality, informal economy, information asymmetry, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, labor-force participation, life extension, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, Mother of all demos, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, packet switching, Paul Graham, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, revision control, Robert Bork, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Ross Ulbricht, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, smart grid, Snapchat, software is eating the world, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, The Chicago School, The Market for Lemons, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, transfer pricing, Travis Kalanick, trickle-down economics, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, unpaid internship, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, Y Combinator

Various subreddits have been devoted to pornography, neo-Nazi propaganda, white power, Gamergate—all in the name of free speech. Since Reddit’s purchase by Condé Nast in 2006, the site has tried to rein in the most outrageous subreddits. But the task of reining in the ultralibertarian Reddit community became too much, and in the fall of 2011 Condé Nast sold off a large share of Reddit to a group led by Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, and Marc Andreessen. At the debate, Ohanian proudly mentioned his personal consumption of “free music and movies” available on the Internet, going so far as to say that musicians such as The Band need to earn their money from touring. From his point of view, Levon Helm had no right to make money from old recordings. Feeling that he may not have made a good argument at the conference, Ohanian wrote an open letter to me the next day, which Fast Company published.


pages: 213 words: 70,742

Notes From an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O'Connell

Berlin Wall, bitcoin, blockchain, California gold rush, carbon footprint, Carrington event, clean water, Colonization of Mars, conceptual framework, cryptocurrency, disruptive innovation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Donner party, Elon Musk, high net worth, Jeff Bezos, life extension, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, off grid, Peter Thiel, post-work, Sam Altman, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the built environment, yield curve

And then there was Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who had cofounded PayPal and had been one of Facebook’s earliest investors. It had recently emerged that Thiel had bought a sprawling property in New Zealand, on the shores of Lake Wanaka, the apparent intention of which was to provide him with a place to retreat to should America become unlivable due to economic chaos, civil unrest, or some or other apocalyptic event. (Sam Altman, one of Silicon Valley’s most influential entrepreneurs, alluded in an interview to an arrangement with his friend Thiel, whereby in the eventuality of some kind of systemic collapse scenario—synthetic virus breakout, rampaging AI, resource war between nuclear-armed states, and so forth—they both get on a private jet and fly to this property in New Zealand. The plan from this point, you’d have to assume, was to sit out the collapse of civilization before re-emerging to provide seed funding for, say, the insect-based protein sludge market.)


pages: 267 words: 72,552

Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Thomas Ramge

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, Alvin Roth, Atul Gawande, augmented reality, banking crisis, basic income, Bayesian statistics, bitcoin, blockchain, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, centralized clearinghouse, Checklist Manifesto, cloud computing, cognitive bias, conceptual framework, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frederick Winslow Taylor, fundamental attribution error, George Akerlof, gig economy, Google Glasses, information asymmetry, interchangeable parts, invention of the telegraph, inventory management, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, land reform, lone genius, low cost airline, low cost carrier, Marc Andreessen, market bubble, market design, market fundamentalism, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, multi-sided market, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, Parag Khanna, payday loans, peer-to-peer lending, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, price anchoring, price mechanism, purchasing power parity, random walk, recommendation engine, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Sam Altman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, smart grid, smart meter, Snapchat, statistical model, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, The Future of Employment, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, transaction costs, universal basic income, William Langewiesche, Y Combinator

There is a far more radical alternative measure being put forward, in the form of universal basic income. UBI, as it is affectionately called by its proponents, has garnered surprising support, particularly among leading figures in the high-tech sector. “Superangel” investor Marc Andreessen, the coauthor of Mosaic, one of the first widely used Web browsers, is in favor of it. And so are New York–based Albert Wenger, another highly successful venture capitalist; start-up incubator impresario Sam Altman; and Elon Musk, the brash but congenial cofounder of PayPal and CEO of Tesla. Silicon Valley isn’t alone in its enthusiasm for UBI, but it is Silicon Valley’s digital and data-driven innovations that have given rise to the idea. There are innumerable variations, but the core idea is similar. Everyone receives a monthly check for a fixed amount that would be sufficient to pay for food, clothing, basic education, a warm, dry home, perhaps even some form of health insurance.


pages: 242 words: 73,728

Give People Money by Annie Lowrey

"Robert Solow", affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, airport security, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, deindustrialization, desegregation, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, ending welfare as we know it, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, full employment, gender pay gap, gig economy, Google Earth, Home mortgage interest deduction, income inequality, indoor plumbing, information asymmetry, Jaron Lanier, jitney, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kickstarter, Kodak vs Instagram, labor-force participation, late capitalism, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, mass incarceration, McMansion, Menlo Park, mobile money, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, obamacare, Peter Thiel, post scarcity, post-work, Potemkin village, precariat, randomized controlled trial, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, single-payer health, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, The Future of Employment, theory of mind, total factor productivity, Turing test, two tier labour market, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, universal basic income, uranium enrichment, War on Poverty, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey, Y Combinator

But it can feel disillusioning when that omniscience yields uncomfortable truths, he said. “When people join start-ups or work in tech, there’s an aspirational nature to it. But very few CEOs are happy with the idea that their work is going to cause a lot of stress and harm.” Yet the boosterism also does seem to be ignited by a real concern that we are in the midst of a profound economic and technological revolution. Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, recently spoke at a poverty summit cohosted by Stanford, the White House, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Facebook billionaire’s charitable institution. “There have been these moments where we have had these major technology revolutions—the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, for example—that have really changed the world in a big way,” he said.


pages: 282 words: 81,873

Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey Into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley by Corey Pein

23andMe, 4chan, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Anne Wojcicki, artificial general intelligence, bank run, barriers to entry, Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL), Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, Build a better mousetrap, California gold rush, cashless society, colonial rule, computer age, cryptocurrency, data is the new oil, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, Extropian, gig economy, Google bus, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, hacker house, hive mind, illegal immigration, immigration reform, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, life extension, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, minimum viable product, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, mutually assured destruction, obamacare, passive income, patent troll, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer lending, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, platform as a service, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, post-work, Ray Kurzweil, regulatory arbitrage, rent control, RFID, Robert Mercer, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Ross Ulbricht, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, Scientific racism, self-driving car, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Skype, Snapchat, social software, software as a service, source of truth, South of Market, San Francisco, Startup school, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, technoutopianism, telepresence, too big to fail, Travis Kalanick, tulip mania, Uber for X, uber lyft, ubercab, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, X Prize, Y Combinator

I needed to come up with something entirely different, yet samey. I browsed the tech press for inspiration, returning, as ever, to Hacker News, the internet home page for people who were convinced they were the world’s smartest people, and I found an essay by the website’s founder, Paul Graham, called “Before the Startup.” That seemed to describe where I was. The essay was adapted from a guest lecture Graham delivered to his business partner Sam Altman’s startup class at Stanford. “The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you’re solving for them,” Graham wrote. I was an expert in nothing, which in Graham’s formulation put me at a slight advantage over people who were experts on startups. “The dangerous thing is, faking does work to some degree on investors,” Graham wrote.


pages: 290 words: 87,549

The Airbnb Story: How Three Ordinary Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions...and Created Plenty of Controversy by Leigh Gallagher

Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, barriers to entry, Ben Horowitz, Bernie Sanders, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, don't be evil, Donald Trump, East Village, Elon Musk, housing crisis, iterative process, Jeff Bezos, Jony Ive, Justin.tv, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, medical residency, Menlo Park, Network effects, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, performance metric, Peter Thiel, RFID, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, Saturday Night Live, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South of Market, San Francisco, Startup school, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, the payments system, Tony Hsieh, Travis Kalanick, uber lyft, Y Combinator, yield management

v=OQTWimfGfV8. 22 to launch Facebook: Lacy, “Fireside Chat.” 24 “‘I just ruined it,’” says Chesky: Ibid. 25 as Fortune called it: Leena Rao, “Meet Y Combinator’s New COO,” Fortune, August 26, 2015, http://fortune.com/2015/08/26/meet-y-combinators-new-coo/. 28 (log on to his account): Brian Chesky, “1000 days of AirBnB,” Startup School 2010, YouTube, uploaded February 12, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L03vBkOKTrc. Chapter 2: Building a Company 35 “How to Start a Startup”: Sam Altman, “How to Start a Startup,” lecture with Alfred Lin and Brian Chesky, video, accessed October 10, 2016, http://startupclass.samaltman.com/courses/lec10/. 36 (six new core values in 2013): The six core values put in place in 2013 were “Host,” “Champion the Mission,” “Every Frame Matters,” “Be a cereal entrepreneur,” “Simplify,” and “Embrace the Adventure.” 41 in the first half of 2016 alone: “Uber Loses at Least $1.2 Billion in First Half of 2016,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek, August 25, 2016, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-25/uber-loses-at-least-1-2-billion-in-first-half-of-2016. 45 a surge in bookings: Owen Thomas, “How a Caltech Ph.D.


pages: 443 words: 98,113

The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay by Guy Standing

3D printing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, basic income, Ben Bernanke: helicopter money, Bernie Sanders, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, bilateral investment treaty, Bonfire of the Vanities, Boris Johnson, Bretton Woods, business cycle, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carried interest, cashless society, central bank independence, centre right, Clayton Christensen, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, credit crunch, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, debt deflation, declining real wages, deindustrialization, disruptive innovation, Doha Development Round, Donald Trump, Double Irish / Dutch Sandwich, ending welfare as we know it, eurozone crisis, falling living standards, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Firefox, first-past-the-post, future of work, gig economy, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Growth in a Time of Debt, housing crisis, income inequality, information retrieval, intangible asset, invention of the steam engine, investor state dispute settlement, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, labour market flexibility, light touch regulation, Long Term Capital Management, lump of labour, Lyft, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market clearing, Martin Wolf, means of production, mini-job, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, Neil Kinnock, non-tariff barriers, North Sea oil, Northern Rock, nudge unit, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, open economy, openstreetmap, patent troll, payday loans, peer-to-peer lending, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, precariat, quantitative easing, remote working, rent control, rent-seeking, ride hailing / ride sharing, Right to Buy, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, savings glut, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Simon Kuznets, sovereign wealth fund, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, structural adjustment programs, TaskRabbit, The Chicago School, The Future of Employment, the payments system, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Travis Kalanick, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, Y Combinator, zero-sum game, Zipcar

In 2016, pilots were being planned in nineteen Dutch municipalities, led by the city of Utrecht, and in Finland, where the government put aside funds (initially €20 million) for a pilot to last two years. On the other side of the Atlantic, the provincial government in Ontario, Canada, is planning a basic income experiment, and the provinces of Quebec and Alberta have indicated interest. There are also private initiatives that show up the timidity of politicians. In California, Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, a start-up ‘accelerator’, has committed funds to a five-year basic income experiment. GiveDirectly, a charity that channels money directly from online donors to recipients, has moved from giving random individuals a basic income to more community-oriented experiments in Africa. In Germany, a crowdfunding scheme selects individuals by lottery to receive a basic income for a year.


Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McKibben

23andMe, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, American Legislative Exchange Council, Anne Wojcicki, artificial general intelligence, Bernie Sanders, Bill Joy: nanobots, Burning Man, call centre, carbon footprint, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, Colonization of Mars, computer vision, David Attenborough, Donald Trump, double helix, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, ending welfare as we know it, energy transition, Flynn Effect, Google Earth, Hyperloop, impulse control, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, life extension, light touch regulation, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, megacity, Menlo Park, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, Nelson Mandela, obamacare, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Robert Mercer, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, smart meter, Snapchat, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, supervolcano, technoutopianism, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, traffic fines, Travis Kalanick, urban sprawl, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y Combinator, Y2K, yield curve

Amortized across the Earth’s entire population, Merkle estimates a “surprisingly competitive” price of $24 to $32 per person.12 Currently, at least a thousand people are waiting for their chance, and they include a large selection of Silicon Valley pioneers. This being the tech industry, though, a newer iteration of the idea is already available. Nectome is one of the handful of start-ups chosen to be part of Y Combinator, the most important of California’s tech incubators. (They’re the people who first championed Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit.) In fact, Y Combinator head Sam Altman has already plunked down his $10,000 for Nectome’s service, which involves embalming your brain when you’re near death so that it can later be digitized and encoded. “The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation,” writes Antonio Regalado in MIT Technology Review.13 In fact, this notion that we will one day be meshed with computers and thus live forever has gained currency perhaps because, while bizarre, it seems somehow less absurd than the idea of Ted Williams lumbering around again in the real world.


pages: 343 words: 101,563

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

"Robert Solow", agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Asian financial crisis, augmented reality, basic income, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, cognitive bias, computer age, correlation does not imply causation, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, decarbonisation, Donald Trump, effective altruism, Elon Musk, endowment effect, energy transition, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, failed state, fiat currency, global pandemic, global supply chain, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Joan Didion, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, labor-force participation, life extension, longitudinal study, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, megacity, megastructure, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, Pearl River Delta, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, postindustrial economy, quantitative easing, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, ride hailing / ride sharing, Sam Altman, Silicon Valley, Skype, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, universal basic income, University of East Anglia, Whole Earth Catalog, William Langewiesche, Y Combinator

It is hard to know just how seriously to take these visions, though they are close to universal among the Bay Area’s futurist vanguard, who have succeeded the NASAs and the Bell Labs of the last century as architects of our imagined future—and who differ among themselves primarily in their assessments of just how long it will take for all this to come to pass. Peter Thiel may complain about the pace of technological change, but maybe he’s doing so because he’s worried it won’t outpace ecological and political devastation. He’s still investing in dubious eternal-youth programs and buying up land in New Zealand (where he might ride out social collapse on the civilization scale). Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, who has distinguished himself as a kind of tech philanthropist with a small universal-basic-income pilot project and recently announced a call for geoengineering proposals he might invest in, has reportedly made a down payment on a brain-upload program that would extract his mind from this world. It’s a project in which he is also an investor, naturally. For Bostrom, the very purpose of “humanity” is so transparently to engineer a “posthumanity” that he can use the second term as a synonym for the first.


pages: 468 words: 233,091

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston

8-hour work day, affirmative action, AltaVista, Apple II, Brewster Kahle, business cycle, business process, Byte Shop, Danny Hillis, David Heinemeier Hansson, don't be evil, fear of failure, financial independence, Firefox, full text search, game design, Googley, HyperCard, illegal immigration, Internet Archive, Jeff Bezos, Joi Ito, Justin.tv, Larry Wall, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Mitch Kapor, nuclear winter, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Ruby on Rails, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, side project, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social software, software patent, South of Market, San Francisco, Startup school, stealth mode startup, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, web application, Y Combinator

I’d like to thank many people for their willingness to make introductions: Jim Baum, Patrick Chung, Mark Coker, Jay Corscadden, Rael Dornfest, Jed Dorsheimer, Randy Farmer, Steve Frankel, Anand Gohel, Laurie Glass, James Hong, Mitch Kapor, Morgan Ley, Mike Palmer, Tom Palmer, Bryan Pearce, Andrew Pojani, Will Price, Ryan Singel, Langley Steinert, Chris Sacca, and Zak Stone. Thanks to Kate Courteau for creating cozy offices for me to work in; Lesley Hathaway for all her advice and support; Alaina and David Sloo for their many introductions; and Sam Altman, Paul Buchheit, Lynn Harris, Marc Hedlund, and Aaron Swartz, who read early chapters of the book. I owe thanks to Lisa Abdalla, Michele Baer, Jen Barron, Ingrid Bassett, Jamie Cahill, Jessica Catino, Alicia Collins, Caitlin Crowe, Julie Ellenbogen, John Gregg, Chrissy Hathaway, Katie Helmer, Susan Livingston, Nadine Miller, Sara Morrison, Bridget O’Brien, Becky Osborne, Allison Pellegrino, Jennifer Stevens, and Suzanne Woodard for their encouragement.

They had gotten off the train in Hartford or something and headed back to Boston to go meet with Paul to brainstorm new ideas. I thought, “These are the kind of people I want to fund—people who would get off the train and go back and make it happen.” So we wound up funding eight companies that summer. Jessica Livingston 449 Do you remember anyone else in that first batch? Livingston: Looking back, it was an amazing group that we had. Sam Altman of Loopt was in that batch. There’s actually a funny story about him, too. He had submitted an application and at the time he’d been working with a few other people, but he was the only one who could come to Cambridge that summer. So Sam emailed us saying he was the only one who could come and Paul wrote back to him, saying, “You know, Sam, you’re only a freshman. You have plenty of time to start a startup.


pages: 827 words: 239,762

The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite by Duff McDonald

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, Bayesian statistics, Bernie Madoff, Bob Noyce, Bonfire of the Vanities, business cycle, business process, butterfly effect, capital asset pricing model, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, commoditize, corporate governance, corporate raider, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, deskilling, discounted cash flows, disintermediation, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, family office, financial innovation, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, George Gilder, glass ceiling, global pandemic, Gordon Gekko, hiring and firing, income inequality, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, job-hopping, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kickstarter, London Whale, Long Term Capital Management, market fundamentalism, Menlo Park, new economy, obamacare, oil shock, pattern recognition, performance metric, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit maximization, profit motive, pushing on a string, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, rent-seeking, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, Saturday Night Live, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, Steve Jobs, survivorship bias, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, Thorstein Veblen, union organizing, urban renewal, Vilfredo Pareto, War on Poverty, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, women in the workforce, Y Combinator

“Leading professors at Harvard Business School, preoccupied by the calculable maximization of self-interest, show a pathetic incapacity to comprehend the essence of entrepreneurship.”24 To wit: A 1984 study revealed that nearly half of HBS alums considered themselves entrepreneurs . . . but that less than half of those “entrepreneurs” were self-employed. Of those who were self-employed, too, there’s a good bet that many were one-man consulting shops. “The one area where they excel at starting their own firms is in the field of management consultancy,” say the authors of Gravy Training: Inside the Business of Business Schools, “and the value such firms add to the economy is debatable.”25 Thirty years later, Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, told the School’s 2014 Cyberposium that MBAs mistake starting a company for the next resume item and that their education trained them for running a business, not for starting one.26 That same year, at a conference organized by HBS’s venture capital and private equity club, startup investor Chamath Palihapitiya made the absurd claim that “I would bet a large amount of money that the overwhelming majority of [venture capitalists] would not look favorably on a company started by one of you.”27 Palihapitiya would lose that bet.

, p. 227. 22Ibid., p. 295. 23Philip Delves Broughton, Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), p. 178. 24George Gilder, The Spirit of Enterprise (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985), p. 147. 25Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, Gravy Training: Inside the Business of Business Schools (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999), p. 27. 26Patrick Daniel, “Sam Altman: Founders Need Passion—Which MBAs Lack,” Harbus, November 24, 2014. 27William Alden, “Tech Investor to Entrepreneurs: A Harvard Degree Is a Liability,” New York Times, DealBook, February 10, 2014. 28“What Is This Palo Alto VC Smoking?,” LinkedIn Pulse, February 12, 2014. 29http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/breaking-update-court-unseals-potentially-devastating-testimony-romney-said-stocks. 30http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?


pages: 406 words: 105,602

The Startup Way: Making Entrepreneurship a Fundamental Discipline of Every Enterprise by Eric Ries

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Ben Horowitz, Black-Scholes formula, call centre, centralized clearinghouse, Clayton Christensen, cognitive dissonance, connected car, corporate governance, DevOps, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, fault tolerance, Frederick Winslow Taylor, global supply chain, index card, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, loss aversion, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, minimum viable product, moral hazard, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, obamacare, peer-to-peer, place-making, rent-seeking, Richard Florida, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, secular stagnation, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, skunkworks, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, time value of money, Toyota Production System, Uber for X, universal basic income, web of trust, Y Combinator

At the start of 2017, the government selected roughly two thousand unemployed workers from fields ranging from technology to construction and enrolled them in a pilot UBI program to see what will happen.21 Y Combinator is also running an experiment with basic income, having selected one hundred families in Oakland, California, who will receive $1,000 to $2,000 a month as part of a five-year program designed to look at how ready money affects people’s “happiness, well-being, financial health, as well as how people spend their time.” The data and research methods will be shared at the project’s end so others can learn from and build on the experiment, which is testing the idea, as Y Combinator president Sam Altman says, that a basic income could “give people the freedom to pursue further education or training, find or create a better job, and plan for the future.”22 In France, an experiment that allowed people to keep their unemployment benefits while starting a new business saw an increase of 25 percent per month in the creation of new companies.23 And the Dutch and Canadians aren’t far behind—both countries also launched experiments in 2017.24 REGULATORY RELIEF FOR STARTUPS “Sliding Scale” Regulations Regulation can destroy startups without even meaning to.


pages: 419 words: 109,241

A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, blue-collar work, British Empire, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, cloud computing, computer age, computer vision, computerized trading, creative destruction, David Graeber, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, demographic transition, deskilling, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, drone strike, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial innovation, future of work, gig economy, Gini coefficient, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Hargreaves, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Joi Ito, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, low skilled workers, lump of labour, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Metcalfe’s law, natural language processing, Network effects, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, precariat, purchasing power parity, Ray Kurzweil, ride hailing / ride sharing, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Sam Altman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Snapchat, social intelligence, software is eating the world, sovereign wealth fund, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, strong AI, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, Travis Kalanick, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, upwardly mobile, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We are the 99%, wealth creators, working poor, working-age population, Y Combinator

An early edition of the laws, from 1552, stated, rather dramatically, that “if any man or woman, able to work, should refuse to labor and live idly for three days, he or she should be branded with a red hot iron on the breast with the letter V and should be judged the slave for two years of any person who should inform against such idler.”13 The resentment runs both ways. While those in work rail against the unemployed, those without work also feel aggrieved toward those with it. This, in part, explains the curious reaction to Silicon Valley’s recent enthusiasm about the UBI. Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have made supportive noises about the idea of a UBI; Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, and Sam Altman, founder of Y Combinator, have funded trials of it in Kenya and the United States.14 But their interest has been met with widespread hostility. If work were simply a means to an income, that response might seem odd: these entrepreneurs were essentially proposing that people like them should do all the hard work and give everyone else money for free. For many people, though, work means more than securing a wage—and so, in their eyes, the offer of a UBI from those in fantastically well-paid jobs might have felt more like hush money, or a bribe, perhaps even an attempt to monopolize a source of life’s meaning and deny it to others.


pages: 424 words: 114,905

Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again by Eric Topol

23andMe, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, bioinformatics, blockchain, cloud computing, cognitive bias, Colonization of Mars, computer age, computer vision, conceptual framework, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, David Brooks, digital twin, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, fault tolerance, George Santayana, Google Glasses, ImageNet competition, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, Joi Ito, Mark Zuckerberg, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, natural language processing, new economy, Nicholas Carr, nudge unit, pattern recognition, performance metric, personalized medicine, phenotype, placebo effect, randomized controlled trial, recommendation engine, Rubik’s Cube, Sam Altman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, text mining, the scientific method, Tim Cook: Apple, War on Poverty, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, working-age population

Many experts take the opposite point of view, including Alan Bundy of the University of Edinburgh74 or Yann LeCun (“there would be no Ex Machina or Terminator scenarios, because robots would not be built with human drives—hunger, power, reproduction, self-preservation”).75 Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, LeCun’s employer, Mark Zuckerberg, isn’t worried either, writing on Facebook, “Some people fear-monger about how A.I. is a huge danger, but that seems far-fetched to me and much less likely than disasters due to widespread disease, violence, etc.”76 Some AI experts have even dramatically changed their views, like Stuart Russell of UC Berkeley.77 There’s no shortage of futurologists weighing in, one way or another, or even both ways, and even taking each other on.78 I especially got a kick out of the AI and Mars connection, setting up disparate views between Andrew Ng and Elon Musk. Ng said, “Fearing a rise of killer robots is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars before we populate it,”79 whereas Musk has said that the potential rise of killer robots was one reason we needed to colonize Mars—so that we’ll have a bolt-hole if AI goes rogue and turns on humanity.80 Musk’s deep concerns prompted him and Sam Altman to found a billion-dollar nonprofit institute called OpenAI with the aim of working for safer AI. In addition, he gave $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, in part to construct worst-case scenarios so that they can be anticipated and avoided.81 Max Tegmark, the MIT physicist who directs that institute, convened an international group of AI experts to forecast when we might see artificial general intelligence.


pages: 428 words: 121,717

Warnings by Richard A. Clarke

active measures, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anti-communist, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, Bernie Madoff, cognitive bias, collateralized debt obligation, complexity theory, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, discovery of penicillin, double helix, Elon Musk, failed state, financial thriller, fixed income, Flash crash, forensic accounting, friendly AI, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, knowledge worker, Maui Hawaii, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, money market fund, mouse model, Nate Silver, new economy, Nicholas Carr, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart grid, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stuxnet, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Y2K

DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), whose mission is to ensure that the U.S. military is “the initiator and not the victim of strategic technological surprises,”19 launched a program for “explainable AI.” “Machine learning and deep learning algorithms . . . we don’t fully understand today how they work.” The new explainable-AI initiative “will give the human operator more details about how the machine used deep learning to come up with the answer.”20 In 2015, business tycoons Elon Musk and Sam Altman created the OpenAI Institute, a nonprofit company that focuses on researching AI. Musk and Altman believe that by making all of OpenAI’s findings open-source and funding it by private donations, eliminating the need for financial return, they can ensure that AI will be developed for the benefit of all people, not for self-interested or destructive aims. They and others are so convinced of its importance that they have committed a total of $1 billion toward the initiative.


pages: 586 words: 186,548

Architects of Intelligence by Martin Ford

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bayesian statistics, bitcoin, business intelligence, business process, call centre, cloud computing, cognitive bias, Colonization of Mars, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, DARPA: Urban Challenge, deskilling, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Flash crash, future of work, gig economy, Google X / Alphabet X, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hans Rosling, ImageNet competition, income inequality, industrial robot, information retrieval, job automation, John von Neumann, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Loebner Prize, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, means of production, Mitch Kapor, natural language processing, new economy, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, Productivity paradox, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Sam Altman, self-driving car, sensor fusion, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, smart cities, social intelligence, speech recognition, statistical model, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, superintelligent machines, Ted Kaczynski, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Travis Kalanick, Turing test, universal basic income, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, working-age population, zero-sum game, Zipcar

There are several critical questions like this that still need a fair amount of technical work, where we must make progress, instead of everybody just running away and focusing on the upsides of applications for business and economic benefits. The silver lining of all this is that groups and entities are emerging and starting to work on many of these challenges. A great example is the Partnership on AI. If you look at the agenda for the Partnership, you’ll see a lot of these questions are being examined, about bias, about safety, and about these kinds of existential threat questions. Another great example is the work that Sam Altman, Jack Clarke and others at OpenAI are doing, which aims to make sure all of society benefits from AI. Right now, the entities and groups that are making the most progress on these questions have tended to be places that have been able to attract the AI superstars, which, even in 2018, tends to be a relatively small group. That will hopefully diffuse over time. We’ve also seen some relative concentrations of talent go to places that have massive computing power and capacity, as well as places that have unique access to lots of data, because we know these techniques benefit from those resources.


pages: 706 words: 202,591

Facebook: The Inside Story by Steven Levy

active measures, Airbnb, Airbus A320, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, augmented reality, Ben Horowitz, blockchain, Burning Man, business intelligence, cloud computing, computer vision, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, don't be evil, Donald Trump, East Village, Edward Snowden, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, Firefox, Frank Gehry, glass ceiling, indoor plumbing, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, Jony Ive, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, MITM: man-in-the-middle, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, natural language processing, Network effects, Oculus Rift, PageRank, Paul Buchheit, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, pets.com, post-work, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Robert Mercer, Robert Metcalfe, rolodex, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, sexual politics, Shoshana Zuboff, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, slashdot, Snapchat, social graph, social software, South of Market, San Francisco, Startup school, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, Tim Cook: Apple, web application, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, Y2K

There are also good summaries in Angwin’s Stealing MySpace and Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect. postmortem podcast: “Friendster 1: The Rise,” Startup, April 21, 2017. Buddy Zoo: “AIM Meets Social Network Theory,” Slashdot, April 14, 2003. Chris Hughes: In addition to personal interview, Hughes tells his own story in Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Learn (St. Martin’s Press, 2018). “People would just spend hours”: Interview with Sam Altman, Y Combinator, “Mark Zuckerberg: How to Build the Future,” August 16, Zuckerberg Transcripts, 171. steam coming from the suite’s bathroom: Interview with Y Combinator, “Mark Zuckerberg at Startup School 2013,” October 25, 2013, Zuckerberg Transcripts, 160. his first notice: S. F. Brickman, “Not So Artificial Intelligence,” Harvard Crimson, October 23, 2003. “a bitch”: The online journal cited here, and first published by Luke O’Brien in the online Harvard alumni journal 02138 in “Poking Facebook,” would become notorious in the movie The Social Network.