Hyman’s reminder that during
World War II we utterly transformed
the U.S. economy during a period of
only five years should inspire us to
ask what is holding us back today. Do
we need a crisis, or can we make bold
moves without one?
How we frame the future matters!
If we create an attitude of fear toward technology, we miss the huge
opportunity to put it to work solving
problems that bedevil us today. It’s
our responsibility as entrepreneurs
and technologists to rethink what
Technology lets us rethink the
very structure of how we do things.
Consider, for example, the way that
Uber and Lyft have transformed urban transportation. There were connected taxicabs long before Uber—
but all they did was to recreate the
old process. What we got for our connectivity was a credit card reader in
the back, and a small screen showing
us ads. What Garrett Camp and Tra-vis Kalanick realized was humans
were now augmented by location-aware smartphones, and so you could
completely rethink the way you summoned a car. It would be utter magic
to someone from the past—that you
can click on your phone, and summon a car to wherever you are and
know just how long it will take for a
car to pick you up.
But when Uber started talking
about self-driving cars, they lost the
plot and started talking only about
cutting costs and eliminating work-
ers. Rather than crowing about how
they’d finally get rid of those pesky
drivers, they should have been talk-
ing about an experiment that they’ve
run since 2014, delivering flu shots.
“Sure, we won’t always have drivers.
But just imagine how many other
jobs we can restructure and make
more magical and on demand once
the transportation is even cheaper
and more convenient!”
Zipline is completely rethinking
how healthcare could be delivered
in an on-demand world. Their pilot
project in Rwanda looks to address
one of the leading causes of death—
postpartum hemorrhage—by deliv-
ering blood on demand, via high-
speed drone, to locations without
modern transportation or health-
care infrastructure. But if you think
about it, on demand technology
could be transforming healthcare
every where—if we think big, and use
technology not just to cut costs and
improve profits but to deliver previ-
ously impossible services.
If you’d told the weavers of Ned
Ludd’s time that those machines
they were smashing would mean that
ordinary people would have more
changes of clothing than the richest
nobles of their day, they would have
shaken their heads in astonishment.
What might we be astonished by if we
have the courage to invest in the possibilities of a better future?
Reprinted with permission from the author.
This article first appeared at https://medium.com/
them-8bea60cb80ac#.35t4i37x1; July 17, 2016.
[ 1] Chui, M., Manyika, J., and Miremadi, M. Where
machines could replace humans—and where they
can’t (yet). Mc Kinsey & Company. July, 2016.
[ 2] O’Reilly, T. Make. 2006.
[ 3] Magistad, M. K. What the rise of the gig economy
means for the American Dream. Public Radio
International. Podcast. July 14, 2016.
Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Tim O’Reilly enjoys
watching the alpha geeks, sharing their stories, helping
the future unfold.
© 2016 Copyright held by Owner(s)/Author(s).
Washington, D.C., very much like
the homeless encampments that
are now under the I-280 in San
Francisco, the federal government
invested capital in new industries
to create jobs for millions of people.
They created tax codes that redistributed from the rich to the poor….
But redistribution of income and
the beginnings of the modern social
safety net were only part of the story.
The New Deal’s Reconstruction
Finance Corporation not only
helped light up America—moving it
from 10 percent of homes having
electricity in 1930 to more than
60 percent a decade later—it also
funded research in the Defense
It was fundamentally about
investment in edgy technology, so
things like aerospace, aluminum
extraction, synthetic rubber were all
brought to scale, Hyman says. Aerospace before 1939 had fewer people
working in it than worked in candy
manufacturing. And after World
War II, the aerospace industry was
four times the size of the pre-war
car industry. This is incredible scale
and scope of an endeavor, to utterly
transform the economy in about five
years, by using idle capital….
There’s so much capital out
there, and they don’t know where
to put it. It’s hard for us to imagine
as normal people, but for the big
players in the global economy, the
pension funds, the hedge funds the
bazillion billionaires, they’re desperate to find an outlet for capital.
And right now, the best outlook for
capital is our home mortgages and
our credit card loans. And until we
provide them with better outlets,
like we did during the 1930s and
‘40s, to invest in aerospace and
more cutting edge technology in
industries that employ millions,
it’s going be very hard to get our
economy going again. And fundamentally, this is how capitalism
has to work. It has to be a virtuous
cycle, where capital comes into
businesses, is invested and creates
There is way
about the possibility