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WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us

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WTF? can be an expression of amazement or an expression of dismay. In today’s economy, we have far too much dismay along with our amazement, and technology bears some of the blame. In this combination of memoir, business strategy guide, and call to action, Tim O'Reilly, Silicon Valley’s leading intellectual and the founder of O’Reilly Media, explores the upside and the potential downsides of today's WTF? technologies. 

What is the future when an increasing number of jobs can be performed by intelligent machines instead of people, or done only by people in partnership with those machines? What happens to our consumer based societies—to workers and to the companies that depend on their purchasing power? Is income inequality and unemployment an inevitable consequence of technological advancement, or are there paths to a better future? What will happen to business when technology-enabled networks and marketplaces are better at deploying talent than traditional companies? How should companies organize themselves to take advantage of these new tools? What’s the future of education when on-demand learning outperforms traditional institutions? How can individuals continue to adapt and retrain? Will the fundamental social safety nets of the developed world survive the transition, and if not, what will replace them? 

O'Reilly is "the man who can really can make a whole industry happen," according to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet (Google.) His genius over the past four decades has been to identify and to help shape our response to emerging technologies with world shaking potential—the World Wide Web, Open Source Software, Web 2.0, Open Government data, the Maker Movement, Big Data, and now AI. O’Reilly shares the techniques he's used at O’Reilly Media  to make sense of and predict past innovation waves and applies those same techniques to provide a framework for thinking about how today’s world-spanning platforms and networks, on-demand services, and artificial intelligence are changing the nature of business, education, government, financial markets, and the economy as a whole. He provides tools for understanding how all the parts of modern digital businesses work together to create marketplace advantage and customer value, and why ultimately, they cannot succeed unless their ecosystem succeeds along with them.

The core of the book's call to action is an exhortation to businesses to DO MORE with technology rather than just using it to cut costs and enrich their shareholders. Robots are going to take our jobs, they say. O'Reilly replies, “Only if that’s what we ask them to do! Technology is the solution to human problems, and we won’t run out of work till we run out of problems." Entrepreneurs need to set their sights on how they can use big data, sensors, and AI to create amazing human experiences and the economy of the future, making us all richer in the same way the tools of the first industrial revolution did. Yes, technology can eliminate labor and make things cheaper, but at its best, we use it to do things that were previously unimaginable! What is our poverty of imagination? What are the entrepreneurial leaps that will allow us to use the technology of today to build a better future, not just a more efficient one? Whether technology brings the WTF? of wonder or the WTF? of dismay isn't inevitable. It's up to us!


448 pages, Hardcover

First published October 10, 2017

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Tim O'Reilly

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Profile Image for Frank Calberg.
155 reviews38 followers
April 28, 2020
Reading the book, I found these parts particularly useful:

Tips for developing technology
- Page 9: People, who use sites such as Amazon, Google or Facebook, participate in the development of software. In other words, users help out testing technology and giving feedback.
- Page 36: Quote by Reid Hoffman: In Washington, you assume that every year things cost more and do less. In Silicon Valley, everyone expects products to cost less every year and do more.
- Page 42: The Twitter symbols "@", "retweet" and "hashtags" were created by users and later adopted by Twitter.
- Page 116: A modern organization seeks to have high alignment and high autonomy. Everyone knows what the goal is, and people are empowered to find their own ways of reaching the goal.
- Page 124: Often, when technology is first deployed, it amplifies the worst features of the old way of doing business. Only gradually do individuals and organizations realize, through a cascading network of innovations, how to put new technology to work.
- Page 145: When building digital government services, start with needs - user needs, not government needs. Make it simple and open.
- Page 156, 161 and 163: The fitness function of Google's search quality team has always been relevance. Is this what the searcher wants to find? Choose the fitness function of your algorithm, and they will shape your company.
- Page 297: The open source pioneers of Linux and the Internet has shown us that sharing knowledge beats hoarding knowledge.
- Pages 352 and 355: Work on stuff that matters and focus on creating more value than you capture.
- Page 352: The time you spend thinking about your values will help you do better work.

Tips on public funding as well as regulation of innovation and education
- Page 132: Larry Page and Sergey Brin's research project at Stanford, which led to Google, was funded by the National Science Foundation's digital library program. The market value of Google is greater than the total amount of taxpayer dollars spent on the National Science Foundation since it was founded in 1952.
- Page 179: Regulators should consider the possible harms to the people whose data is being collected, and work to eliminate those harms, rather than limiting the collection of data itself.
- Page 189: Companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb should open up more data to academics as well as to regulators trying to understand the impact of on-demand transportation on cities.
- Page 216: By requiring social media sites to add truth signals to the news feed algorithm, the algorithm will find reasonable doubt and thereby help people get to facts quicker.
- Page 246 and 250: In the USA, the share of GDP going to wages has fallen from 54% in 1970 to 44% in 2013, while the share going to corporate profits went from 4% to 11%. According to billionaire capitalist and technology investor Nick Hanauer, workers have been screwed so long that they can no longer afford to be customers.
- Page 252: The single biggest unexplored reason for long-term slower growth is that the financial system has stopped serving the real economy and now serves mainly itself. The financial industry employs 4% of Americans but takes in more than 25% of all corporate profits - down from a 2007 peak of nearly 40%.
- Page 252: People, who are born in 1980, are far less likely to be better off financially than people born in 1940.
- Page 266: In 2014, Walmart raised its minimum wage to USD 10 per hour and invested in employee training and career paths. This improved customer satisfaction, employee retention and sales.
- Page 268: We could give tax credits for unpaid work.
- Page 271: Only 15% of the money flowing from financial institutions makes its way into business investment, i.e. into the real economy. The remaining 85% move around a closed financial loop via the buying and selling of real estate, stocks and bonds. This great money river is accessible only to a small part of the population.
- Page 282: Ordinary people can no longer afford to live in San Francisco. To change that, government needs to put a limit on the tax deductability of mortgage interest and increase the number of houses being built per year.
- Page 298: For the first time in generations, young people in modern developed economies are worse off than their parents.
- Page 305: Universal basic income appeals to Conservatives as a way of simplifying the rules of the welfare state - thereby saving money as well as reducing bureaucracy and inefficiency.
- Page 340: There is no joy in the current education system. It is full of canned solutions to be memorized. Instead, it needs to be a vast collection of problems to be solved.
- Page 341: The combination of learning by doing, social sharing, and on demand expertise is central to how people - especially young people - learn today. For example, people learn through YouTube about how to cook various dishes. Just in time learning.

Other interesting research findings:
- Page 28: In 1992, there were about 200 websites worldwide.
- Page 200: 66% of Americans get their news content through social media, 44% of them from Facebook alone.
- Page 211: A fake story typically provides no sources.
- Page 334: Increasingly, technologies empower workers, help find their strengths and match them with opportunity.
- Page 338: In the 1970s, a computer wasn't very useful, unless you learned how to program. Today, few people, who own a smartphone, know how to program.
- Page 346: Love of learning may be more important than specific skills that will soon be out of date.
Profile Image for Gary Moreau.
Author 9 books231 followers
October 12, 2017
Tim O’Reilly, who I admit to having no awareness of prior to buying this book, has obviously had a front row seat at the birth and development of the digital economy. And he’s either a prolific note taker or has a large research staff.

However it came into being, this is a thorough, if not exhaustive, review of the history of digital. At 448 pages, it is quite literally a tome of a book. And while the author is clearly a competent documentarian, I wouldn’t call it a quick read. I would have accepted his references with less supporting documentation but engineers, admittedly, may be more demanding on that front.

For me, the book is really two books. The first book is all about the history of Silicon Valley and its creations. When he noted “…the genius of TCP/IP” I considered putting the book down, as I don’t have a clue what that is and don’t really have any interest in learning as long as my Mac and Kindle work.

The Internet has also trained me in the value of “chapter learning.” There is a lot I don’t need to know because if and when I do I can turn to Google and YouTube. But I slogged through and it was undoubtedly good to get more informed. (We’re all a little lazy on that front today.)

The second book—the one about the metaphorical Silicon Valley’s place in the word—was pure gold. In this book the author takes an inquisitive scalpel to the frustrating world we now live in and, explains it, isolates some of the root causes, and offers some prescriptions.

While I am not a techie, I am a mathematician and philosopher of sorts and was fully engaged by “Part III: A World Ruled by Algorithms.” Algorithms drive the digital world but are little understood by the people who use its services. An algorithm is a recursive computation that provides, particularly when used in groups, informed answers to problems like how to rank data or answer a search. A computation, however, is not a calculation in the way that 2+2=4 is; least of all when context is factored in. Algorithms will give you an answer but not necessarily “truth.” That, more often than not, is a matter of perspective and your personal standard of precognitive conclusion.

Which is precisely why “fake news” will be impossible to ultimately prevent. Even Facebook’s vision of communities won’t help. It is community that is the problem to begin with. In the end, the news coming from the “other community” is all fake because, by definition, it is not substantiated if we are unwilling to accept that it is.

Algorithmic bias, I believe, is the biggest challenge our society and our economy faces at the moment. I dare say it is more immediate than climate change for the simple reason that the Internet has become integrated with our economy, our politics, and our culture to such a degree that if it fails our world will come tumbling down.

And it will fail, I believe, because of algorithmic bias, which will undermine trust in the Internet, or, more precisely, the Internet gatekeepers. Trust is pivotal to the Internet ecosystem and the gatekeepers, to date, have protected it with skill and determination.

The author actually lays out the argument quite well when he notes that traffic tickets handed out by intersection cameras are quite “fairly” distributed. Who can argue with the time-stamped image? And he’s right, of course. But what if the cameras are only installed in certain neighborhoods and not installed in certain other neighborhoods?

The problem is not the algorithm per se, it is its application. The author correctly notes, “The characteristics of the training data are much more important to the result than the algorithm.” Bingo. And that will be an impossible problem to fix to everyone’s satisfaction. (Compromise is not exactly the ideal of the day.)

And the courts, I predict, won’t help. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 exempted ISP’s from all copyright laws because they are, theoretically “neutral.” This protection, O’Reilly argues, is both warranted and critical. The warranted argument is moot, however, because ISPs will eventually lose that protection in the courts. Semantics are a double-edged sword in our legal system. Our legal system turns on semantics and the distinction between a “neutral platform” and a content provider will ultimate be erased once the mobs outside of SV turn on it.

The author’s solution to algorithmic bias is to double down—install more and more robust algorithms that are measured by the right results. (Google’s quest for “relevance” won’t do it.) And that will help. It will not, however, erase a problem that people are only now even becoming aware of. And the very psychological attributes that allow people to be hoodwinked also work in reverse. Once the tipping point is reached, convincing them that you now tell the truth is next to impossible.

In the end I couldn���t agree more with O’Reilly that the real problem we face today is the master algorithm of serving the shareholder. “It’s essential to get beyond the idea that the only goal of business is to make money for its shareholders.” As a former CEO myself, he is absolutely right; we have hollowed out our economy and our souls and given it all to management and their investors, who now enjoy a very outsized portion of our miraculous economic output. And we are destroying our economic future in the process.

“People have a deep hunger for idealism,” O’Reilly notes. And I agree. We can survive, or, if we don’t survive in the short term, dig our way out. Our resilience is legendary.

I further agree with O’Reilly that the concerns about the robots putting us out of work are overstated. There will always be plenty to do.

Fixing algorithmic bias, however, will be painful. Some wealth will be lost. Some power will have to be redistributed. It won’t happen without a battle. Bravo to Tim O’Reilly, however, for putting this very important topic on the table for discussion.

This will, I believe, prove to be a seminal book on a topic of truly epic importance.
Profile Image for Julian Dunn.
273 reviews14 followers
February 19, 2018
Tim O'Reilly has had a front-row seat to the technology revolution ever since he started O'Reilly & Associates (now O'Reilly Media) back in 1978. Along the way he's gotten to know many technology luminaries and has been involved in key milestones like the rebranding of freeware to open source. Like many people who have built a significant reputation and personal brand on the Internet, he can be a bit of a blowhard. It's hard to know which came first: the self-promotion or the accomplishments. Nevertheless -- and even if it's O'Reilly himself who ends up taking credit for the interesting ideas of many others in his firm -- there's no mistaking that O'Reilly Media and its books, videos, and e-learning platform have been great tools towards educating technologists about both mainstream and esoteric topics.

Tim's ego and name-dropping aren't the main reason I disliked this book, though. It's the lack of focus. In fact, Tim already knows that his book has a fatal flaw. He spells it out in the acknowledgements at the end of the book, where he thanks his publisher and editor Hollis Heimbouch "for taking a chance on an unusual combination of memoir, business book, and polemic." WTF? takes a meandering journey, starting with several chapters of Tim bragging about his involvement in everything from Unix to open source software to the early days of the World Wide Web. He then shifts gears and pitches all the supposed benefits that disruptive companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, etc. are bringing to society with all the earnestness of Travis Kalanick telling his board to ignore his horrendous behavior because he's changing the world. Yet no sooner have we finished these chapters than we get O'Reilly-as-polemicist, criticizing modern capitalism and corporations for prioritizing shareholder value above benefit to society. He finishes the book by imploring the reader to "work on things that matter" and to build software or hardware to augment human performance rather than replacing people. Frankly, it's a naïve viewpoint that ignores how a small class of ruthless elite are doing this on purpose: it's not that they don't see that their actions are dehumanizing; it's that they have considered it, and are doing it anyways. The juxtaposition of O'Reilly's imploring us to "won't someone please think of the children?" alongside admiration for industry actors like Jeff Bezos who are exactly the problem is astonishing.

At the conclusion of the book it's impossible to glean O'Reilly's motivation for writing it. Is he atoning for his past sins in a hamfisted way, much as Bill Gates now runs a charitable foundation in a halfhearted attempt to countermand all the companies he paved over and lives that he destroyed in the 80's and 90's? Is he trying to portray himself as one of the "good guys" by calling for change but pulling all his punches because he's friends with all the folks that should really be called out? (Saturday Night Live's fake commercial of a "new perfume by Ivanka Trump: Complicit" comes to mind.) Or is this a book intended to cement his reputation as a thought leader among the intelligentsia that already adore him?

Overall, I'm disappointed that WTF? leaves me confused about O'Reilly's true beliefs. It would have actually been more satisfying if he'd engaged in a full-throated defense of venture investment and trickle-down economics, because at least those beliefs would be clear (as odious as I would find them). Instead, the ideological whiplash one is left with after reading this book makes you think that the 448 pages could have been put to better use by someone who wasn't so worried about cultivating his own image yet trying to be a polemicist without pissing off his rich technologist friends.
Author 15 books58 followers
October 29, 2017
I got this book after listening to the author interviewed by Russ Roberts on EconTalk. I didn't realize he was a committed (fanatical) progressive. If you can get past his preaching on climate change, single-payer healthcare, the reason for the financial meltdown (he never mentions the government's role) and other progressive "solutions (there are no solutions, Mr. O'Reilly, only tradeoffs), "it's actually a great tour through technological change. However, I'm really surprised the author never discusses George Gilder? How can you understand economics without ever mentioning this seminal thinker? Is it because Gilder is a conservative/libertarian thinker? No one has done a better job explaining the role of entrepreneurship in a dynamic economy. All that said, I enjoyed the read, though I do believe the book is far too long.
Profile Image for Lynn.
123 reviews24 followers
March 17, 2018
This guy made some pretty good points, but I could've done with a little less of his hero-worship gushing over Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. I know some people find hard-nosed billionaires interesting (appealing?); heck, enough people here in the US even found one appealing enough to elect him President, sigh. Still, I wish that the author, rather than touching as lightly as he did upon the working conditions at Amazon distributions centers, had actually gone "undercover" & tried working at one. (Hint: the conditions are hellish.) One author who actually did so & reports about it in her excellent book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century is Jessica Bruder; highly recommended.
Profile Image for Paco Nathan.
Author 8 books54 followers
January 7, 2018
Just read a 400 page book in 4 days, carefully, cross-checking some of the sources, while following the more interesting trails out to organizations described.

The sections about some of the history of O'Reilly vis-a-vis emerging technology are teeming with insights that perhaps only Tim could have shared with the world. Stories about Unix, Open Source, Internet, DevOps, etc., should be regarded carefully by anyone working in or with technology (which, now is almost everyone), since lessons out of history tend to repeat rather often. Much as military officers study epic poems about battles in ancient Greece. In fact, I've got a hunch that is partly how this book was intended -- as an early Internet-era approximation of The Illiad.

The author's methodology for mapping emerging tech is really what I was hoping to get from the book. Recommended, although one really must go to the effort of applying those suggestions to the text itself, to be able to glimpse the structure of that methodology. Second-order cybernetics FTW.

Latter chapters in the book dive into projections of what could unfold in our shared "What's the future", if we take up the challenges articulated in the "And why it's up to us" subtext. Much of that dives into government, effective partnerships with companies, and participation by people in general.

Spoiler alert: it did not go unnoticed that the punchline about "Our Skynet Moment", about the perils of runaway financialization becoming a kind of autopoietic system, was in fact Chapter 11. (filed under "Celtic humor")

OTOH, Tim's appropriation of the phrase "master algorithm" from Pedro Domingos was grating and -- for those who've studied Pedro's outstanding work -- seemed like kind of a cheap shot? Definitely out of character with the spirit of WTF? in general.

However, what strikes me most is that just before writing this review, I'd read the #DNCTakeBack by the Yes Men. Amidst all the fabulous quotes drawn from private conversations between Tim and high-flying corporate CEOs, the one thing that seems glaringly omitted from WTF? is almost precisely what Jacques Servin and company articulated so brilliantly through their "Emperor has no clothes" moment on the DNC.

FWIW, I reviewed The Whole Internet User's Guide & Catalog for The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog: Access to Tools and Ideas for the Twenty-First Century (see WTF p. 28) ... and I recall, quite vividly, early days of personal computing, internetworking, etc.: e.g., ah, the days when one had to pre-determine UUCP routes from a large map printed on multiple dot-matrix sheets, just to send an email via USENET ...or later, when our little tech start-up circa 1993 got asked poignant questions about whether or not it was legal to conduct commerce on the Internet? Aside from that venture having created one of the first online bookstores, one of the earliest e-commerce sites (beginning at the same time as O'Reilly work online), one of the first commercial chatbots, etc., the thing we really learned from those days at FringeWare was about how the Internet enabled serious work in politics, a la Yes Men. I am super-proud of our team's collaborations with Jacques Servin, Robert Anton Wilson, Doug Smith, Sandy Stone, Mark Hosler, Jude Milhon, Content Love Knowles, Mark Frauenfelder, et al., and what we accomplished -- pseudonyms notwithstanding -- while not having cocktails with CEOs. It's a bit disappointing that with all the talk about politics and morals, so much of Jacques, et al., got omitted from a serious history of the times.
Profile Image for Drtaxsacto.
539 reviews44 followers
October 23, 2017
Tim O'Reilly is an innovator that I have followed off and on since I bought my first computer (an Osborne). One might call him the father of the DIY revolution. Early in computers O'Reilly began publishing a series of books on computing especially how to build and program them. For the active hobbyist they were an invaluable resource.

This book is a bit more ambitious than his early work. It is a substantive discussion of the risks and rewards of our advancing technology. He starts the book by describing the uses of maps. He goes on to argue that maps both give us a way to go and help us to see, in perspective of where we are.

Where I have a disagreement with O'Reilly is in his sections on Economics. Like many people who quote Adam Smith he seems not to have considered some important points. He seems to have misread an important body of work generally called the Theory of the Firm. The writers in that area start with Ronald Coase. But over a period of a couple of decades the theory developed to make a distinction between shareholders, managers and workers. One of the most important papers in this area (By Anthony Downs) postulated that when a firm moves from sole ownership to a corporate structure incentives begin to change - managers tend to appropriate a good part of surplus which sole owners might not. He has a pretty good history of how compensation in corporate structures began to change as more and more compensation came in stock options. And he, using the map metaphor, offers some interesting ideas about how compensation structures could change in the future.

He also has, in my opinion, an overly broad trust in government's role in forming society and in solving problems. Oddly he quotes a British source who commented that government should do only what it could do. He cites a series of projects called Code for America which created as one example a college search site - which duplicated in a totally inadequate manner projects that were underway in the private sector.

Finally he grapples with the work of Robert Gordon the economist who wrote a provocative paper a couple of years ago arguing that the new normal for economic growth was well below what most would expect. He quotes Thomas Piketty - had I been consulted I would have urged him to think a bit more widely.

Even with the nonsensical discussion of economics this is still one of the most provocative books I have read in the last couple of years. Perhaps the most interesting issues he presents are a theories of thought experiments to get us to begin to think about what all these amazing technologies could lead to. He makes the bold expression that technology does not diminish jobs but it does destroy professions.

One of the most interesting speculations I came away with was the difference between knowledge and habits of the mind. The needs of society over time is to think creatively about how we educate our young people and people who are displaced as technology continues to advance.

O'Reilly is an optimist. At one point after WWI and the General Theory - Keynes wrote a speculative piece on leisure - how the advancing technologies (then) would create a condition where people no longer needed to work. At the end of the book he looks at a series of projects that people have undertaken to respond to these new challenges.

The intent of this book is to get us who are living through these changes to think differently about types of differing maps we could use to get us through. While I think O'Reilly is a bit off on his thinking about economics and his trust in government, the rest of the book is a genuine contribution to considering the future.
Profile Image for Dale.
139 reviews2 followers
May 4, 2018
Read this book twice over the last week.

When O'Reilly talks about tech (his core competency), he's on the mark.

But when he extrapolates into economics and political science, he's quite the statist. He's never met a government that he doesn't like, and he's never met a regulation that wasn't for the greater good. He's a great friend of Big Brother.

Ignore all of his observations and pontifications on the government's use of tech to make our lives better and stick to the shallow end of where he's competent to speak.
Profile Image for Cell.
374 reviews24 followers
November 6, 2021
首先感謝我的編輯與出版人辛波(Hollis Heimbouch),她嘗試用不同的組合,把這本書結合了回憶錄、商業管理和論證對話。

在歐萊禮媒體(O’Reilly Media),我們長期關注網際網路與開放原始碼軟體領域的創新者……




Profile Image for Dave.
70 reviews15 followers
March 18, 2019
I really didn't know what to expect with this book. Got it because I've used O'Reilly books since the very beginning of my career, and thought the title "What's the future.." might be interesting.

In many ways it covered more topics than almost any other book I've read, talking about specific technologies, government, people, skills you should learn, economics, etc. It jumped around a lot, referencing an idea mentioned before to combine it with the new topic. However, I can't imagine another way you could cover such a broad topic of "the future".

I wouldn't necessarily say I agree with everything O'Reilly says, but I loved his approach to describing things. I thought sometimes he was decently precise about something we should do/think about, and other times it felt a bit more.. aspirational. Things like "We should think about other people more" or such jazz.

All around, and acknowledging that it wasn't "perfect", I enjoyed that book more than almost any other non-fiction book I've read in the past, and I absolutely felt disappointed to realize it was over. I went & followed O'Reilly on all social media I could find, and wanted to rate this book immediately. All together well worth my time.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
July 24, 2018
A tech dude who doesn't think tech will fix everything! Finally. He's a technooptimist for sure, but he also understands the necessity of regulation. He also understands that we have to measure progress by how people actually live instead of what technology can do. I still think he's overly enthused about the likes of Bezos and companies like Amazon and uber being able to make things better, but of course his company relies on tech so I get that. The central theme was an important one--we need to think more about how tech will change the new economy and what to do about it.
12 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2018
I would have given this 3s for the content alone but the self congratulatory tone, name dropping and the silicon valley sitcom-like highlights were driving me bonkers.
Profile Image for Paula  Abreu Silva.
240 reviews55 followers
March 1, 2020
"As maravilhas da primeira revolução industrial foram criadas por trabalhadores em parceria com novos tipos de máquinas. Será que poderíamos construir arranha-céus, voar pelos ares ou alimentar sete mil milhões de pessoas sem máquinas que nos tornam mais fortes, mais rápidos e mais poderosos? O mesmo acontece com a tecnologia actual. Se for utilizada de forma adequada, deverá permitir-nos fazer coisas que eram anteriormente impossíveis.

Para tornar a economia do futuro melhor do que a do presente, é necessário encontrar novas formas de potenciar os trabalhadores, dando-lhes novas competências e acesso a novas oportunidades. À medida que automatizamos algo que os seres humanos costumavam fazer como poderemos potenciá-los para que possam fazer algo que tenha um novo valor?"

Páginas 116 e 117
Profile Image for Martti.
577 reviews
January 8, 2021
I found myself resonating with many of thoughts in the book. Among them the point, that if you want to know how the future will be, just look at what the rich people do today. Going to restaurants and enjoying a masterfully prepared meal was for the upper class only. By their personal chefs and servants. Or driving around with their personal carriages, now luxury limousines by their personal drivers. Transportation is in progress of being revolutionized by Bolt, Lyft, and Uber already, but we all will get personal chauffeurs to our limos when Waymo and Tesla will go into production with autonomous vechicles.

Tim perfectly exemplifies here why William Gibson declared the future being here - it's just not yet equally distributed. And there is no reason to believe it will change. Although the waves of meaningful change might get distributed faster.

Now some quotes. I tried real hard not to copy the whole book.

Don't replace people - augment them.

Go back to the days of the Wright Brothers and you’ll find how-to books like The Boy Mechanic . You couldn’t buy an airplane, but you could dream of building one.

This design pattern, that the future is built before it can be bought, is an important one to recognize. The future is created by people who can make and invent things and those who can tinker and improve and put inventions into practice. These are people who learn by doing.

Quote by Reid Hoffman: In Washington, you assume that every year things cost more and do less. In Silicon Valley, everyone expects products to cost less every year and do more.

That is the essence of the Maker movement. Making for the joy of exploration. Making to learn. There’s no joy in our current education system. It is full of canned solutions to be memorized when it needs to be a vast collection of problems to be solved. When you start with what you want to accomplish, knowledge becomes a tool. You seek it out, and when you get it, it is truly yours. Stuart Firestein, in his book Ignorance , makes the case that science is not the collection of what we know. It is the practice of investigating what we don’t know. Ignorance, not knowledge, drives science.

If there is no human-caused climate change, or the consequences are not dire, and we’ve made big investments to avert it, what’s the worst that happens?

By contrast, let’s assume that the climate skeptics are wrong. We face the displacement of hundreds of millions of people, droughts, floods and other extreme weather, species loss, and economic harm that will make us long for the good old days of the 2008 financial industry meltdown. It really is like Pascal’s Wager. On one side, the worst outcome is that we’ve built a more robust innovation economy. On the other side, the worst outcome truly is hell. In short, we do better if we believe in climate change and act on that belief, even if we turn out to be wrong. That’s what scenario planners mean by a “robust strategy.”

If we are working from a new map, in which our objective is to value human effort, not to dispense with it, we surely must start by assigning an economic value to caregiving.

Might it not be the case that in a world where routine cognitive tasks are commoditized by artificial intelligence, it is the human touch that will become more valuable, the source of competitive advantage?

The chorus of doubt about the jobless future sounds remarkably similar to the one that warned of the death of the software industry due to open source software. Clayton Christensen’s Law of Conservation of Attractive Profits holds true here too. When one thing becomes commoditized, something else becomes valuable. We must ask ourselves what will become valuable as today’s tasks become commoditized.

Sharing rather than hoarding knowledge can also be a powerful lever for competitive advantage. Companies too often assume that the best way to increase their share of the gains from innovation is to keep it proprietary. Yet as the open source pioneers of Linux and the Internet taught us, knowledge compounds when it is shared.

Supermoney - These companies, often sold for billions of dollars, are valued not based on some multiple of their sales, profits, or cash flows, but for expectations of what they might become, promoted like fake news in a market of attention. This effect is central to understanding the hypnotic allure of financialization.


Mark Twain is reputed to have said , “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Study history and notice its patterns. This is the first lesson I learned in how to think about the future.

This is the rhyming pattern that I noticed: The personal computer industry had begun with an explosion of innovation that broke IBM’s monopoly on the first generation of computing, but had ended in another “winner takes all” monopoly. Look for repeating patterns and ask yourself what the next iteration might be.

THE PLATFORM - Amazon APIs and AWS example

How Jeff took the idea of Amazon as a platform out of the realm of software and into organizational design ought to be taught in every business school.

The story was told by former Amazon engineer Steve Yegge in a post that he wrote for colleagues at Google, but which ended up being accidentally made public and went viral among Internet developers. It is known as “Stevey’s Platform Rant.” In it, Yegge describes a memo that he claimed Jeff Bezos wrote “back around 2002 I think, plus or minus a year.” As Yegge described it:

His Big Mandate went something along these lines:
1. All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
2. Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.
3. There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.
4. It doesn’t matter what technology they use. HTTP, Corba, Pubsub, custom protocols—doesn’t matter. Bezos doesn’t care.
5. All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.
6. Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.

Jeff’s first key insight was that Amazon could never turn itself into a platform unless it was itself built from the ground up using the same APIs that it would offer to external developers. And sure enough, over the next few years, Amazon redesigned its application to rely on a comprehensive set of fundamental services—storage, computation, queuing, and eventually many more—that its own internal developers accessed via standardized application programming interfaces. By 2006, these services were robust and scalable enough, and the interfaces clearly enough defined, that they could be offered to Amazon’s customers.

Uptake was swift. Amazon’s low pricing and high capacity swept the market, radically lowering the barriers to entry for startups to experiment with new ideas, providing the stability and performance of top-notch Internet infrastructure for a fraction of the cost of building it yourself. The long Internet boom of the past decade can be traced back to Amazon’s strategic decision to rebuild its own infrastructure and then open that infrastructure to the world. It isn’t just startups either. Huge companies like Netflix host their services on top of AWS. It is now a business. Microsoft, Google, and many others have been playing catch-up in cloud computing, but they were late to the game.

The change in software development from a model in which the goal was to produce an artifact (say, the “gold master” of the next release of Microsoft Windows, which was the target of years of development and would be duplicated onto millions of CD-ROMs and distributed to tens of thousands of retailers and corporate customers on the same day) to one in which software development was a process of continuous improvement was also a process of organizational discovery. I still remember the wonder with which Mark Lucovsky, who’d been a senior engineering leader at Microsoft, described how different his process became when he moved to Google. “I make a change and roll it out live to millions of people at once.” Mark was describing a profound transformation in how software development works in the age of the cloud. There are no more gold masters. Today software has become a process of constant, more or less incremental improvements.

DevOps, SRE and the Velocity conference

The post I wrote following our conversation was titled “Operations: The New Secret Sauce.” It connected deeply with Jesse Robbins, then Amazon’s “Master of Disaster,” whose job was to disrupt the operations of other groups in order to force them to become more resilient. He told me that he and many of his colleagues had printed out the post and hung it on the walls of their cubes. “It’s the first time anyone ever said we were important.”

The next year, Jesse, together with Steve Souders from Yahoo!, Andy Oram of O’Reilly Media, and Artur Bergman, the CTO of Wikia, asked for a meeting with me. “We need a gathering place for our tribe,” Jesse told me. I happily complied. We organized a summit to host the leaders of the emerging field of web operations, and soon thereafter launched our Velocity Conference to host the growing number of professionals who worked behind the scenes to make Internet sites run faster and more effectively. The Velocity Conference brought together a community working on a new discipline that came to be called DevOps, a portmanteau word combining software development and operations. (The term was coined a few months after the first Velocity Conference by Patrick Debois and Andrew “Clay” Shafer, who ran a series of what they called “DevOps Days” in Belgium.)

The primary insight of DevOps is that there were traditionally two separate groups responsible for the technical infrastructure of modern web applications: the developers who build the software, and the IT operations staff who manage the servers and network infrastructure on which it runs. And those two groups typically didn’t talk to each other, leading to unforeseen problems once the software was actually deployed at scale.

DevOps is a way of seeing the entire software life cycle as analogous to the lean manufacturing processes that Toyota had identified for manufacturing. DevOps takes the software life cycle and workflow of an Internet application and turns it into the workflow of the organization, building in measurement, identifying key choke points, and clarifying the network of essential communication.

Gene Kim notes that speed is one of the key competitive advantages that DevOps brings to an organization. A typical enterprise might deploy new software once every nine months, with a lead time of months or quarters. At companies like Amazon and Google, there are thousands of tiny deployments a day, with a lead time of minutes. Many of these deployments are of experimental features that may be rolled back or further modified. The capability to roll something back easily makes failure cheap and pushes decision making further down into the organization.

The practices of DevOps have continued to evolve. Google calls its version of the discipline “Site Reliability Engineering” (SRE). As described by Benjamin Treynor Sloss, who coined the term, “SRE is fundamentally doing work that has historically been done by an operations team, but using engineers with software expertise, and banking on the fact that these engineers are inherently both predisposed to, and have the ability to, design and implement automation with software to replace human labor.”

The practices of DevOps have continued to evolve. Google calls its version of the discipline “Site Reliability Engineering” (SRE). As described by Benjamin Treynor Sloss, who coined the term, “SRE is fundamentally doing work that has historically been done by an operations team, but using engineers with software expertise, and banking on the fact that these engineers are inherently both predisposed to, and have the ability to, design and implement automation with software to replace human labor.”
Profile Image for Artur Coelho.
2,253 reviews61 followers
February 2, 2018
Um livro surpreendente, de forma inesperada. WTF? começa com o estilo habitual que caracteriza o tecno-utopismo de sillicon valley, aquele misto de fé cega numa trindade de empreendedorismo, tecnologia e espírito de inovação sem olhar a consequências. Segue a litania habitual de sucessos de mercado versus decadência dos dinossauros, com uma forte pitada de "O'Reilly pensou/fez isto primeiro". São capítulos que pouco trazem de novo, enquanto o autor tenta caracterizar a piada elegante do seu título - WTF significa aqui what the future, procurando ser uma crónica da disrupção criativa tecnológica que nos apanha desprevenidos quando tentamos antever o futuro.

Este seria mais um livro banal, com as ideias habituais vindas daquele canto geográfico e ideológico, se não mudasse completamente de tom a meio. Sem qualquer aviso prévio, O´Reilly muda o tom de elogio do tecno-utopismo para uma profunda crítica do capitalismo neoliberal. Algo ainda mais surpreendente tendo em conta que estamos a falar de um escritor, mais conhecido como editor e empreendedor tecnológico, que está perfeitamente inserido no meio que critica.

A crítica vem de dentro, com uma lógica de sobrevivência de um sistema. Ao analisar inteligência artificial, algoritmia, automação e robótica, O'Reilly segue o caminho da crítica acérrima ao status-quo do sistema financeiro. Estas tecnologias são um perigo para humanidade, observa, não por qualquer caráter que lhe seja inerente, mas por serem instrumentalizadas por uma máquina aparentemente imparável de capitalismo predatório, que se foca em maximizar lucros a curto prazo, a custo do investimento em inovação e rendimento dos trabalhadores. A culpa, aponta, está na financeirização da economia, que mudou o foco do investimento do construir a longo prazo para o enriquecer a curtíssimo prazo.

O'Reilly dificilmente é um marxista convertido, de kalashnikov em punho pronto a derrubar a ordem global. A sua posição parte do pressuposto que os mercados, para funcionar, precisam de clientes. Que sem uma distribuição equitativa de riqueza, não há dinheiro para aquisição de bens numa sociedade de consumo de massas. E que a regressão ao elitismo representa a inversão de todo o progresso humano dos últimos séculos.

O livro acaba com discussões sobre possibilidades pós-capitalistas, de uma sociedade onde a produção de riqueza está automatizada e ao humano fica o papel de, simplesmente, ser humano (é uma visão clássica de sociedade de lazer sustentada pela tecnologia, que tem estado ausente da discussão futurista nos últimos tempos). O'Reilly alinha-se ao lado daqueles que defendem o rendimento básico universal, e das sinergias aumentativas homem-tecnologia, defendendo sempre que as mais avançadas tecnologias são, em essência, uma ferramenta ao serviço da humanidade e não um instrumento de enriquecimento de elites. O up to us do título não se refere a nós, mas sim aos que fazem parte do ecossistema habitado por O'Reilly, do mundo empresarial tecnológico, capitalismo de risco e financeiro. São os que, na sua visão, podem dar passos para mudar um sistema deturpado por uma visão de mercado que colocou a ganância acima de todas as prioridades.
Profile Image for Daniel.
613 reviews82 followers
May 11, 2018
O’Reilly impressed me with his solid analysis of where technology is leading us and assured us that we have a choice in shaping our future. He first coined the phrase’ Open source hardware’. His firm first coined ‘big data’.

WTF technology is the kind of amazing technology that we would say ‘Gosh’ the first time we see it, but then seamlessly incorporate into our lifestyle, such as GPS, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Uber. I learnt many things from him:

1. Software trumps hardware; open source trumps proprietary; network trumps single computers, decentralised trumps centralised. The best apps get better by harnessing user data to improve, like Google never-ending battle with SEO optimisation to give useful search results. The next wave will be apps that harness ubiquitous sensors to improve themselves. Data is king.

2. To look at the future, see what the rich are doing (as they will become widespread in future, like air travel), and look at the fringe of innovation. Rate of growth acceleration is much more important than growth itself.

3. From Christensen: when something becomes commoditised, an adjacent thing usually becomes valuable.

4. Airbnb and Uber gets so big because they generate useful services from idle real estate and cars. Surge pricing helps to increase supply of cars in rush hour. They lose money at first (ok Uber is still losing money) but gradually make money once they become main stream. Paradoxically should Uber owns its own self driving car, it may have the same problem as conventional taxis by losing the flexibility of car supply.

5. Truly disruptive services create new markets and do not take over old markets.

6. Platforms are the way of the future, and trump apps. Successful companies create a thick marketplace with lots of users. Platforms must be careful not to extract too much value from the market otherwise the market will slowly disappear as users dwindle.

7. Governments can become platforms and let the public improve on its services (e.g. Code for America). Policy implementation must have the end user in mind.

8. Algorithms are useful but human inputs are necessary to direct and feed proper big data to them. Companies are now using apps to have low wage workers on demand. This dehumanize workers and make them unable to plan their lives. Uber however let drivers choose when to work, and is empowering.

9. Fake news are almost impossible to detect in the age of instant media. Algorithms can help a bit. Does it have any sources? Those sources authoritative? Multiple independent accounts? Articles mathematically sound? To avoid overwork, AIs can focus on only news that gain momentum.

10. Systems generate results that they are designed to give. Financialization of the market is going to cause more inequality, societal upheaval, destruction of the middle class, climate change and return to the dark ages. Unless, that is, we do something about it. Raising the minimum wage, removing income tax, increasing capital tax and giving a universal basic income will help.

11. We will never run out of jobs. AI will augment human beings. Work on stuff that matters, not just to do something to IPO and then cash out.

Boy this book is so good!
Profile Image for Felipe CZ.
514 reviews33 followers
September 7, 2018
Technology, besides being fun, is also transforming the world. Artificial inteligence, in the form of digital platforms and algorithms, has revolutionized the technology industry. Modern digital platforms are based on open-source software, a shift from closed-software that began with the rise of Linux for the sake of knowledge. But these platforms couldn't operate without the algorithms that govern them. Platform models can increase business and government autonomy, because the model can be applied to other structures like Amazon which has many two-pizza teams (refering to a team small enough to be fed by two pizzas) which have the freedom to pursue own goals and have a specific customer in mind, acting like an individual developer that contribute to the communal platform. Governments can use the model, e.g. when the US originally designed GPS tracking systems for Air Force satellites, later President Reagan offered it up for commercial use. Algorithms produce smaller programs to approach specific goals, keeping only the best programs in service; this is survival of the fittest, whichever algorithm outperforms the others will pass on its code. But in media and finance, algorithms can get out of control and technologies are replacing or redefining traditional job infrastructures, creating Luddites, who oppose technological changes. Therefore, we must embrace technologies as tools for teaching, creativity and for building a better future.
Profile Image for Devanshi Gupta.
11 reviews30 followers
November 15, 2017
Tim O'Reilly is a Silicon Valley veteran and has been forecasting technology before WWW. I picked up this book to quiet the dystopian in me which is wary of AIs replacing human jobs. Disclaimer: This book is not half that dramatic. O'Reilly posits 2 things:
1) History does not repeat. It rhymes. Therefore, it is important to look for patterns.
2) He doesn't have a time machine (obviously!!), he has a map.
These 2 points have been the underlying theme of this 400 page book covering context building, extensive details of marketplace, government regulations, competitive clashes, etc. which makes one look for patterns in modern technology revolution. Less than a quarter of this volume discusses our possible role in this and what the future might look like. Pros: you will learn a lot. Cons: It can be a dry read. Gallons of coffee were consumed to cover all the information needed to understand O'Reilly's map. I feel you can easily remove 100 pages from this book and still get the message.
Overall, this book is for anyone who thinks machines will take most of our jobs (Spoiler: More than 50% chances are that you are wrong).
Profile Image for Erik Rostad.
312 reviews116 followers
November 14, 2018
This book surprised me. I was expecting the typical "futurist" book with semi-interesting guesses as to what was coming in the near future. This book wasn't like that at all. Instead, it provided an excellent overview of the past 40 years in technology, how that has led to where we are today, and mindset shifts we need for looking into the future. It was more about reshaping your thinking to prepare for what might come than to predict specific technologies or potential outcomes.

This book was similar to other Books of Titans books - The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly and Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman - but of the three, I'd recommend this one for depth and insight.

Excellent book. I love the ones that catch me by surprise.
429 reviews6 followers
November 3, 2017
A true thinker and innovator. Highly recommended for everyone; from policy makers, regulators to entrepreneurs and simple men on the streets. It started off really dry, something developers would find interesting to read but it gets better and better. There are suggestions on how the government can play a part in creating platforms for various forms of network, how regulations should adapt to enable a fair society influenced by the gig economy, how data can be shared to encourage the former point, etc. He also talks about VC investments, social capitalism and, of course, humans vs AI. Easily one of the best books I've read this year. Will reread in the near future.
Profile Image for Eliot Peper.
Author 12 books322 followers
April 19, 2018
WTF? by Tim O'Reilly takes in the sweeping changes wrought by the advent of computing and the internet and puts the future in perspective. O'Reilly's ideas have major implications for everything from deciding on your career path and what skills to develop, to making sense of the headlines and choosing who to vote for. The mental models outlined in this book are maps that will help you search the present for clues to the future.
Profile Image for Kuszma.
2,149 reviews141 followers
February 29, 2020
Szemléletformáló könyv. Majdnem abba is hagytam a 100. oldalon.

No most rólam tudni kell (illetve nem kell, de azért elmondom), hogy ugye a humántudományokban vagyok valahogy otthon. A reáltudományokat mérsékelten tudom felfogni, de azért alapvetően érdekelnek. Viszont van két dolog, amitől tényleg lekapcsol az agyam: az üzlet meg az informatika. És hát ez a könyv az első 160 oldalban nem más, mint kéjelgés nyílt és zárt forráskódú szoftverekben meg start up üzleti modellekben. Egy merő szenvedés volt olvasni. De el kellett fogadnom, hogy O’Reilly a jövőről akar térképet készíteni, és ha valami egészen bizonyosan lesz a jövőben, az üzlet és informatika. Ha akarjuk, ha nem. Mert hát én is szívesen nézegetek olyan mémeket, amelyek a közösségi oldalakba belepistult fogyasztói társadalmon élcelődnek, de ébresztő! Ezeket is mind a facebookon találom meg!

Aztán egyharmadnyi alapozás után a szerző rátér a lényegre, és elkezdi összekötni az addig elmondottakat nagyívű ideájával: azzal, hogy miképp alakulhat át, vagy alakuljon át a kormányzat, a gazdaság és az oktatás, hogyan kéne reflektáljon a megváltozott körülményekre, és mit kénytelen vagy ajánlatos átvenni az olyan új szemléletet meghonosító multiktól, mint az Amazon, a Facebook, a Google vagy az Uber*. Nem pusztán arról van szó, hogy az algoritmusoknak és az internetnek nagyobb szerepet szán, hanem egy újfajta gondolkodásmódot is kívánatosnak tart: olyan, platformalapú „hibrid ember-gép intelligenciának” látja (szeretné látni) a jövőt, ahol az internet végtelen információt szív magába, és gondoskodik arról, hogy a különböző igények a felületen mint semleges piactéren találkozzanak, és kielégítsék egymást. Ez ugye alapvetően eltér a jelenlegi kormányzati gyakorlatoktól, ahol az állam mindent irányítás alatt akar tartani, korlátozott számú szolgáltatást nyújt, a nép meg, ha eszi, ha nem, nem kap mást – inkább egy végtelenül decentralizált mátrixra emlékeztet, amiben a kormány egyetlen feladata összehozni azokat, akik meg tudják oldani egymás nyűgét-baját. Természetesen ez egy végtelenül nyitott rendszer, ami az információ szabad voltán alapul, mert O’Reilly meggyőzően bizonyítja, hogy a szabadon felhasználható információ az, ami garantálja az innovációt, és ezáltal azt is, hogy a felmerülő problémákra gyors és hatásos válaszok szülessenek. (Arról nem is beszélve, hogy a demokrácia alighanem az információ szabadságával kezdődik, az ember szabads��ga – ami amúgy is egy elég komplex és definiálhatatlan fogalom – csak ezután következik, ebből eredeztethető.)

Ebből talán úgy tűnik, a szerző optimista, de ez nem így van: egyszerűen O’Reilly nem a technikai fejlődésben találja meg a mumust, ami elpusztítja a világot, hanem magában a rövid távú gondolkodásban. A gyors haszonszerzés vágya ugyanis olyan algoritmusokat teremt, amelyek tényszerűen katasztrófába sodorhatják az emberiséget, ugyanakkor a valós problémák megoldására kialakított számítástechnikai innovációk alkalmasint megmenthetnek minket – és igazából csak az emberen múlik, hogy melyiket választja. Mondjuk a helyzet nem rózsás, főleg mert a szerző úgy látja, már van egy legyőzhetetlen, átláthatatlan, az emberen túlnövő rendszer, ami rabszolgaságba dönthet minket, de ez nem valamiféle Mesterséges Intelligencia vagy Soros György rokonainak és üzletfeleinek reptilián közössége, hanem maga a piac. És ha ezt a piacot uralmuk alá hajtják az olyan szoftverek, amelyek a részvényesek kielégítésére vannak pozicionálva, a munkaerőt pedig kiküszöbölendő költségként kezelik (meglehet, ez már meg is történt), akkor ez szakadékot robbant a leggazdagabb 0.001% és a többiek közé, ez pedig előbb-utóbb társadalmi összeomláshoz vezet. Paradox módon ez ügyben O’Reilly Trump megválasztását reménykeltőnek tartja, no nem azért, mert lát valamit titkos tudást felcsillanni eme úriember tekintetében, hanem mert Trump sikere azt is jelenti (sok egyéb mellett), hogy a hagyományos politizálás nem tartható, és ha egyszer valaki lerombolta ezeket a falakat, akkor utána könnyebb akár ellentétes irányú radikális döntéseket is hozni. Hm, hát legyen igaza. Az biztos, hogy radikális szemléletváltás nélkül megyünk mind a lecsóba. Már hogy ezt mondja O’Reilly. És bizony meggyőzően mondja.

Adtam volna rá öt csillagot is, mert revelációim támadtak a könyv nyomán, és ezek feledtették velem az első 160 oldalt. Csak hát picit idegesített, hogy a szerző az Amazon, illetve a Facebook vezetőit mindközönségesen Jeffnek meg Marknak szólítja. Tanács azoknak, akik hiteles és elfogadható módon akarnak jövőmegmentő tervekről írni: ne tegezzétek a milliárdosokat.

Amúgy meg azt hiszem, én még radikálisabb vagyok O’Reillynál is. Ugyanis a komplett magyar politikai elitet most rögtön lecserélném egy algoritmusra. Rosszabb egyszerűen az nem lehet. Így belegondolva még egy sima üres Excell-táblázatra is. Egy aknakereső játékra. Mire nem?

* Fontos hozzáfűzni mindehhez, hogy O’Reilly a fenn említett cégeket nem etikai oldalról vizsgálja, hanem színtisztán az üzleti modelljüket tartja megfontolandónak. Nem hallgatja ugyan el erkölcsi vétségeiket, de azért lássuk be, a morális hiátusok (vagy nevezzük genyaságnak) nem a start up cégek privilégiumai, a Tesco, a General Electric vagy a Mercedes ugyanúgy hajlamos áthágni a szabályokat a haszon reményében.
Profile Image for John Tangney.
56 reviews4 followers
January 31, 2018
Some good ideas buried in a snowfall of self-agrandisement. Tim O'Reilly is not the legend he believes himself to be. I could not finish this book.
Profile Image for ScienceOfSuccess.
107 reviews189 followers
October 1, 2018
If you ever mindfully used the internet, this book is waste of time.

If you haven't maybe this will bring some interesting facts to you.
Profile Image for Thijs.
Author 3 books3 followers
December 27, 2017
Review + personal highlights:


- Interesting insights and metaphores.
E.g. how the financial market has become an end in itself, and more than 50% of all trades are done by systems. It's an example of a hybrid global brain system: partly AI's, partly humans.

- Sometimes the book has a strong autobiography vibe (And then in 1990 I predicted this and that to happen. And ofcourse it turned out to be true.)

- Very U.S. centered book. Too much imo, especially in an age of globalization.

- Highly idealogical, but also down to earth. Good examples, inspiring quotes.

Overall I'm very glad to have read WTF?.

Personal highlights:

• Fakenews is the 'disgusting' face of the economical model which is driving the internet.
• AI, Self-driving cars, increasing inequality, on-demand services: they tell us that there are massive changes coming in work, economie, and business.
• Technology, demography, globalization, urbanization will be the four biggest changers.
• How to create more value than to capture?
• Edwin Schlossberg: “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think”
• The Global Brain (incl. IoT, AI), is getting a body and starts to move (robotics, self driving cars, etc.)
• In the long run Uber and Lyft are competing with car ownership (together wit Tesla). Replacing material with information (digital twins bring new possibilities).
• Lyft has more moral consciousness
• When making sense of the future, think in terms of gravitational cores, not hard boundaries.
• Networked marketplace platforms, On Demand, Managed by Algorithm, Augmented Workers,
• When the best leader leads, the people will say 'We did it ourselves' - Lao-tzu
• Networks often turn out to be two-sided marketplaces in which one party pays for access to info or attention of the other party.
• Due to the network effect and the 'winner-takes-all' principle", open markets dissapear and one privately run market has monopoly (amazon, facebook, google search).
• Every firm builds two intertwined systems: one that serves the user, and one that helps understanding how the user uses the system.
• Programmers become managers of intelligent programs (the narrow AI's/microservices become the workers)
• David Brin argues we should have two way transparancy in a surveillance society.
• The notion of the creep-factor should be central in the future of privacy-regulation. p. 177
• John Rawl's 'Veil of Ignorance': The best rules for a political or economic order are those that would be chosen by people who had no prior knowledge of their place in that order. p. 181
• The algorithm is the new shift boss. What is the fitness function driving the algorithm? p. 197
• WSJ: Blue Feed / Red Feed: what do Hillary sup see in Facebook and what do Trump sup see in Facebook?
• Processes of intellectual discovery are all about arguments between different (and sometimes stylized) positions. p. 223
• Regarding stock prices: We should add 'fake growth' to 'fake news' in our vocabulary. p. 243
• The market has become an end instead of a means to an end and it leads amazon, google, etc.
• Inequality feeds on itself since the market becomes more optimized for those who can spend. p. 264
• Enjoying a meal with a loved one is not something machines can make more efficient. p. 308
• Even in a world where every need is met, there will still be a world of wants. p. 313
• Food is blended with ideas to make it more valuable. p. 314
• We know what the good life looks like. We have the resources to provide it to everyone. Why have we constructed an economy that makes it so difficult to achieve? p. 318
• Ignorance, not knowledge drives science. p. 339
• On-demand education? p. 343
• Money is like gas in a car: important to get around, but not the goal or even the journey. p. 351
• Scenario planning, two key vectors.
• Customer obsession is the key to the WTF of Delight Future.
• 'We have a job to do' is radically different than 'we need jobs'
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
488 reviews
March 7, 2019
I've read a number of books and articles in the last few years of the ML/AI revolution and how technological innovation will change how we work. This is the best yet. It's both honest in where we are and where we could head if we don't take a concerted effort to take the reins and guide it to where humanity will best be served by it (besides just the owners of capital). It's also inspiring in the opportunities that are available if we are able to make it work for all. To be clear, this isn't a treatise against capitalism, but an argument that successful capitalism has to be successful for all stakeholders - customers, employees, communities, as well as owners.
Profile Image for Jason Carter.
275 reviews5 followers
November 8, 2017
O'Reilly intentionally exploits "WTF?" as a euphemism. When we're confronted with something new and unknown, we're tempted to throw up our hands in frustration, "WTF?!"

The author encourages us, rather, to throw up our hands in excitement and consider whether what we're experiencing the future invading the present. He likes to quote William Gibson: "The future is already here -- it's just not evenly distributed." And then he makes the case throughout.

O'Reilly is optimistic about the future. He's an observer of current trends, identifying where the future has already invaded the present, and extrapolating to determine what the future may look like after it's evenly distributed. He uses Google, Uber, Lyft, and Amazon as case studies throughout, and looks in the rear-view mirror enough to gain insights for the future.

This book is really good and very much worth the read. I would have given it five stars, except that it could have been shorter. The first few chapters were slow, and O'Reilly perhaps spends a little too much time on history. Perhaps like Mark Twain, he didn't have time to write a short book, so he wrote a long one instead. Still highly recommended.
Profile Image for Andre Borges.
85 reviews8 followers
February 15, 2019
It's a really well written overview from the last 40 years of tech development, in a fun mix of personal stories and behind the scenes peeks. While reviewing the last you end up getting a better understanding of how should the current technologies evolve, while getting a few cool mental models to think about the future. This was the main hook for me, mental models and stories instead of tech fortune telling.
Profile Image for Shirley.
90 reviews2 followers
December 19, 2017
This book should be on every community, business and political leader's read list. There are a lot of challenges coming at US society - and it's ability to deal with them successfully and inclusively is dependent on the decisions we make over the next few years. Making good decisions about _how_ we use technology and _how_ the US educates and prepares it's population (with education, safety net frameworks to make job transitions easier for those without reserves) is going to be crucial.

Tim O'Reilly has been a tech thought leader for thirty years. Read this book to get the roadmap of the challenges that he sees coming.
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