18 January 2014

Bruce Sterling on startups and disruption

Chilling and vitally important.

In the startup world, you work hard and you move fast in order to make other people rich.

Other people. Not you.

You're a small elite of very smart young people who are working very hard for an even smaller elite of mostly Baby Boomer financiers … so they can buy national governments, shut the governments down, destroy the middle class and the nation-state.

That's been going on a long time. It's not something you invented; that's a historical development. There's a lot of reasons that the nation-state's got to go. There's a lot of reasons why a middle class is in the way.

But that's what you do. That will be the judgment of history for your startup culture. They're going to say that the twenty-teens were all about that:

“It was a tacit allegiance between the hackerspace favelas of the startups and off-shored capital & tax avoidance money laundries. And what were they doing? They were building a globalized network society.”

And that's what's coming next: an actual globalized network society. You're routing around it from the bottom while they climb over it from the top, but you're both aimed in the same direction. That's why you're in tacit allegiance, whether you know it or not.

And right now everybody lives the way that people used to live under empires in colonial states. We're all auto-colonialized by the austerity. That's your big dragon. That's your actual dragon. Not, like, the little tactical dragon. That's the BIG DRAGON. And you know it's the big dragon because you're part of it. You're actually its brain and its nervous system.


And as long as you are making rich guys richer, you are not disrupting the austerity. You are one of its top facilitators.


The (sort of) rosy version, from Mark Andreessen:

Speaking of disruption: Tech people like me can sometimes come across as presumptuous/arrogant re disruption of other peoples' industries.
It is possible this is an understatement. I am sure that some of my Twitter friends will expand on this for me
From this side of the aisle, though, it's less smugness, more the result of hard experience and learning from our own lives and careers.
In tech, our *own* businesses are disrupted by technology change and new competitive entrants at whiplash-inducing rates.
It's shocking how quickly you can go from the hot disruptive upstart to the stodgy disrupted incumbent in tech -- frequently within 5 years.
I've probably been on the receiving end of disruption 30 times in the last 20 years -- almost as many times as I've been on the giving end.
Now, on the one hand, you might say, “How can people live like that?” ... what's wrong with a little stability?
But, what we see is: Frequent disruption is the handmaiden of rapid progress -- and it's a blast to create and work amid rapid progress.
It's not just rapid progress of tech. It's also rapid grown of companies, and even better, rapid development of *people* & their talents.
It's hard to stay in tech for any period of time and not get good at rapid adaptation, skill acquisition... and new product creation.
As software eats the world: Same disruption dynamics always present in tech now applying to many more industries, fields, professions.
Rather than superiority/contempt, what a lot of us feel is deep sympathy/understanding -- even if that's not always how it comes across!
And now we all have the opportunity to learn together -- to make many parts of industry/life more innovative/dynamic, better for everyone.

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