Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 06, 2015

Discussion

Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
Hi. I'm Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media. I love getting people thinking harder about how technology can make the world a better place. In the past, I've focused a lot on areas like open source software and the implications of big data and collective intelligence. Right now, I'm exploring how AI, robotics, the on-demand economy, and augmented reality are changing the future of work. I'm running the Next:Economy Summit to explore the implications for business, for workers, and for the economy as a whole. Ask me anything, but I'd particularly like to talk about the future of work.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
What do you think the future American economy and work force will look like 50 years from now? If automation and AI play much larger roles, how do you envision the work force shifting? Will the services industry expand or shrink? Will there be more scientists and engineers? What will the middle class look like?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@alexcartaz I see several scenarios, and in all of them, people are working. In the first scenario, we eventually come to our senses and realize that climate change, crumbling infrastructure, the demographic inversion, are going to toast our civilization unless we take action. As Nick Hanauer says, "Technology is the solution to human problems. We won't run out of work till we run out of problems." In the second, we don't deal with those things, and everyone is working, scrambling to stay alive. In the third, really optimistic scenario, we've got a magic bullet, have invested successfully in the hard problems, our machines are doing most of the nasty work, and we spend more time entertaining and helping each other. We will have to dignify a lot of new things as "work." I was talking with MIT labor economist David Autor about societies with, effectively, a guaranteed basic income. He contrasted Saudi Arabia and Norway. In Saudi Arabia, many kinds of work are looked down on, done by low wage "guest workers", and the locals have sinecure government jobs, and live a sybaritic lifestyle. It's kind of like the Hunger Games, or HG Wells Eloi and Morlocks from The Time Machine. In Norway, Autor says, every kind of work is valued. Everyone works, just not that much, and they spend more time on social and artistic pursuits. As Jack Handy of Deep Thoughts and SNL fame said in a cartoon once, "If aliens came down and said 'show us your civilization', we'd say 'This isn't really our civilization. This is just something we're playing around with. Come back in 25 years and we'll show you our real civilization. Either that, or we'd shoot them in the back when they turned around to go back into their spaceship." We can do much better. Machines could help us solve problems that are difficult today, and build a fairer society that works better for everyone. But we have to take charge and make it so.
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@timoreilly Can you speak to the issues of the economic wealth gap through the lens of automation in the next few decades? Won't the haves just collect more power unless something is done?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@jeffumbro While technological unemployment is a real phenomenon, I think it's far more important to look at the financial incentives we've put in place for companies to cut workers and the cost of labor. If you're a public company whose management compensation is tied your stock price, it's easy to make short term decisions that are good for your pocketbook but bad long term for both the company and for society as a whole. Nick Hanauer, one of the speakers at my Next:Economy Summit (https://conferences.oreilly.com/...) points out that workers are also customers, and unless people have money to spend, they can no longer afford to buy products. He said to me something like "people have this 'econo-erotic fantasy' in which "I can drive my own labor costs down but everyone else will keep paying their workers enough to afford my products." There's a fairly interesting body of research about how stock buybacks (an easy way to prop up stock price) have driven a reduction in productive investment. There's a great Harvard Business Review article about this called "Profits without Prosperity." https://hbr.org/2014/09/profits-... And there's been a huge diversion of capital towards financial markets, which fundamentally are geared now to extracting money from the real economy rather than their original goal of enabling its growth. There is a good report from the Roosevelt Institute called Rewriting the Rules http://rewritetherules.org that lays out just how the rules of our economy are written to favor financial markets. There's a longer argument than I can make here that "the Market" is our first true AI, a hybrid of human and machine, and yes, it is inimical to humans. I'm writing a new piece for my WTF Economy collection on Medium (https://medium.com/the-wtf-economy) called "Our Skynet Moment" that tackles this topic.
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@timoreilly What's your take on the divide between full VR (Oculus) and augmented reality (Hololens). Which has more potential for making a major impact on our society?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@russfrushtick I am far more intrigued by augmented reality than full virtual reality. The ability to superimpose information on the real world and to have an integrated real/virtual experience will have far greater impact, IMO. I do love documentary VR, though. In some ways, AR seems to me to be a superset of VR. I think AR systems will be able to go full VR more easily than the reverse.
Emeka Onu
Emeka Onu@juoemeka · Making and Selling Online Businesses
A a data scientists, I have just one question. 1. What's the remarkable thing Data science Team has done in your organization that made your want to scream
Hi Mr. O'Reilly, I work for the Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board and part of my job is to research future trends in the workforce, then determine what information is pertinent to our local region and in turn communicate it to our local job seekers. Besides economic data, and EDD sector information, what sources of information do you look to when you are trying to predict what is coming down the pike?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@patrciaj1 I pay attention to technology, and try to see the world through fresh eyes.
Also, what books are you currently reading?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@patrciaj1 Looking at my bookshelf, I've been reading a whole lot of books related to my upcoming Next:Economy Summit: John Markoff's Machines of Loving Grace, Robin Chase's Peers Inc, David Weil's The Fissured Workplace, Thomas Picketty's Capital, Elinor Ostrom's Governing the Commons, Tyler Cowen's Average is Over, Reid Hoffman's The Alliance, Laszlo Bock's Work Rules, Zeynep Ton's The Good Jobs Strategy. In other reading, I just finished Ben Horowitz's Hard Thing About Hard Things, which might just be the most compelling business book I've ever read. And I always dip back into my favorite poets. Wallace Stevens, The Palm at the End of the Mind. The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu, Witter Bynner. TS Eliot, Four Quartets. I also read science fiction. I loved The Martian, which I read a year or so ago. Another science fiction book I read recently, not as good, but intellectually provocative, was Ghost Fleet, by PW Singer and August Cole, about a future war between the US and China, with a big cyber-warfare component. And right now, I'm reading my friend Neal Stephenson's Mongoliad.
Tai
Tai@tai_log · Keio
@timoreilly People say the blockchain technology is the next internet. What is your opinion about it, and what kind of potential do you see in that field?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@tai_log I'm super excited about the blockchain in theory, but in practice, I've been a little disappointed. I've talked to lots of folks who say "the blockchain will change everything" and I believe them, but too many of them remind me of the folks who believed correctly that open source software would change everything, but then all they did was just try to make an open source version of something that already existed. Look: Open Office, not yet as good as Microsoft Office, but better because...drum roll...it's open source. Look: The Gimp, not yet as good as Photoshop, but better because...drum roll...it's open source. Open source was a game changer, but not because there were new open source versions of what we had before, but because people did something that you couldn't do before. That's why the Internet, not Linux, was always the centerpiece of my open source narrative. Linux became an enabler of the next level of internet apps, but the real game changers were people who used it to do something entirely new: Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. I gave a series of talks about this in 2003/2004, which I eventually wrote up in an essay called "The Open Source Paradigm Shift." http://archive.oreilly.com/pub/a... I'm still waiting to see the Googles and Amazons of the blockchain rather than the Open Offices and the Gimps. I think they will come, but the entrepreneurs need to think bigger about what kinds of compelling new services for users can be built. They should think hard about the success of the World Wide Web and ask themselves what it teaches them about what they should be working on. (Bitcoin was something truly new. But it hasn't reached the level of impact of the World Wide Web.)
Frederic Julien
Frederic Julien@fredjulien
Do you think there'll be enough new jobs created to absorb the displaced workers and what are the major social transformations to be expected with this re-invention of work? One concern that I have is that many of these new jobs / platforms may not (yet) allow for a living wage. Many thanks!
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@fredjulien I think the new jobs "not allowing for a living wage" is a bit of a canard, when there are tens of millions of traditional jobs not providing a living wage. I wrote about why traditional low wage jobs are worse than the new on-demand jobs in my essay Workers in a World of Continuous Partial Employment https://medium.com/the-wtf-econo... That doesn't mean that we can't do much better on these new jobs, especially on the benefits front, but the notion that they are somehow worse always makes me ask "Worse than what?" The trends to make low wage jobs shitty jobs far precedes the on-demand economy, and the on-demand economy is a step in the direction of making them better. (P.S. I wrote specifically about the issues of Uber and Lyft in the piece Getting Over Taxis https://medium.com/backchannel/g..., a response to Susan Crawford's Getting Over Uber (which is linked at the top of that piece.)
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@timoreilly Hi Tim! Thanks for being here today. 🙌During your career to date, what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) most surprising moment? Thanks!
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@ems_hodge The most challenging moment was when I had to lay off 20% of my staff in 2001 after the dot com bust. I was inclined to go down with the ship, but my CFO (now President and COO) persuaded me to do layoffs instead. I learned a lot from that experience, which I wrote up in an essay called How I Failed. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/2... The proudest moment - that's a tough one. I can't think of a single "proudest moment" but I have a category of proud moments, and those come when someone tells me what a difference our products have made to their lives or careers. These moments range from the readers (or authors) who've said that one of our books got them started on their career, to the guy who told me that he was about to get fired for drawing outside the lines until I said in one of my talks how impressed I was by his project, to the numerous Silicon Valley billionaires who said they got their company started with an O'Reilly book. Helping others to succeed - creating more value than we capture - has always been central to my company ethic. I think my most surprising moments have all been around people. I still remember when I first met Larry Wall, the creator of Perl (as well as other tools that shaped the early culture of open source software, notably patch). I'd known him online for years, and from his online presence, had imagined him as a big red-bearded pirate kind of guy. But in person, he's so quiet and unassuming! We don't have those kinds of surprises in these days of online video and social media, but when it was text only over email and newsgroups, it was really easy to form a different idea of someone's personality based on how they presented themselves online. A good reminder that perception is not reality. But we sometimes see more through a narrower aperture!
Dashell Laryea
Dashell Laryea@dashlaryea · Designer
Excited to attend Next:Economy. The notion of CSR lies on a spectrum (double bottom line to shared economy). Who is thinking about the intersection between business goals and social value well? Highlighting thought leaders and trendsetters from different sectors would be helpful.
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@dashlaryea I like the double bottom line thinking, and do hope it spreads. I couldn't work that into the narrative all that easily (it's amazing how hard it is to cover every related topic in an event like this - crazy hard) but we're going to keep working on reframing the narrative. Fundamentally, I believe every company should be a double bottom line company. It shouldn't be a special category of company. Only psychopaths think they have no fundamental responsibility to society as a whole. With our slavish adherence to the failed notion that profit is the only guiding light for a company, we have bred a generation of corporate psychopaths.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
A fair number of very intelligent and successful individuals, like Elon Musk, are very concerned about the negative implications of AI advances over the next 20 years. What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you concerned? What do you think the biggest potential issues could be? Are they tied to the future of work or are the biggest concerns connected to cyber-crime or something else?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@alexcartaz See the piece I wrote for edge.org, What if We are the Microbiome of the Silicon AI http://edge.org/response-detail/.... I believe that if you understand that an AI might not be an independent intelligence but rather a system that includes us -- all of us -- as a component, we may already be at our Skynet moment. What we call "The Market" is already hostile to humans, in many ways. When companies say they have to outsource manufacturing to sweatshops, or Southwest Airlines says they have to start charging baggage fees because otherwise "the market" will punish them, what they are saying is that they are embedded in a system that we no longer control, as Wallace Stevens said (speaking of something else), "without human meaning, without human feeling, a foreign song." So many of our systems are already machines that rule us.
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
@timoreilly @alexcartaz When you say the market is a system that rules us, some people would argue that the system we created called government rules the market, & companies rule the government, so it becomes a cycle of causality that sometimes involves people, fought largely between mega systems like the government & the market that are interdependent. Ultimately the market seems to be one of many monster systems, & the monster system are fighting each other while relying on each other for fuel. It doesn't seem to be a case of 'pick a system', but rather a case of 'pick a set of systems depending on our limited brain processing power'
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What do you see as the largest problem currently facing the American work force? What piece of technology do you see being able to help with this?
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Hi Tim! Great to have you here 💥 We have a handful of remote employees that make up our team here at PH. As this trend grows, how do you see it effecting smaller cities and areas where that employed person can now stay, instead of moving to the city for work. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@timoreilly Thank you for joining! One of the things that I keep thinking about is the gap between the government's ability to enable the future of work (via streamlined processes, etc) and a subset of society's appetite for accelerating the future of work. What role do you think the government plays in accelerating advances? And what role do you think society plays in making this shift? And how do you think about reconciling the gap.
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@corleyh The government is a huge enabler of our society, and anyone who thinks otherwise has a very poor sense of history. All you need to do is visit (or read about) a failed state and you realize how important government is. But those of us in or touched by the computer industry should be particularly ashamed to belong to the "get government off our backs" crowd. The very architecture of all computers (the so-called von Neumann architecture) was developed with government funding and put into the public domain. Ditto the internet and the World Wide Web. And imagine - with no GPS satellites, no Google Maps, no Uber. As I said in a recent talk, GPS is "the infrastructure of unicorns." But that isn't to say that government can't be improved. I spend a lot of my time working with Code for America, a national non-profit that works with local governments to emulate the best practices of technology companies, building apps and services in an iterative, data-driven, user centered way so that they really accomplish what they set out to do. So many of our government programs are well meaning but poorly executed. (Disclosure: Code for America was started by and is run by my wife, Jennifer Pahlka, and I am on the board.) The fundamental approach that Code for America is taking these days is what we refer to as "Apps to Ops" - that is, using apps as a way to boost and debug the operations of government programs. We first hit on this approach in 2013, when the City and County of San Francisco asked us to help them understand why there was so much churn in the food stamp (SNAP) program, with people applying, falling off the rolls, then reapplying. The team started out by getting permission to apply for food stamps themselves, and discovered many problems in the process, including an online application that was 50 screens long (they built an alternate version in 6 mobile-friendly screens), letters of instruction sent out to recipients that were never received, or when received, weren't at all clear to the recipients, and many other problems. They built small apps to alleviate problems in the system (a simpler online application form, text message notifications when there was a problem with benefits that needed addressing, tools for recipients to check their balance via text message rather than at an ATM (California banks rake down $25 million in ATM fees from food stamp recipients!)), but more importantly, they began to instrument the system, so that it becomes possible to identify all the failure states in the process. Once you have data about where people are failing to get through application processes and compliance systems, you can fix those processes and systems. The US spends an enormous amount of money on government programs, but the systems used to implement them are often badly designed and out of date, and as a result, the programs have far less impact than they could. With the Apps to Ops strategy, Code for America provides truly remarkable leverage, because a few hundred thousand dollars spent making a government program work more effectively can potentially affect billions of dollars of government spend, and millions of aid recipients. The road from instrumenting the apps and identifying the problems with operations to actually fixing those operations is long, but with committed government partners, we are making good progress. Our focus areas include access to social services, criminal justice (where "failure to appear" for a minor violation often starts the underprivileged on a downward spiral that ends in jail), as well as economic development (access to opportunity), and the basic mechanisms that government uses to communicate with its citizens.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@timoreilly hey Tim, thanks for joining us! Curious about your views on the singularity and the work of Ray Kurzweil?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@nivo0o0 Someone can be right about long term trends, and very wrong about the short term. Every time I see someone talking about exponential progress, I remind them that what we now call the Hagia Sophia (in Istanbul) was the biggest building in the world FOR A THOUSAND YEARS, and that when Gibbon wrote The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776 , the famed Roman forum was a camp for goatherds.
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
@timoreilly When someone becomes influential among a group of people, & the people learn from that influencer, the influencers perspective limits other peoples thinking for a while until the next influencer comes along. You could say that the influencer created an insight bridge or a paradigm shift. An example of a paradigm shifter would be Steve Jobs Then there are times when a mega influencer comes along & from that point forward, people use their system, & the system takes over all their thinking patterns. You could call that a monster system. An example of a monster system would be the Internet, the English language, math. My question for you is, whats a monster system that you see arriving after AI & VR? This is part of my concept for a brain, as it relates to computers: Brain - Hardware: consciousness, memories, feelings - Software: personality, culture, beliefs, deliberate thought functions - Wifi: social interaction & feedback The next frontier for automation would be automating brain processes (so that you can tell your brain to do things like, store X database indexes so I can access witty comments, jokes, insights, & analytical functions faster) but ultimately I think the important question lies in what brain-software & hardware improvements we choose to include in the actual DNA creating our brains. The difference between: what we leave to existing computing hardware, what we choose to incorporate in our DNA that composes our brains, & what we chose to install temporarily in our brains as interchangeable components is very important in my mind. Where do you see those lines being drawn?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@outdreamer I think that there are some real revolutions in neuroscience ahead of us, but many of the things you talk about here are still a long way off. But what isn't a long way off is the way that collective human thought and activity is being sucked up into computerized systems that bring together human and machine intelligence in new ways. I've given a lot of talks on this topic - google "Tim O'Reilly global brain" and you'll find a bunch of things. The most recent was my talk at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behaviorial Sciences yesterday - Knowledge in the Age of Siri, Uber, and Hololens http://www.slideshare.net/Timore.... You can also read the provocative piece I wrote for edge.org, What if We are the Microbiome of the Silicon AI http://edge.org/response-detail/...
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
Regarding crowdsourcing solutions to societal problems & political opinions on social media, it seems like major platforms such as Facebook & Twitter are steadily becoming better positioned to replace existing voting systems - do you see that as a positive change? When weve automated everything, what do you believe will be left to the domain of human minds? I think the limited mind of a person identifying an insight is impressive, even if we can teach machines to do so, but the only thought process I see as being useful once we've mastered AI is the ability to abstract & adapt our analysis creatively to improve machines. If we create machines that can improve themselves better than we can, it's difficult to envision a future in which humans will survive. I would say that limitations like gravity & processing speed force us to make a choice between priorities, & our choices form meaning in life. When we have no limitations because we've mastered the art of automation, & we never need to make a choice between two paths because we have access to everything, what would be the meaning in life? In that case, do you think we have a responsibility to program imperfect software? In the distant future, it seems like we're moving toward a community of universe-builders, if tools like AI, VR, & other inventions like the EM Drive are realized & perfected. Other than enjoying the hobby of crashing universes with other universe-builders & creating problems out of boredom, what other activities would we have to take up our time? Or would time be another limitation to conquer, that our innovations will someday make irrelevant?
Frederic Julien
Frederic Julien@fredjulien
Some envision that one day soon, most people in the US (to pick a country) will no longer own a car (that’s already true for Millennials) and Uber, Google and perhaps even Apple will have fleets of car picking us up, driving us around, etc. not as public service (of course ;) but to get more of our attention, sell iPhones, etc. Any thoughts on this? Thanks again.
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@fredjulien I think the smartest piece on people not owning a car is one by Tyler Cowen, who pointed out that the business models of on-demand companies depend in part on the excess capacity of people owning cars that are only used part of the time. http://marginalrevolution.com/ma... And all of the backlash against AirBnb has been around it growing beyond excess capacity into people taking homes off the normal rental market in order to monetize them. So there are some interesting natural limits to these systems.
Frederic Julien
Frederic Julien@fredjulien
Will you be streaming sessions from the Next:Economy conference?
Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly@timoreilly · Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media
@fredjulien No, the sessions will not be streamed. They will be available later.