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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 pot 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!  


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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 pot 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!  

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Frank Calberg

    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 "@", "retwee 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gary Moreau

    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 accep 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julian Dunn

    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. Ne 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ronald J.

    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 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    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: 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Trish McLellan

    The author uses the pronoun "I" far too much, so I didn't want to read any farther.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paco Nathan

    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 o 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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Drtaxsacto

    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 de 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dale

    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' 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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    peter h

    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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    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 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    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 trum 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!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Felipe CZ

    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 appl 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Devanshi Gupta

    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, 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).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erik Rostad

    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 sim 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    anna b

    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 poin 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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    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 t 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eliot Peper

    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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Tangney

    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.

  20. 4 out of 5

    ScienceOfSuccess

    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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Thijs Pepping

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Review + personal highlights: Review: - 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 Review + personal highlights: Review: - 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'

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    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 t 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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jason Carter

    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 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.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andre Borges

    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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shirley

    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'Re 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.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pau Todó

    Putting it simple: after the 37th "I did/said /thought that way before anyone else did because I'm a the greatest genius History has ever seen" I had to leave the book. Both God and my cat know how hard I tried to keep reading just because I respect O'Reilly's previous enterprises... but somebody should give this guy a hug and tell him his dad would be proud of him, so he can give his own ego a rest.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Don Watkins

    This is an interesting read. This is the first book I've read by Tim O'Reilly though I have benefited from some of the texts his company sells. If you're interested in a positive view of the developments today in big data, artificial intelligence and robotics and how they could shape our future then this is a must read for you.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    A thoughtful book on how we create the future, WTF unpacks the networked, platformed, tech enabled economy of the 21st century. The book touches on several subjects including organizational behavior and team design -- start with the end product and build backwards -- with clarity. A fine read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    So, this book took me a long time to read. It's very dense and full of lots of facts and ideas, and it has a long waiting list at the library, so every time it expired, I had to wait a month to get it again. Glad I read it - written by someone with whom I went to high school.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bora

    Rather boring read where obvious examples like Uber are overused for explaining what the future holds for us. Also the writer is giving very uninteresting examples of his own endavours. Not recommended.

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