In Which I Agree in Part and Dissent in Part with Paul Romer's Narrative of the Intellectual Collapse of Chicago-School Macro

Maciej Cegłowski: Web Design--The First 100 Years: Weekend Reading

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Maciej Cegłowski: Web Design--The First 100 Years: "I think it's time to ask ourselves a very designy question...

...'What is the web actually for?'... There are three competing visions of the web....

Vision 1: CONNECT KNOWLEDGE, PEOPLE, AND CATS: This is the correct vision. The Web erases the barrier of distance between people, and it puts all of human knowledge at our fingertips. It also allows us to look at still images and videos of millions of cats, basically all of it for free, from our homes or a small device we carry in our pocket. No one person owns it, no one person controls it, you don't need permission to use it. And the best part is, you are encouraged to contribute right back. You can post your own cat pictures....

The feline vision of the Internet is fundamentally a humble one.... It does not presume that developers and designers know what they are doing. There are no limits on what people (and cats) can get up to once you link them together.... We've seen this play out time and again, in that the most productive and revolutionary aspects of web culture came out of left field.... Even the world wide web itself is the product of a physics nerd winging it, and convincing his colleagues to try out something new....

Vision 2: FIX THE WORLD WITH SOFTWARE: This is the prevailing vision in Silicon Valley.... We're going to move a succession of industries into the cloud, and figure out how to do them better... software Manifest Destiny.... Vision 3: BECOME AS GODS, IMMORTAL CREATURES OF PURE ENERGY LIVING IN A CRYSTALLINE PARADISE OF OUR OWN CONSTRUCTION: This is the insane vision... very reminiscent to that hockey stick graph I showed earlier, where we were supposed to have interstellar travel by 2010.... Because powerful people in our industry read bad scifi as children, we now confront a stupid vision of the web as gateway to robot paradise....
These three visions lead to radically different worlds. If you think the Web is a way to CONNECT KNOWLEDGE, PEOPLE, AND CATS, then your job is to get the people and cats online, put a decent font on the knowledge, and then stand back and watch the magic happen. If you think your job is to FIX THE WORLD WITH SOFTWARE, then the web is just the very beginning.... Sensors in every house... everyone looks through special goggles... every refrigerator can talk to the Internet and confess its contents... we give you the full details of our private lives. And we don't need to worry about people doing bad things with it, because your policy is for that not to happen. And if you think that the purpose of the Internet is to BECOME AS GODS, IMMORTAL CREATURES OF PURE ENERGY LIVING IN A CRYSTALLINE PARADISE OF OUR OWN INVENTION, then your goal is total and complete revolution. Everything must go. The future needs to get here as fast as possible, because your biological clock is ticking!

The first group wants to CONNECT THE WORLD. The second group wants to EAT THE WORLD. And the third group wants to END THE WORLD. These visions are not compatible.... You all need to pick a side..... The web we have right now is beautiful. It shatters the tyranny of distance. It opens the libraries of the world to you. It gives you a way to bear witness to people half a world away, in your own words. It is full of cats. We built it by accident, yet already we're taking it for granted. We should fight to keep it!

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