Internet Hype

In an interesting review of Brian McCullough’s “How the Internet Happened”, Bradley Babendir writes (boldface mine):

It’s interesting, to a point, to hear what tech gurus lie about and why. Mostly, they rely on silly founding myths because they need a better story than the true one: they were in it for the money. Weirdly, McCullough buys into many of their delusions, which obscure more than they illuminate.

Anecdotes of all-night coding sessions appear in nearly every chapter of How the Internet Happened. People code things up, they code things out, they code for hours. What is missing from the book is an idea of what any of these people are actually doing. Are they building new features? Are they debugging prior versions? Are they trying to streamline user experience? Are they trying to put in a failsafe in case the program gets too smart and tries to kill them? They must have had ideas and priorities and areas of expertise. A plan, maybe. Was there a plan? Was it chaos? None of this is clear. Somebody, somewhere must actually know. Maybe McCullough knows and just doesn’t want to share, or maybe he’s content telling the story the same way as everybody else. Absent any other explanation, this serves mostly to keep an air of mystique around the people who built these influential programs. It sounds much more impressive if it seems like what they’re doing is magic instead of typing. Otherwise they are just people who did something, and there’s nothing so exciting about that.

One of the things I’ve learned being a biologist who blundered into bioinformatics is that, while coding and the like, often require expertise and experience (which are not the same thing), they aren’t that mysterious. One has to wonder if valuations of various companies would be nearly as high as they are if there were a more realistic depiction of what ‘coding’ entails.

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One Response to Internet Hype

  1. bks says:

    I wonder if valuations of Pharmaceutical companies would be so high if it were known how complex is biology and how weak our understanding of how drugs work.

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