A Techies Perspective on Tech

Software leverages economies of scale unlike anything in the history of mankind

Anything that's not software is a physical good.  Books, food, instruments, couches, eyeglasses...they all require two things:

1 - proximity from buyer to seller or heavy shipping fees apply

2 - a 1:1 ratio of goods built to goods bought; if I want to sell more eyeglasses, I have to make more eyeglasses.

Software is not constrained by either of these.  You can access this website from anywhere in the world, regardless of the fact that I'm creating it from my office in Colorado.  And an unlimited number of you can consume it even though I only wrote it once.  I don't have to retype these words for each set of eyeballs.

Economies of scale lend themselves large multipliers

Because any website or SaaS product could go viral at any moment, software companies benefit from huge multipliers on their valuations.  If an eyeglasses website is shipping $1M worth of eyeglasses a year, it's a multi-million dollar company.  If a website has $1M in ARR, it may be a billion dollar company.

What does this mean?  It means that there's a lot of money in software.  We got deep pockets.

Deep pockets lend themselves to the best and the brighest

And we're not just talking the best and brightest software developers.  We're talking behavioral psychologists.  They may masquerade as "UX Designer" or the like, but the most important conversations happening behind closed walls aren't around the merits of serverless technology.  They're about driving consumer behavior.  Because regardless of where you live, humans all pretty much function the same way psychologically.

The best and the brightest aren't incentivized to solve our problems

How much money do you think a developer working at a non-profit to help get water to remote parts of Africa makes?  About $60k/year.  How much do you think a senior Google developer makes?  Up to $600k/year.  That's an order of magnitude!  And where does their paycheck come from?  Advertisers.

Tech companies work for advertisers and we are the product

Advertisers go to tech companies and say "We need to advertise our new product to women, age 25-35, single, living in the Tri-Cities."  Because we've whored out our details (gender, age, location, etc) in exchange for "free" services, the tech companies can place that ad in front of that exact audience.  Advertisers pay the tech companies handsomely to do so and we can't say No to the little chirps and dings of our social media, the infinite scroll of our news feed.

The technology is smarter than our weaknesses

There's a scene in The Social Dilemma that continues to inspire and haunt me:


Technology has surpassed our weaknesses.  The UX Designers, software developers, companies that employee them, the advertisers that fund the industry...they've all successfully colluded to reach the point that the average human:smartphone relationship is now one of extreme dependence.  We can't say No.  

"There are only two industries that refer to their customers as ‘users’, one is of course IT, the other is the illegal drugs trade…"

- Edward Tufte

Scott's Rules of Responsible Technology Ownership:

  1. Technology works for me, not the other way around

  2. If I can't succinctly explain what a technology does for me ON A DEEP LEVEL and prove it does so, it's gone

    • Good Example: "My printer makes me happy by printing documents for me.  I can prove it by printing a coloring page for my kid which makes him happy."​

    • Bad Example: "Instagram makes me happy by showing me pictures of my friend's incredible lives.  I can prove it because after I look at Instagram, I find myself more discontented with my life than ever...wait..."

  3. Default to a dumphone; purchase a smartphone only if you must​

    • And let me tell you right now, I'm a software professional that is responsible for websites that display on mobile phones around the world.  I also regularly travel and am a father of three.  You still think you need a smartphone?​

    • If you're convinced you do need  smartphone, remove all apps that aren't tools you open, use, and close.  Put your phone into black/white mode.  Silence all notifications.  You decide when you interact with your phone; not the other way around.

  4. Default to no social media​; leverage it only if you must 

    • Lots of research already done on the effects of social media.  It's not pretty.  

    • There are times where it may be necessary (e.g., you're in news and expected to tweet) or provide utility (fb marketplace is a nicer way to sell things to strangers than Craigslist)

    • If using social media, take one day off a week, one week off a month, and one month off a year to gain perspective and check any addictive tendencies

  5. Be comfortable with boredom​

    • This is a lost art.  It forces you to open your eyes and see the world around you.  To get comfortable in your own skin.​

  6. Prioritize in-person over virtual​

    • The world is right around you.  It's not on Reddit, IG, Twitter, fb, Snapchat, or any online forum.  Want to prove it to yourself?  Don't log on to any of your favorite platforms for a month.  See how many of the usernames you'd come to think of friends come looking for you.  Crickets...those aren't real friendships.  Real friends go looking for each other when you go missing.  Anyone ever filed a missing persons report because someone hasn't logged on for a while?  Didn't think so.​

Looking for a smartphone alternative?

Check out the LightPhone II.  It's what I use.  I'm in no way associated with the company or receive anything in exchange for using or recommending their product.​