Tim O'Reilly

Tim O’Reilly has been called the “Oracle of Silicon Valley.” His tech publishing and conference empire helped legitimize the open source movement in the late ’90s. His company also helped popularize the Maker movement by launching Maker Magazine and Maker Faire. These days, O’Reilly is pondering the future of what he calls the “WTF Economy.” The term WTF, he writes, conveys amazement and dismay, both legitimate reactions to technology. O’Reilly joins us as part of our First Person series on local leaders, innovators, and others who make the Bay Area unique.

Tim O’Reilly on the “WTF Economy” and the Future of Work 9 November,2015forum

Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media Inc.

  • Skip Conrad

    What is Tim’s take on the role (i.e. phenomenon) of Free Trade Treaties in the WTF economy? Good or bad?

    Under the currently debated massive TPP, it is my understanding that a Vietnamese clothing manufacturer can open a factory in the U.S., bring in their own Vietnamese workerers, and pay them Vietnamese wages. Talk about WTF?

    Does Tim have any knowledge of this proposed TPP treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (i.e. Toilet Paper Pact), and the effect it would have on the US economy and American knowledge workers, if it indeed passes?

    • Robert Thomas

      Did you ever visit a electronics contract manufacturer such as Solectron (Milpitas, c. 1977) or Wellex (Fremont, c. 1983); or Flextronics (Milpitas, c. 1969) or Sanmina (San Jose, c. 1980) et al.? The ship sailed a long time ago, my dear.

  • Pontifikate

    The NY Times had an op-ed by an Uber executive (a month or two ago) suggesting that we need a better safety net for the gig economy workers. Should Uber and other members of the tech economy who use gig workers perhaps be paying more in taxes or should all of us be paying for an expanded safety net?

  • Ben Rawner

    What does your guest think about the revolution in genetic sequencing and the not so far off future of extreme longevity or immortality? Does he think the planet can sustain an immortal future?

  • And

    Please run for President, Mr. O’Reilly.

  • Livegreen

    I’m a visionary whose idea has not yet become a reality. Your conference is about the “What’s the Future Economy” but is priced for and attended by those who’ve already created the present. Is there a way for those of us who are still creating the future to be able to afford the high cost to attend? Or is it only open to those who have made money off of creating the past & present?

  • Jack Sarfatti
  • Robert Thomas

    “Silicon Valley” is not Apple and Facebook and Uber, wherever these firms are headquartered. It’s perfectly fine to talk about these companies and the ways in which they are similar and the ways they are affecting society but none of them are particularly connected to Silicon Valley.

    They are employers of some of the products of Silicon Valley – the way that Aetna Life and Casualty is an employer of copy machines and desk staplers.

    Finisar and Marvell and Applied Materials and and intel and Juniper Networks are Silicon Valley companies.

    It’s ridiculous that we allow people from without our industry and from without our community to caricature us and then define us in their chaotic dictionary with their cartoon caricature.

  • Another Mike

    Are there any more “Bill and Dave” companies in Silicon Valley? While they were in business to make money (and a great deal of it), they did not shove productive employees out the door at age 50.

    • Robert Thomas

      Sadly, hp stopped being a “Bill and Dave” company when it was lured into the roach motel of consumer productcs.

      This started with the advent of the venerable and elegant HP-35, which its inventors thought was an instrument – which it was – but which began to attract consumer volume to historical developer and marketer of fine instruments. The die was cast.

  • L.D.

    What did the word “technology” used to mean?
    What does “technology” mean today?

    • Robert Thomas

      Frustratingly, it means whatever the uneducable, chaotic minds of English teachers and School of Communications graduates say that it means, from hour to hour. Tune in tomorrow.

  • Another Mike

    The Maker movement was great to get people away from staring at their screens, but in practice seems to be limited to Arduino (etc.) and 3-D printing.

  • Randy Cook

    In response to the caller who mentioned the lack of value in new tech start-ups. I have long thought that the tech world, starting with the run-up of the internet economy of the late 90’s early 2000’s, where a huge boom/ bust cycle resulted in lots of money made, but few impactful products. The biotech industry also seems to be run on a smoke and mirrors type economy, by recycling the same technologies over several funding cycles, with few start-ups ever coming close to a viable product, yet the industry thrives on VC funding and stock buy-backs to resemble viability, when the reality is that the funding of a large part of that industry is based on faith in a technology platform, with shuffling of large sums of paper money with no products to show for it. It resembles a shell game. The question is how much of the entire tech economy is a shell game?

    • Robert Thomas

      In California, gold and silver mining boomed and busted.

      In Santa Clara Valley, the technology industry became established in the 1940s and has had faster and slower periods of growth but it has never “busted”.

      • Virginia

        Never “busted”? Were you here for the tech bubble bust? Unemployment and short term jobs became common during that time. I have to agree with Randy’s comments.

        • Robert Thomas

          I’m a San Jose native, a resident of Santa Clara since 1981 and a working electrical and manufacturing engineer in the computing and communications machinery business in the Santa Clara Valley for thirty-seven years. I’ve been exactly right here, a two mile walk Southwest of Intel headquarters and a two-mile walk Northeast of the new Apple campus all through that time.

          There’s all kinds of employment in our Santa Clara Valley region. There was a frustrating lull that began around 1990; I recall the doldrums my schoolmates’ parents who worked at IBM and Lockheed and Westinghouse endured in 1974. The fortunes of significant contributors to our local electrical-optical industry (typified by Spectra-Physics and Coherent et al.) were very negatively impacted by the advent of Asian solid state products for a good while.

          There has never been any “bust” in our technology industry.

          All sorts of non-technically educated people have alternately flooded into and subsequently out of far away San Francisco, I hear; there was a “boom” and a “bust” in on-line retail marketing and “web design” and so forth there fifteen years ago, apparently. It had nothing to do with our industry.

      • Randy Cook

        Those eras were still regulated under the Glass-Stiegel Act, which prevented the over-valuation of the earlier era boom/ bust cycles. This recent era is fraught with over-valuation of unproven, or little-proven technology platforms. A Biotech drug takes approximately 15 years and $300+ M to get to the market. While in this phase, few companies have any revenues other than the manipulation of paper money to increase value even though the product is years from being realized. If it ever comes to fruition at all.

        My point is that this is a shell game, whereby corporate entities, many of which sit on each others’ boards, shuffle money around to make the founders very wealthy, and employ people for a while until the market takes another dive and the employees get to find work in a depressed market, or not.

        In fact, the entire concept of stock but-back embodies the definition of a shell game; moving large sums of stock from one pocket to the other, to give the impression that the stock is trading in heavier volume. Corporate officers get more shares, and when they sell out or liquidate, these shares convert to millions of dollars. Funny, how these buy-backs never occurred while Glass-Stiegel was in place.

        We’re watching a 12 year decline in biotech start-ups come back again, using the same technologies that were dismissed when they same started to go under in the early 2000’s.

        This manipulation of money and stocks is a big part of how hedge funds operate, buying and selling large volumes to make short term gains (day-trading on a larger scale). This is also done by VCs and even lending institutions now, yet there is little value to the products, if there even is one. Back to where this started with the caller who couldn’t understand why these virtually useless apps, generate so much money. I contend it’s a big shell game!

  • Charles Templeplate

    I didn’t get to listen to the whole interview yet, but what a puff-job, Krasney!

    Just the bit about “Fishing with Strawberries,” which is an example of how metaphors get hijacked and run into the muck. The original metaphor is that you can’t fish with strawberries because that’s not what fish eat. And it is a nice little bit of wisdom for both fishing and trying to meet your customer’s needs.

    To suggest, as O’Reilly did in this interview, that that statement is wrong is ludicrous. If he want’s to suggest that it is more productive to convince the customer that what he’s built is what the customer really needs is fine, but find another metaphor!

    You’re going to go hungry waiting for the fish to realize it really needs the strawberry. And Krasney should have, as a Professor of English, cried foul at this mangled metaphor.

    In some way, this tech-utopia discussion highlights, to me, the errors of marketing and message over application and utility. I think here about all the tech being thrown at education with very little to show for all that money. Wireless access in every classroom across the campus, and yet, how often is the student accessing the internet for academic purposes? Look a little deeper into the campus IT agendas and they appear to be adopting the marketing of the tech giants: “the internet of everything,” “getting into the business of providing business solutions,” etc.

    There are a bunch of stories out there about the emptiness of tech promises for education and the Moloch-like maw that is devouring public funds to support solutions in search of problems, but we have to adjust our critical lenses with people like O’Reilly. He shouldn’t get a free pass.

    • Robert Thomas

      Education wasn’t revolutionized by the Ditto machine, either. Those who are responsible for being gulled in such away during the present era have themselves to blame.

  • Protecting the future
    With the past

    Or is it ……..

    Protecting the past
    With the future ……

    I guess …..
    I suppose …..

  • geraldfnord

    Is work in the sense of jobs so wonderful that we must set as a goal its ubiquity? Growing up, the term used in that sense was used for things that generally people wouldn’t do except to save their lives from the consequences of poverty as it usually is encountered (as opposed to, e.g., monastic, military, or student poverty).

    Effective, yes, and a necessity in the past…but is it really a good idea to have mist of us spend most of our time doing something in response to a threat? No wonder we submit to non-consensual S&M games in poorly-lit caverns, eat crap, hate the young, take mind drugs every day, and vote for clowns….

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