Tim O'Reilly
Credit: Peter Adams / Faces of Open Source

Tim O’Reilly

I’ve started to have trouble tracking down my various, scattered writings and interviews on the Net myself, so I decided to create a page where I can find my own words when I want to refer to them. I figured some other people might want to look at this archive as well. In addition, here is my official bio and my short official bio.

WTF? What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us - by Tim O'Reilly

My book on technology and the future of the economy

In WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us (Harper Business, October 2017), I share some of the techniques we’ve used at O’Reilly Media to make sense of and predict innovation waves such as open source, web services and the internet as platform, and the maker movement. I apply those same techniques to provide a framework for thinking about how technologies such as 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.

The book is a combination of memoir, business strategy guide, and call to action. I draw on lessons from Amazon, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber and Lyft to show how those platforms prosper only when they create more value for their participants than they extract for the platform owner. I also explore how, like those platforms, our economy and financial markets have become increasingly managed by algorithms, and how we must rewrite those algorithms if we wish to create a more human-centered future.

I draw business lessons about the rules for success in "the Next Economy" that can come after our current WTF economy. The fundamental design pattern of success with technology is to enable people to do things that were previously impossible. Companies that only use technology to do less by getting rid of people will be surpassed by those who use it to help them to do more.

Recent interviews, articles, and talks

WTF? By Tim O'Reilly, On Sale October 10 (August 2017). The folks at Harper Business created this short video with me to promote the launch of my book. Let me know what you think!

Roundtable with Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson, and Bryce Roberts (August 2017). When I mentioned on Twitter what a great time I'd had at lunch in Chicago with Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (founders of Basecamp, CEO and CTO, respectively), Bryce Roberts (my partner at O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and the founder of Indie.vc) asked us to get together for a live indie.vc webcast. Basecamp and O'Reilly Media have been in business for nearly two and four decades, respectively. Both companies remain independent and profitable to this day. We have built our businesses on our own terms, from day one, without venture capital. In this one-hour live discussion, we talked about what it's like to run a tech business outside of Silicon Valley and the advantages of bootstrapping a business and staying in it for the long haul rather than taking VC money and entering the race for the exits.

The Future of Economic Leadership (July 2017). The World Affairs Council produced a short video of my thoughts on the lessons of the US government's post-WWII spending program, which fueled an unprecedented period of economic growth and prosperity across the country. While the challenges we face today are enormous—climate change, crumbling infrastructure, and a growing wealth gap among them—bold government leadership can provide solutions that will make the nation stronger. "The leadership we need is not 'Let's somehow encourage the market through some magic fairy dust to produce jobs.' It's to exert leadership about what needs doing!"

Uber's Scandal Provides a Chance to Remake Silicon Valley (Wired.com, 6/29/17). I reflect on Uber's scandals and consequent management turmoil, and put them in the larger context of the incentives that lead to bad behavior:

"The saddest thing about Uber is that it isn't an exception. It is what we get when we tell companies that creating shareholder value is the primary goal of an organization. Creating real value for customers, workers, and society becomes secondary to creating value for investors."

Live from the Aspen Ideas Festival. I talked with NY Times bestselling author Charles Duhigg about my forthcoming book in a Facebook Live broadcast from the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 29, 2017. We talked about some of the key messages in my book, but also reflect on some of the ideas in Charles' book The Power of Habit and how they relate to anxiety about AI and the rise of Trump.

Charles and I also did a more formal interview about my book at the Festival the next day, enlivened by an active Q&A with audience participants including Steve Case, whose "Rise of the Rest" tour is exploring entrepreneurship outside of Silicon Valley. In addition, I participated in a number of panels, including one on The Future of Intelligence with Gary Marcus, Michael Chui, and Erik Schatzker. (That one drilled down into industries most likely to be affected first by AI.)

Do More: What Amazon Teaches Us About AI and the "Jobless Future" (Medium, June 2017). I reflect on the fact that Amazon added hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers at the same time as they added 45,000 warehouse robots. Rather than simply pursuing efficiency, Amazon has upped the ante, improving their speed of delivery (which is now same-day for many products in some locations) and continuing to drive what Jeff calls "the flywheel" of Amazon's success.

"Amazon reminds us again and again that it isn't technology that eliminates jobs, it is the short-sighted business decisions that use technology simply to cut costs and fatten corporate profits.

This is the master design pattern for applying technology: Do more. Do things that were previously unimaginable."

My talk at the White House Frontiers Conference. I opened for President Obama at the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh (October 2016), talking about the lessons of the first industrial revolution for the AI driven future. I thought it was pretty cool that the White House comms team approved a talk with the title WTF? They gulped, but then said OK.

Discussion with McKinsey's James Manyika about The Next Economy. I discuss my ideas about the Next Economy with James Manyika, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and director of the McKinsey Global Institute. Part one discusses what I consider the central design pattern of technology: to enable people to do things that were previously impossible, resulting in new kinds of productivity. But I worry that "We have created an extractive economy. We have abandoned the idea that growth is only good if it leads to prosperity for all." In part two, James and I talk about the applications of this design pattern to business.

Why we'll never run out of jobs. Excerpt from my talk at the O'Reilly AI Conference, 9/26/16. The full talk is available on Safari.

A deficit of idealism. In July 2016, I spoke with John Battelle about why I believe that is not just the obligation, but also the self-interest of every company, to build a robust society. I also discuss why I called my book "WTF," how to ensure that tech's role in society is as a force for good, how I feel about the B Corp designation, and the magic of unicorns. One of the nice things that John did is provide a transcript along with the video! This is probably one of the best condensed presentations of my key ideas on the subject of tech and the economy.

Makers and Takers. I interviewed Rana Foroohar at the World Affairs Council (June 2016). I loved Rana's book, Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business, and we enjoyed a wide ranging conversation about the role of the financial industry in the rise of inequality in America and around the world.

Let's optimize for the long term An interview with Peter Leyden, founder of the Reinventors Network. "Let's stop optimizing for the short-term. Let's start optimizing for the long-term, and think about how to make the society we want," I said. I acknowledge that technology may be destroying jobs today, but only because we've built incentives into our economy to encourage those choices.

Archive of interviews/articles

Organized in reverse chronological order within each subject, with a brief extract from each piece so you can get the flavor without actually following each link.

Top blog, medium, and LinkedIn posts

For the past several years, a lot of my writing and speaking has been about technology and the future of work - what I've sometimes called the Next:Economy. I have been posting many of these essays to Medium in a publication I curate called The WTF Economy. Many of them also appear on oreilly.com and LinkedIn. Some of the key posts (in reverse chronological order) include Do More: What Amazon Teaches Us About AI and the "Jobless Future", Wall Street Made Me Do It, This is Strictly a Business Decision, Don't Replace People, Augment Them, Machine Money and People Money, What Paul Graham is Missing About Inequality, We've Got This Whole Unicorn Thing Wrong, Workers in a World of Continuous Partial Employment, and Networks and the Nature of the Firm.

Additional relevant posts on this topic published elsewhere include Uber's Scandal Provides a Chance to Remake Silicon Valley (Wired) and Managing the Bots That Are Managing the Business (MIT Sloan Management Review).

I've also written several recent articles about voice UI and UX, notably What Would Alexa Do? and What Should Alexa Do?

I've written several articles about fake news, including Media in the Age of Algorithms and How I Detect Fake News.

Some other key posts I've written over the years that have stood the test of time include Work on Stuff that Matters: First Principles, Piracy is Progressive Taxation, Pascal's Wager and Climate Change, Government as a Platform, and Open Data and Algorithmic Regulation.

Many other articles, interviews, and talks of historical interest are collected in the thematic sections below. Most notable are The Open Source Paradigm Shift, What is Web 2.0?, and Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On.