Book cover

On sale: 10/10/2017

Tim O’Reilly: WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us

WTF? can be an expression of amazement or an expression of dismay. In today’s economy, we have far too much dismay along with our amazement, and technology bears some of the blame.

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 past innovation waves such as the commercialization of the internet, open source software, the internet as a platform, big data, open government, and the maker movement. I apply those same techniques to provide a framework for thinking about how today’s 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. I give tools for understanding how all the parts of modern digital businesses work together to create marketplace advantage and customer value, and why ultimately, they cannot succeed unless their ecosystem succeeds along with them.

The book is a combination of memoir, business strategy guide, and call to action. It covers the lessons that I’ve learned about technology platforms from four decades in the industry, and how they apply both to businesses and to the broader economy.

The core of the call to action is an exhortation to businesses to DO MORE with technology rather than just using it to cut costs and enrich their shareholders. Robots are going to take our jobs, they say. I say, “Only if that’s what we ask them to do!” I’ve had my fill of technological determinism. Technology is the solution to human problems, and we won’t run out of work till we run out of problems. Entrepreneurs need to set their sights on how we can use big data, sensors, and AI to create amazing human experiences and the economy of the future, making us all richer in the same way the tools of the first industrial revolution did. Yes, technology can eliminate labor and make things cheaper, but at its best, we use it to do things that were previously unimaginable! What is our poverty of imagination? What are the entrepreneurial leaps that will allow us to use the technology of today to build a better future, not just a more efficient one?

What’s the future? It’s up to us.

Praise for WTF?

“Tim O’Reilly’s creative insights and moral clarity have made him the trusted guide to waves of technology now sweeping the planet. If you want a better future, don’t just read this book, but make sure your friends do, too.” Erik Brynjolfsson, Director MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and Co-author of The Second Machine Age
“For anyone who wants to know how to prepare for the future—and how we might shape that future in ways that broadly benefit society, not just technological or entrepreneurial elites—WTF? is an indispensable guide.” Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age
“O’Reilly has an uncanny knack for charting what’s ahead. In WTF?, he shows us know he does it. At a time of sweeping change, it is a bracing and an exhilarating read.” Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America
“So many insights, so much history, so much of our future by the consummate insider who is as much a part of the story as the people and ideas he writes about—I was learning something on more or less every page.” Dr. James Manyika, director, McKinsey Global Institute
“Tim has been an astute observer of both the successes and the excesses of Silicon Valley. This provocative book distills the lessons he has learned about the power of technology to shape our economy and our lives.” Hal Varian, Google chief economist

Advance review of WTF?

Booklist

Self-described “technology evangelist” O’Reilly poses an interesting question: Is there a way to acknowledge that technology is taking over our daily lives without being afraid of it? To put it another way, How are we to integrate new technologies—self-driving cars, for example, or robots that are so smart they are replacing humans in the workplace—without feeling like we’ve lost control of our lives? Well, O’Reilly says, we’re kind of doing that already. He cites numerous examples of technological breakthroughs that seemed ominous at first but now are taken for granted: Google Maps, the iPhone, even the Internet. The worrisome or frightening has become the humdrum, something whose sudden absence would be a major inconvenience to us. So, rather than feeling confused or scared by new technologies, we should embrace them; rather than search for ways to exclude them from our lives, we should be in search of a harmonious existence. For technophobes, this is a comforting and user-friendly book; for technophiles, a celebration of the tremendous potential of new tech. David Pitt
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About Tim O’Reilly

Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc. His original business plan was simply “interesting work for interesting people,” and that’s worked out pretty well. O’Reilly Media delivers online learning, publishes books, runs conferences, urges companies to create more value than they capture, and tries to change the world by spreading and amplifying the knowledge of innovators.

Tim has a history of convening conversations that reshape the computer industry. In 1998, he organized the meeting where the term “open source software” was agreed on, and helped the business world understand its importance. In 2004, with the Web 2.0 Summit, he defined how “Web 2.0” represented not only the resurgence of the web after the dot com bust, but a new model for the computer industry, based on big data, collective intelligence, and the internet as a platform. In 2009, with his “Gov 2.0 Summit,” he framed a conversation about the modernization of government technology that has shaped policy and spawned initiatives at the Federal, State, and local level, and around the world. He has now turned his attention to implications of AI, the on-demand economy, and other technologies that are transforming the nature of work and the future shape of the business world. This is the subject of his forthcoming book from Harper Business, WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us.

In addition to his role at O’Reilly Media, Tim is a partner at early stage venture firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV) and on the boards of Maker Media (which was spun out from O’Reilly Media in 2012), Code for America, PeerJ, Civis Analytics, and PopVox.