Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"One Pair of Glasses": FSJ Nails Valley Arrogance

Is there a better blogger than Dan Lyons' Fake Steve Jobs?

Today's post obliterated the fatuousness of how the Valley believes it can solve the world's problems.

"Bob Metcalfe thinks we'll solve global warming if we take our cue from the Internet." At some show in Boston he "laid out his vision of the `EnerNet,' the concept of applying the lessons of building the Internet to the energy business."

Um, right. The way to solve global warming is to follow the example of the Internet. Just like Andy Grove says the way to fix the pharmaceutical industry is to follow the example of the chip industry. And Nicholas Negroponte thinks the way to solve poverty is to hand out laptops.

I call it the "one pair of glasses" theory. You see it all the time. People know one thing and they think that this one thing can be applied to every problem, because it's the only way they know how to look at the world. They've got one pair of glasses.

Usually the results are just silly but this stuff can be dangerous in the hands of guys who've become fabulously rich with their one pair of glasses and now have too much free time on their hands. (eg, Metcalfe and Grove.) Experience has convinced them that their one pair of glasses is a super-duper magical pair that never fails. And now they've piled up enough money to make themselves into a huge pain in the ass.

But wait, it gets better:

But the fact that some guy invented some computer networking protocol thirty-four years ago doesn't exactly make him an expert on anything else. In fact I'd say Bob has no more standing on global warming or climate science than he does on brain surgery or black holes or the mating habits of silkworms. Nevertheless he'll go on making investments in greentech and giving speeches and mucking around and fucking things up for a while alongside Richard Branson and the rest of his dream team, which includes veterans of Google, Paypal, and Wikipedia, who will of course tell you that the way to solve global warming is to copy Google, Paypal and Wikipedia.

I'm reminded of a conversation that a friend overheard, during a particularly heated school board meeting. One of the VCs present stood up and beseeched the others, "Look, why don't you just let *us* fix it. We're smart people. We know how to ask the right questions."

You simply have to marvel at the egomania of someone who thinks that VC experience or a Harvard MBA qualifies you to answer any question.


Hillary said...

My dad always said, "Give an architect a problem--any problem--and the solution will always be a building." I suppose it holds true even for great architects.

Steve Reichard said...

I've heard this expressed as, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, then all of your problems start looking like nails."