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California's Future

[TL;DR: California builds the TCP/IP, other cultures build the websites. Both valuable, but different. Megaprojects and marketplaces.]

The Internet is a galaxy of networks. Airbnb, Wish, Doordash, Uber, and others are all just networks. Networks have existed for a very long time (from the East India Trading Company to UPS), and the Internet is the latest platform for them.

Networks are often started by a particular mercantile energy. Think of your typical souk operator: a swashbuckling, extroverted shop owner. Not an introverted technologist.

The introvert builds, the extravert operates. The personality of the platform inventor (trains, airplanes, ethernet, satellites) is different from the operator: The Wright Brothers are very different people from Michael O’Leary.

In the early days, operating companies are hybrid cultures as only people who know how to operate on platforms are the locals. Early operators of railroads were friendly with the Vanderbilts; early creators of Internet platforms hail from Silicon Valley.

California was a psychometric hybrid. Networks are chaotic, have aggressive performance-driven cultures, suffer tension with employee activism (with Rockefeller it was unions; with Zuckerberg it’s social justice), and are very competitive. Travis Kalanick is a prototypical network-operator, but Uber was a hybrid culture with too much of the California gene that didn’t tolerate his Viking leadership.

Silicon Valley created the latest network-platform, but it might not have the perfect culture to operate it.

Maybe things split:

1. Operator Cultures: Miami (London/NY/Berlin/etc). Miami is a very extroverted city. It attracts extroverts. Many think that this energy, combined with ludicrous amounts of partying, mean it won’t spawn serious startups. While I don’t think Miami will spawn the next TCP/IP, someone might start the next Uber there. The company won’t write much code, will not become known for technical excellence, and that’s fine! Once the railroad is built you don’t need to understand locomotion to become an oil baron.

It’s like Hollywood: LA has the actors, but the pipes are built in Los Gatos by Netflix.

2. Infrastructure Culture: California. Silicon Valley’s culture is a kind of spiritual religion – one of technological progress. Founders often don’t start their company for money; they start it because it seems cool. Because it seems like a neat idea. From UNIX to ibuprofen, the dreamy pursuit of odd ideas with no immediate financial focus has lead to our greatest scientific discoveries and human achievement. This is the power of California.[1]

While Miami can be the city of network operators, California (and Texas) feel like the home of Megaprojects. Where the next platforms are built. The Internet, VR, satellites, space elevators, rockets, etc. These are things you build for the spirit. Not because it’ll make a quick buck.

San Francisco. San Francisco might never return. While the Bay Area is incredible, SF is a deteriorating product. Like a bad gym, Covid expired the credit card, and customers are realizing – heck – it’s not worth renewing my membership.

In 2021 and beyond, I imagine people will diffuse to the Bay Area. Just like things were in 2008. Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sonoma, etc. The decade-long mismanagement of SF may be viewed as one of the most squandered opportunities of the modern era.

In closing, I imagine California will remain home for the Megaprojects and other cities like Miami can become generators of new networks. Both highly lucrative – Google and Uber are fine companies.

[1] I’ve always wondered if feelings of spirituality and connection to Earth tend to form in societies with high-contrast scenery and altitude. Miami has none of this and California is abundant in it.