about 8 years on 2009-01-27


clive thompson hit on my core thesis in this month's wired - the fact that in many cases the internet is actually destroying knowledge and information, not creating it.

in his article he notes, "even the financial meltdown was driven by ignorance.  credit-default swaps were designed not merely to dilute risk but to dilute knowledge; after they'd changed hands and been serially securitized, no one knew what they were worth." - this relates highly to my earlier post about blaming the internet for the financial crisis...  people lost the ability to rationally value assets once they were repackaged enough times that the 'irrational' seemed 'rational'.

but, that is hardly the scariest conclusion of his line of thought.  what clive doesn't highlight is that by the same process the internet is in the process of destroying itself via a series of apis, which are fundamentally exactly like repackaged financial products.

the more we build apis on apis on apis, the less information we have about the core functions and properties of the systems we build.  without fundamental insight all the way down the chain, we are building an exceedingly risky pyramid, in which we don't really know how our systems act and will interact. 

repackaging apis on apis on apis is exactly the same thing as repackaged fund of funds investing in hedge funds investing in mortgaged backed securities buying slightly collateralized debt from individuals.  open software helps a little bit, but it doesn't solve the problem.

finance always leads trends, but other systems follow - and the fallout from internet services unraveling will be even scarier.... and i must buy farhad manjoo's new book "true enough:  learning to live in a post-fact society".

original swl blogposts and letters 2007-2010