‘Richard, If We Want to Build the Platform, All We Need to do is … Build the Platform’


This title is a line from the hit HBO show "Silicon Valley," a parody of life in the bubble that stretches south from San Francisco to San Jose. But it’s not really a parody; it’s more of a reality show.

I’ve lived here since 1987, but only on the inner and outer edges of the bubble. But I have seen the new Porsches and Lamborghinis fill the highways, then miraculously disappear like melting snow. (Full disclosure: I was once tempted to lease a Boxter, zero down, 1.4% API for qualified buyers, but I resisted the temptation.)

Nowadays, every fourth car on the road is a Tesla Model S, and young new families are appearing, driving their Tesla X crossovers with doors that gracefully reach toward the cloud(s) and allow infants to be easily delivered into iPhone-equipped booster seats.

It may seem like I am annoyed by all of this — and I am, mildly. But mostly, I am amused by the spectacle and pleased to have the opportunity to live like a cultural anthropologist, my missed calling.

But there is one thing that I absolutely abhor and resent: the debasement and trivialization of “the platform.” Here, everything is a platform — no exaggeration. I attended a conference recently where presenters talked about people being platforms. (You can’t make this stuff up.) But I suppose when you think about it--I have to admit, begrudgingly--this is actually true.

Just think about it. Think different.

Silicon Valley has gone crazy about platforms, and that has been driving me crazy. However, it has been driving venture capitalists wild. Can we blame them? After all, we all need to hope to own a Unicorn — or at least aspire (which I think may be the name of a platform).

In any case, I was a devoted platform enthusiast, and Silicon Valley has ruined it all. It transformed me into a platform misogynist, and for a seemingly interminable period of time I felt inconsolably jilted and betrayed by my once beloved platform.

However, in time, one must let go and liberate oneself of one’s obsessions. And so I did, and I returned to something basic, simple — something open and accessible — that progenitor of  all platforms: the application programming interface, the API.

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It became clear to me that it was time to leave the platform behind (at least until some sanity returned). So I loaded all of my belongings into my Subaru Outback and set off through the huggable redwoods, bound for Santa Cruz and its clean air, its “cloudless” sunny skies and its seemingly infinite supply of medical cannabis (which, of course, I don’t inhale).

I am in search of myself — not me as a platform, but me as a human. However, I am concerned that I now carry algorithms in my soul — a blockchain, of sorts, that will never allow me to be free.

Still, if after hearing all of this, you would like to read my “last” article about platforms, click here at your own risk.

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