Few entrepreneurs are more universally respected in tech than Tim O’Reilly, the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and author of WTF: What’s The Future and Why It’s Up To Us.
So when O’Reilly – the so-called Oracle of Silicon Valley who invented the idea of Web 2.0 and now commands almost two million Twitter followers – says that Silicon Valley has a morality problem, there probably is a morality problem.
But Silicon Valley’s problem, O’Reilly says, is actually a structural problem with our entire economy. What’s gone wrong, O’Reilly argues, is that what he calls “short-term greed” has replaced the traditional “long-term greed” of the market. This is not only infecting Wall Street behemoths like Goldman Sachs, he says, but also the strategy behind many of today’s tech start-ups with their exclusive focus on a short-term financial bonanza for investors. And so rather than building value producing ecosystems, both Wall Street and Silicon Valley are producing a casino like economy controlled by what O’Reilly calls “financial instruments” focused on short-term financial profit.
Of course, the entrepreneur in O’Reilly recognizes that every “problem” also represents an opportunity. The technology industry goes through “waves”, he says. And today the real opportunity for the tech community is to focus on long-term rather than short-term greed. His models here are Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Musk’s revolt against the fossil fuel industry, O’Reilly argues, makes him an entrepreneurial icon of long-termist thinking. Jeff Bezos’ credentials, he acknowledges, are more controversial. Yet Bezos’ commitment to the building of economic ecosystems over short-term profitability, O’Reilly insists, also make him a paradigm of long-term greed.
Many thanks to the folks at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce for their help in the production of this interview.