Rocks, Hammers, Competition and How People Get Left Behind

Note: this post is from Jun ’07. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation.

I’ve been talking with lots of people about what NextStage does, about our Evolution Technology, and about how I never wanted people to lose their jobs because of it. Ever since I made the first announcement about being awarded our patent, people have been walking up to me and saying things like “Well, there’s goes A/B and Multivariate testing” or “There goes web analytics as we know it” or “There goes marketing”.

It was never my intention to have people lose jobs or have industries go away. I am (at my core, probably) a tool maker. I recognize challenges and create tools to address those challenges.

I also make the tools I create available to anyone who wants to use them (and often at a sliding scale based on their ability to pay). Nobody gets it for free, though. That’s pretty well understood by anyone who asks me.

I also often talk about the history of technology, how tools change culture and, in environmental time, how tools change tool users.

Consider rocks, hammers and those who lost their jobs versus those who didn’t when this technology — a mass accelerated through a torque arc. That’s what both hammers and rocks are — changed.

You can think that the hammer put the rock out of the business of being a striking tool in flint based societies (“stone age”). The hammer’s advantage was it took less effort to do the same amount of work as a rock. Rocks had to be accelerated through the torque arc of the arm and lacked the ability to deliver constant impact strength to small areas (you usually had to swing your whole arm and you couldn’t do fine work).

The hammer could be accelerated by the whole arm. It could also be accelerated by the wrist and deliver close to the same impact strength. Also, because it was controlled by the finer muscles of the wrist, it could do finer work.

So the hammer put the rock out of business, yes?

The hammer put the rock out of business, no!

The hammer put people who refused to learn how to use the hammer out of business. People who learned how to use the hammer could also learn how to use the rock. The aboriginal people I’ve been with often start people with rocks when teaching them how to knap, then progress them up to primitive hammers as the student’s skills develop.

However, people who stop their education with the rock? It might be impressive to watch (it is. I’ve seen it) and the amount of time required to do the same amount of work with hammer or rock? Much longer with a rock. Much more expensive.

I won’t stop people from using rocks. I just think hammers are much more effective.


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