Even though one online reviewer called it “[a] random walk through Silicon Valley without any goal, valuable information, conclusions or anything other than what would fit a gossip magazine”, Gilder’s book provides a grand thesis with very deliberate underpinnings. There are certainly many other books and articles out there that better inform regarding blockchain. Nevertheless, Gilder explains exactly why blockchain will in the distant future help cause Google to lose its digital stranglehold. For that, his book largely stands alone.
Gilder has had close access to the elite tech digerati for decades. There is no denying he knows what and who he is talking about. The writing style, however, will not be everyone’s cup of tea. For example, applying a straw man style, he often builds up only to take down later in the book. This can easily be frustrating. Also, an imagined meeting with Satoshi Nakamoto – the pseudonymous founder of Bitcoin, can either be considered a highlight of the book or downright hokey based on one’s literary taste.
To Gilder, Google’s downfall largely rests on its giving away free products without fully understanding how this zero-sum system neglects the value and impact of consumer time on Google’s $30 billion dollar Siren Servers – a Jaron Lanier term used to convey the eventual death spiral of a company blinded by its 75,000 server farm. Gilder reminds: “Without prices, all that is left to confine consumption is the scarcity of time”.
Interestingly, Jaron Lanier as well as Peter Thiel feature predominately in this book as the existential fodder for much of Gilder’s musings. The true sparkle, however, remains pure Gilder – including his view that Google’s fall is precipitated on the behemoth’s not fully understanding true wealth can only be a product of knowledge and memories. As Gilder suggests, “wealth is not a thing or a random sequence. It is inextricably rooted in hard won knowledge over extended time.” How he eventually connects the many dots found in the book is worth the read despite the haphazard approach. And, despite valid style criticisms, given so few are walking down this exact path, Gilder’s trailblazing can only be lauded.
Using pokes and outright direct digs on failed exercises of socialism and a “World Saving” Artificial Intelligence fealty pursued by Elon Musk, Gilder’s libertarian bent expresses a slightly brighter vision where creativity and humanity win out. He is on to something – just ask Tim Berners-Lee about his startup, Inrupt to get additional perspective on Google. And, the decentralized web ecosystems exemplified by Blockstack and Hashgraph are certainly aimed at tearing down the current global ecosystems founded by the Tech Lords of Stanford. Ultimately, in futurist Gilder’s vision, individuals win when they can more easily trust and be secure in their interactions.
Those seeking an actual name for the specific Google killer app will be disappointed. Gilder does not reveal which business vision will launch the “killer app” required to actually break the status quo. Readers are provided with an abstract roadmap lacking in specific directions because no specific killer app has been publicly announced yet and will likely not be released for several years.