The broken internet and how to fix it

With it being only a few decades after the start of the web revolution, what needs fixing? Plenty, it seems.

The broken internet and how to fix it

Dan Patterson, a Senior Producer for CBS News and CNET, interviewed Brian McCullough, host of the daily Techmeme Ride Home podcast, about how to fix the broken internet. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.


Dan Patterson: How do we fix what's broken? Is this anything new or just the human condition? Are we really just describing the good things and the horrible things of human nature? Or is there something else at play here that you're describing with algorithms and with social connectivity, and the inevitability of technological progression? Is there something else at play here that we might want to course-correct before it gets out of hand?

Brian McCullough: One of the things that I think is in play here is that we are all, as a society--Silicon Valley and normal people together--learning how to deal with this stuff. We're only 15 years into the social revolution. We're barely 10 years into the mobile revolution. We're, as we said, only 30 years into the web revolution.

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I think that, like anything--a new relationship--it's all great at the beginning. It's nothing but sunshine and roses. And things mature, things age, and everything doesn't look as rosy, and you start to see the cracks in things. I think that we as a society, this happened to us overnight, and we are going through a necessary period of us as a species learning how this has changed us and changed our society and adapting to it, and sanding down the edges that we don't like, maybe amplifying the things we do like. But also the technologists and the people in Silicon Valley who have given this to us.

You've seen how many influential early Facebook people come forward and say, 'If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't have designed it that way,' or 'I regret doing it that way.' Not only that, the people that designed the iPhone have said that as well.

I think that we are seeing a society evolving to learn how to adapt and bring these things healthily into our lives. And I think that we're going to see right now and over the next 10 years, technology companies themselves learning how to create better products. You've already seen that happen. There was recently a controversy about this email app called Superhuman, which allowed people to--if I sent you an email, I would know when you opened it, where you were, sent a geolocation when you opened it. It's a brand new startup, just recently raised a Series A round. And people freaked out, and the startup had to take that feature out and course-correct--rightfully so, I think--because of the backlash.

Think of what that means. You know, Facebook still gets in trouble for doing bad things because no one can quit it. But a new startup coming along, very early in its stage has learned, yeah, that's a little too creepy for people. If we're going to be successful, we can't do that.

I think that over the next 10 years, that's what you're going to see. The next startups, the next Ubers, the next whatever of the next 10 years, I think that they will be companies--the successful ones--companies and products that aren't just focused on the scale, on the getting a billion users, on the getting the engagement. It'll also be about making people feel good. It'll be about quality of life, not just quantity.

Dan Patterson: Five years. Where are we?

Brian McCullough: Everyone's been saying for several years, 'Will we have self-driving cars by 2020?' Well, I still am not able to commute home in a self-driving car. I wonder if, in five years, our homes will be fully connected, everything will be completely automated in our daily lives. Will we start to have automated delivery? You know, we are now in this delivery economy where everything from the toilet paper when you run out, to the burrito when you're hungry at lunch, is delivered to you autonomously, and that might not necessarily mean self-driving cars. That could mean these little drones. I jokingly refer to them as like the kneecap droids that you see in the Death Star in Star Wars.

I do think that within five years, you will see autonomy, but it might not be you and me commuting home in a self-driving car. But it will be things-ish. It will be your burrito delivered by a robot. I do think that when your toilet paper runs out, it'll tell Amazon automatically. And I think it will be interesting if crypto--in whatever form this happens--if crypto ever does fulfill its promise and go mainstream, it'll happen in the next five to 10 years. This next decade will be the make or break time for crypto.

Watch more interviews with Dan Patterson and Brian McCullough

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