A Worldwide Trance
Sunday, August 27, 1995 by Dave Winer.
Want to understand what really ails you?
Check out the 8/28/95 issue of Time Magazine, cover story, by Robert Wright, entitled The Evolution of Despair. He reports on a new field called evolutionary psychology. The premise is that by understanding how evolution created us, and looking at the differences between the real lives we live, immersed in technology, and the lives evolution designed us to lead, we can unlock the puzzle of human happiness.
I'll give you the punchline first. To be happy, we need a social community to interact with, and to share trust and love with that community. The natural human structure is larger than a family, but not too large. Trust is absolutely essential. There are always struggles within the community, and threats from outside. But that's what we were built to deal with. We're good at it!
The main conclusion of evolutionary psychology is that we spend too much time alone. We live in a society where we pay a premium for isolation. Suburbs and television. Many of us were raised in that environment. We compared ourselves to unrealistic ideals, Ozzie and Harriet, The Brady Bunch, the Monkees or The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and found ourselves lacking. No way for us to fit in. We stayed on the sidelines. More isolation.
Today we watch shows like Roseanne or Star Trek to calm our inner voice that's calling out for human friendship. A familiar set of faces to understand and bond with. To trust and to honor, in feast or famine; in fight or flight; in sickness and in health. We want to get married to twenty other people. That's what evolution designed us for.
Cyberspace is an interesting addition to the mix. The question is -- does it serve to further isolate us from a social community, or will it help to create new community, more like the one evolution designed us for? Will the Internet make us happier, or lead us further down the path towards being less happy?
In either case, if you're interested in this stuff, the Time piece is invaluble reading.
I want to tell you about a dream I just had.
Bill Gates is introducing a new software product.
We're sitting in a big tent floating on a green soccer field. Bright sun. Coool air. It's comfortable.
Lots of faces from the past! An oldtime schmooze. Perhaps the last time this group of people gets together? Even Philippe Kahn is there, looking a bit like Pete Rose, exiled from power, but still fighting. Takes a licking keeps on ticking! Network TV cameras and famous reporters. Full color video screens perched in every nook and cranny. Every electronic recording goodie in the world.
It's been over an hour, we've been watching a TV actor ham it up. What does NBC stand for? Now Bill Compatible. We laugh. Just like Internet humor. Hooo. This is a funny dream! Yeah.
Bill talks about features. Long filenames, undo file-delete, more resources, easy upgrade process, platform for new technology. Corporate videos. The product is great. A very cute corporate type says of her friends: "Yes, they hate me, and I love it." We love her too. Such confidence! All because she uses this wonderful piece of software. Hmmm. OK, why not?
But when is the entertainment is going to start???
Almost too late, someone backstage presses a button, and the curtains behind the stage open. Bright sunlight. Blue sky. A thousand smiling faces waving. Colorful flags and t-shirts. At exactly the same moment, another engineer presses another button and a rolling rock standard fills the field. Bill turns around, faces the people, smiles and waves. Hi! Welcome to Microsoft. "I'm Bill," he says. His shoulders slouch, his hands in his pockets.
Slowly he starts to roll with the music, first with his hips, then with his shoulders and hands. He lifts one foot in front of the other. His index finger points in the air, rolling around the sun. Funky! Like the top boy at a Louisiana jazz funeral parade. Too bad he didn't have an umbrella. With tassles! One foot in front of the other. Hamming it up. He struts out of the auditorium and the first row follows, doing a parade-like dance, followed by the second row and on and on dancing to the music.
The crowd of smiling faces cheers to the music. They get on their feet and start dancing. Smiling and humming. They say it's a great day to be alive. We're a bunch of flowers. A realllly big one. Today we have Great Hair. Happy! Thumbs up everywhere.
Dreams can be realllllly funny!
Windows 95 is a worldwide trance. The reporters write about other reporters. The next day there is some news. The Wall Street Journal reports that first-day sales for Windows 95 are $700 million. So it's a financial trance too.
Sally Atkins, firstname.lastname@example.org, asks "The press for Win95 is like the auto companies used to put on in the 50s, isn't it?" I wish I knew. I'm too young to remember that. And so are you!
Apple and IBM run ads on August 24. I only heard about them, didn't see them. Bill heard about them too. In the press conference he announces that IBM has licensed Windows 95. "The licensing program for Win95 is now complete." He smiles. What a difference from the way Bill viewed IBM in 1990 when Windows 3.0 rolled out.
Surprisingly, Bill had praise for Apple and renewed his committment to continuing to develop for the Macintosh. "Apple views us as a competitor, but we don't see them that way."
I believe if it weren't for Bill's personal committment to the Macintosh, Microsoft would immediately cut off all development for Mac. They are very resource-constrained. Macintosh is tangential to their primary need -- growth. There's only so much growth available in the Mac market, and they're advancing quickly elsewhere, notably in the commercialization of the Internet. All the programming juice at Microsoft going to the Mac platform could be applied to their battle with Netscape for the standard for the evolution of the worldwide web. Or to building content and tools for their new alliance with NBC, or other investments in other media.
Microsoft execs tell us that Microsoft is more than Bill Gates and it is. But he's holding up the Macintosh, at a time when it's surprising that he is. Don't miss this, and factor it into your thinking.
It's a bit of a mystery to me.
I finished the event at a table with several Microsoft execs and a board member.
The board member asked what's going on with Macintosh. "If I were Apple, I'd do a product that depended on both hardware and software." Heads nod, they understand. Over the years the frustration for Microsoft has been that their OEMs for Windows were reluctant to follow their lead when it came to adding or changing the hardware of the standard platform. Things have changed slowly. Apple didn't have the extra baggage.
"Apple should have zigged where Microsoft had to zag. They can't win by trying to be Microsoft," I said.
PS: FWIW, I've never been a proponent of licensing the Mac OS, although once it was an accomplished fact I was willing to play with the idea.
PPS: FWIW means For What It's Worth.
PPPS: Correction: Esther is *not* moving to Palo Alto. The EFF, which she now chairs, is moving to San Francisco. The wires got crossed. Oooops. Another trance. Sorry!