Growing up with the ability to share anything I want with whomever I want has warped my view of communication. For millennia, the sole way to communicate information among humans was the movement of humans. If I wanted to tell someone something, I either had to find them or send someone else to find them — that was the only way. Now, I sit here with my laptop, disconnected from any cord, hitting keys, and preparing to share my thoughts with potentially thousands of people.
I’ve reached far, far, far more people with my writing than most humans in history have ever interacted with. And I’m not a big writer.
I didn’t come face to face with this realization until I picked up Eric Jorgenson’s The Anthology of Balaji. Balaji makes the case that technological progress is the story of abstraction. It’s the story of making really complicated problems remarkably simple through very difficult work.
With specialization, we have enabled humans to reach incredibly deep understandings of deep problems. It would take several lifetimes to understand these specializers’ work. However, through the communication of that specialization, we have created a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
I have no idea how the internet works, but I don’t really need to. I know how to interact with it, and that’s all that really counts. It is valuable to me primarily because I don’t need to think about it so much. If the internet was clunky, it wouldn’t help me. I’d have to learn a lot to to start using it. Today, however, all of the kinks and problems are abstracted away. I see easy solutions to these hard problems. That requires incredibly deep understanding and a lot of thinking.
Making the Complex Simple
Problem abstraction is a great mental model for learning how to create value for others. If you notice a clunky, difficult process, people are going to be looking for a simple solution. Keeping with the theme of technology (in the sense of computers etc). abstraction, we can look at Squarespace. People want to create websites. They have two options:
- Learn how to code and code your website
- Hire someone else to code your website.