Network Effects, Origin Stories, and the Evolution of Tech
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“The rules of the game are different in tech,” argues — and has long argued, despite his views not being accepted at first — W. Brian Arthur, technologist-turned-economist who first truly described the phenomenon of “positive feedbacks” in the economy or “increasing returns” (vs. diminishing returns) in the new world of business… a.k.a. network effects. A longtime observer of Silicon Valley and the tech industry, he’s seen how a few early entrepreneurs first got it, fewer investors embrace it, entire companies be built around it, and still yet others miss it… even today. If an inferior product/technology/way of doing things can sometimes “lock in” the market, does that make network effects more about luck, or strategy? It’s not really locked in though, since over and over again the next big thing comes along. So what does that mean for companies and industries that want to make the new technology shift? And where does competitive advantage even come from when everyone has access to the same building blocks…