PyCon 2012 Notes – Paul Graham Keynote

Here are my raw notes from the keynote.
Update: PG posted this talk in essay form. It’s not much longer than my notes; you should probably read that instead. 

big startup ideas are actually terrifying – threaten your identity

1. making a new search engine to compete with google

seems almost impossible

knew that msft had peaked when it got into the search business. now google is getting into the social network business…

find the tiny thing that turns into the gigantic idea

dinosaur egg – make a search engine that all the hackers use. (top 10,000). don’t worry about doing something constraining in the short term, because if you don’t succeed in the short term there won’t be a long term

2. replace email

inbox is a todo list. email is the protocol for putting stuff on it

it’s not a good todo list. anybody can put something on it.

will have to make a new protocol (“todo list protocol”). could degrade to the old protocol. should give more power to the recipient. control who can put something in your inbox

powerful people are in pain because of email. that’s an opportunity.

whatever you build, make it fast. gmail has become painfully slow.

3. replace universities

heading down wrong path last couple decades. not fun for students or professors.

universities won’t be replaced wholesale but will be replaced piecewise – lots of little things. pycon, ycombinator are examples.

universities are now a credential. if they go away, credentialling will have to be supplied separately.

4. kill hollywood

internet is the winning delivery mechanism (not cable – esp. bc of cable’s client, the TV).

how do you deliver drama via the internet?

will have to be on a larger scale than youtube clips

delivery+payment – maybe something like netflix will be the “app store” for entertainment

5. a new apple

his friend from apple: there will be no new good stuff post-steve jobs.

if apple is not going to make the next ipad, who will?

none of the existing players will – not run by product visionaries.

only way to get a product visionary as the ceo of a company is to start it and not get fired.

so next apple will have to be a startup.

someone taking on the problem now has the advantage of having the example of apple.

just have to be better than samsung, hp, motorola – not so hard 🙂

6. bring back the old moore’s law

old moore’s law used to mean that if your software was slow, you could just wait for the next gen of processors. hardware solved software’s problems.

now, you have to rewrite it to do more things in parallel.

it would be great if a startup could make a lot of cpus look to the developer like 1 cpu.

most ambitious: do it automatically with a compiler.

really hard, but is this really impossible?

if so, prove it 🙂 if not, the expected value of working on it might be really high.

why high: web services. programmers like convenience.

this boils down to being a new intel.

less ambitious: start from the bottom. build programs out of more-parallelizable lego blocks. programmer still does most of the work.

middle ground: build something that looks to the user like a sufficiently-smart compiler, but in the middle there are humans doing optimization. could have a marketplace for optimization. write bots to do the optimization. if you ever got to the point where all the bots could do the work, you’d have created the sufficiently smart compiler. (but no one would own it)

7. ongoing diagnosis

one way to get startup ideas: imagine the way we’ll seem backwards to people in the future.

e.g. heart disease – what % blocked are your arteries? someday we’ll know this number as well as we know our weight.

same for cancer.


– some from medical profession

a lot of doctors worry that if you start testing people all the time, you’ll get a lot of false alarms that make people panic, cost a lot of money, etc.

but if you scan people all the time, it won’t be alarming.

Tactical advice:

do not make a direct frontal attack on the problem. don’t say that you’re going to replace email, because employees and investors will ask “are you there yet?” and you’ll attract lots of haters.

start with small things and grow them bigger.

maybe it’s a bad idea to have really big ambitions initially. the longer you project into the future, the more likely you are to be wrong.

don’t try to identify a precise thing in the future. better model: columbus. “there’s something west. i’ll sail westward”.

empirically, it’s probably better to have a blurry vision of the future instead of a precise one.

what is property has been defined by what’s convenient to be property.

can’t charge for copies of stuff anymore – doesn’t work anymore.

instead of getting a degree from an institution, get it from a person. (sorta like phds). this is actually how universities used to work – you’d get certified by someone from the guild.

18 thoughts on “PyCon 2012 Notes – Paul Graham Keynote

  1. Bullshit! It’s all non-sense. Kill Hollywood? There’s no enough bandwith. It’s all propaganda to attract talent and more investors. I don’t buy it.

      • Do I even have to mention Hartley’s law? The maximum data rate of a physical communication link is proportional to its bandwidth in hertz. When he says kill hollywod he means the ditrubution channel, which is stupid because that’s impossible with the infrastructure we have today. Also, you first need to kill YouTube before anything else, that of course, he doesn’t tell you! It’s all propaganda.

  2. Pingback: Notes from Paul Graham’s Speech at PyCon | feed on my links

  3. Your notes are very good! I read them first, and then the essay, and didn’t find much in the essay that hadn’t been covered and effectively summarized in your notes (though I’m always delighted to read a new Paul Graham essays, of course).

  4. Pingback: Starting a startup - Business ideas - Kind of ideas | Pearltrees

  5. Pingback: Quora

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