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Software Creates Culture

For the podcast on this topic go to Podcast 125: Software Creates Culture.

Jim:   OK. Tonight we’re going to talk some more about culture design and culture hacking. A couple of years ago we stumbled into this phrase “culture hacking.” We liked that to describe what we were doing with all of our various efforts and works. Really, you can’t hack something that doesn’t, underneath, it seems to me, have a design discipline.

Over the last year, the elements of culture design have really been coming together in my mind and in concert with Michele’s collaboration and the various people I’m working with throughout the world. We’re going to talk some more about that.

Michele:  Hit it. [laughs]

Jim:  I will hit it.

Michele:  It’s eight o’clock at night so you go, honey.

Jim:  I’m making her podcast too late for her. She’s supposed to be asleep at 8:00. God.

Michele:  No, I go to sleep at 10:00 right now.

Jim:  I know. I’m really proud of you.

Michele:  It’s really hard for me.

Jim:  It is hard for you. It is very hard for you. It’s always surprising for me that you’re still puttering around as late as 10:00.

Michele:  What makes it hard is I still wake up at 6:00am so I lose two hours of sleep every night. So, anyway, you’re the night owl, Jim, so you just go.

Jim:  I give a speech. I’ve been going around the world giving keynotes, and that’s an evolving thing, on this topic. It has to do with many factors that are coming together in the world at large that are triggering this culture design opportunity and movement.

Michele:  And said factors are?

Jim:  The biggest one of all, the biggest single fact that I think we need to be very clear about, is that software creates culture and a cascade of virtue. What I mean by that is you can’t make great software without having a great team. You can’t have a great team without being virtuous and connected and loving one another. The bug count relates to the amount of love that’s effective.

Michele:  Wait a second. You started out with “software creates culture.”

Jim:  Right.

Michele:  Show work.

Jim:  I thought I did.

Michele:  I don’t think so.

Jim:  Software creates culture because you can’t make great software without a great team and you can’t have a great team without revolutionizing the way people relate to each other at work. In this way, software creates culture.

Michele:  Revolutionizing the way people work. You have to be able to design culture. Is that what you’re saying?

Jim:  No, that is not what I’m saying..

Michele:  You still didn’t make it all the way from software to culture.

Jim:  Some people out there think I did. Although, most of them probably side with you.

Culture is comprised of the things we believe and the behaviors we expect in various situations. That’s what a culture is. Software creates a culture that’s capable of creating software. It’s a relationship between two entities in the ecology of technology.

Software drives people to better relations in order to make better code. In that way, it creates culture. First it starts out with “let’s be cool, let’s be practical, let’s work the hours we want, let’s decide things in unity or by consensus, it’s a meritocracy around here,” like in most software teams. Before it got all big, it had a spirit of fun and joy. It also had the love of reason, the love of rationality. That’s another big thing that’s happening.

The climax of the Age of Reason is upon us. Software is the climactic event of the Scientific Revolution; the emergence of software.

Michele:  That’s one of the factors.

Jim:  That’s one of the factors. I’m answering your first question. That’s a factor. We’re living in the Scientific Era and the full flush of reason has descended upon us. It takes the form of actions and the imperative to actually create perfect reason in our code, which means we must get more reason in ourselves. That’s another way software creates culture.

Software is the gold that Isaac Newton created when he was trying to turn lead into gold. He turned lead, scientific effort, into the gold of software.

Michele:  Because his legacy was software?

Jim:  The legacy was the Scientific Revolution that began in the 1600s. Then it went through a really cool political thing where people like Jefferson, Washington, Thomas Paine, and others had this idea of liberty. That was a new idea. Liberty, the freedom to go where you want. That was not a common idea, like software was not a common idea when I was 15 years old.

Michele:  That’s a culture problem, though. Are these layers going culture, technology, culture?

Jim:  I don’t know. That’s a good insight and someone should pick that up for study when we get done.

Michele:  We had to change the culture quite a bit to get to the stage…

Jim:  To get all the way to freedom.

Michele:  …to where we could make software. Now that we make software, we need a whole new culture change again.

Jim:  Yes. Now that we see how good it is and how rich it can make us.

Michele:  They seem to be like lovers holding hands.

Jim:  Or lovers pumping.

Michele:  That’s great.

Jim:  Or interpenetrating. That’s more lover stuff, right?

Michele:  Holding hands, that wasn’t good enough? [laughs]

Jim:  Holding hands was OK, but I want to get to the real deal here which is procreating. That’s what software is; a procreation.

Michele:  Point taken.

Jim:  You gave the idea, I’m going to hang onto it, too, of the dialogical nature of human, science, human, science. They’ve been interacting. In other words, if humans really want to create science they need freedom of inquiry.

Michele:  One pushes the other and then…

Jim:  …they need freedom from religion, the tyranny of religion, religion imposed by government. We need freedom with our political state. We need to work on the things we choose to work on. No more serfs, no more slaves. All of that was part of science. Science was creating culture. There’s a lot going on in science. It’s too big a topic, really.

The pure element of science, the climactic element above and beyond all others is the element of software, because it’s so good. Software doesn’t cost anything once you make it.

Michele:  I would predict that it is right now.

Jim:  It is right now what?

Michele:  That software is the penultimate right now.

Jim:  Right now, yes.

Michele:  In the future it’ll probably be some cosmological thing.

Jim:  It could be. It could also be the entities we end up creating.

Michele:  It could be some artificial intelligence or something.

Jim:  Right, or networks and so on. In the talk I give on this topic, this march of software, march of reason you could call it, and scientific revolution, all those things and the political movement of freedom and democracy. All those things are pre‑conditions for software coming and software booming out there. If you have a good piece of software you get really, really rich.

If you look at the iPhone, and that’s primarily software…the iPhone represents the elimination of hardware and the purification of software. There are a million apps for the iPhone and it’s as small as it can be. At least, it started out that way.

Michele:  The iPhone started a wave where now, in my mind, the hardware is going away. It’s all going to be in space or something.

Jim:  Exactly. The goal of hardware is to fucking die.

Michele:  It won’t be hard at all.

Jim:  I’m grateful to hardware creators and hardware consumers. I bought a Blu‑ray disc player. It’s nothing. There’s nothing in there. It’s no hardware at all.

Michele:  I know. My new tablet feels almost…it keeps going away. Every new tablet I get is less and less there.

Jim:  It’s pure software and you connect in order to get more software. Some of the software you get is from the heads of people. It’s a communication adjustment, too. Software in the iPhone, let’s say software plus the product, made a great product. The iPhone is a great product. It was so successful that a few quarters ago Apple Computer Corporation had more money than the US government. More money from that one product and maybe the iPod and a couple of others, iTunes.

All that money poured into Apple, which was a broke company when I was making software at Microsoft. They were down to their last dollar and Bill Gates had to go bail them out and give them $100 million to keep them going.

Michele:  I remember that.

Jim:  They made the iPhone and, man, they had more money than the guys who print it. If I could print all the money I want and somebody beats me at that game of having money, that’s an interesting phenomenon.

Michele:  That’s clearly an important moment in history.

Jim:  I view it as Jefferson and Franklin handing the baton, if you will, to the scientists, to the technologists. Politics is just a mess.

Michele:  Politics is so boring compared to science now.

Jim:  Yes.

Michele:  It’s just the same stupid things over and over. I can’t even pay attention…

Jim:  You can barely pay attention.

Michele:  …because it’s so boring.

Jim:  In fact, I noticed that, in America at least, the news people still think that political stuff is what I want to hear about and I’m like, “I don’t think so.”

How about if you just talk about what the big idea is this week, what the best idea going on is? Something like that. That’s important news. What the press releases about politicians doesn’t interest me.

We’re going to have another podcast on culture, this whole movement thing, of what I see happening. Because there are going to be consequences to the nations. The nation‑state: Where is it heading? If you look at software, it’s heading somewhere different than if you look at politics. With more power and more capability for creating wealth for all. Software can create wealth for all.

We’ll just stop on that point. Software creates wealth for all if all create a healthy environment for creating software. That’s why software creates something really big. If you are truly greedy, you will make a virtuous team so that you can make great software.

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