Who is Paul Graham?
Upon reading his article, Paul Graham seems to be a person versed on “terrifying” novel ideas and startup companies. These impressions are supported with information present in his biography, found on the left-hand side of the same web page. Notably, he is one of the founders of Y Combinator, which attempts to develop and support startup companies. Such companies include the social web site Reddit and the streaming platform Justin.tv. So while his article mentions ideas that are somewhat contrary to intuition, his experience would not have them without merit.
Critique on “Moore’s Law.”
Moore’s Law roughly translated into processor speeds doubling every 18 months, a trend which can no longer be followed. Graham suggests that rather than simply wait for hardware to increase code performance, one should attempt to automate a process to improve such performance: concurrent or otherwise parallel code. “The most ambitious is to try to do it automatically: to write a compiler that will parallelize our code for us.” Ambitious, indeed. Assuming the compiler will transform linear code with parallelizable segments into parallel code, it will need to be able to recognize these segments and arrange them as to maintain correct execution. Related is automated code optimization. Compilers are able to apply several optimization techniques, but are unable to do so with others due to being unable to recognize where these optimizations are appropriate. Compilers to parallelize code face much the same problem; how will it recognize what can be made parallel?
Overall, the task of a “sufficiently smart compiler” seems quite far into the future, and manual improvement remains the strongest means of performance gain.
A “frighteningly ambitious” idea would explore a new means of digital distribution. Digital distribution describes “the delivery of media content […] over online delivery mediums.” Examples of such mediums include Amazon MP3 and Steam.
Digital distribution allows for convenient access to purchased media. However, it is not without concerns. Amazon MP3 does not allow media to be re-downloaded, and Steam associates media to a single account. What if something should happen? With physical mediums, all one would need to do is replace the lost data. Authentication is inherent in having physical medium. In the case digital distribution, the process to prove ownership is generally infeasible.
The idea is to combine the advantages of both digital distribution and physical medium; a means to have convenient access to media while being associated to something other than a single password.
Aspects of the social information infrastructure.
An aspect of the social information infrastructure that would promote a new means of digital distribution is common interest. When a social group shares common interest, expertise is shared and often some goal to work towards is established. While a goal may be to simply share information, it may also be to forward and refine some novel idea. For digital distribution, a group who shares such an interest may seek to improve it.
Another is breadth. With Facebook and other such social web sites, social interaction is more frequent. This allows for information, such as that relevant to digital distribution, to be viewed by a large audience and quickly spread.