Why the hi-tech minds are writing Social apps?

As I had mentioned earlier on this blog, I feel puzzled looking at the torrent of Social Apps created by smartest minds in our field. Couple decades ago, technological progress was synonymous to better machines - the robots that will imitate humans, cars that will fly, rockets that will make space travel cheap and solar panels that will solve our energy problems once and for all. But the biggest companies of today - Apple, Google, Facebook - do none of these things and yet are pointed to as examples of technology leaders. Students with aspirations to build great technologies tend to enroll in Computer Science degree and seek to score a job at one of these companies. If “The Social Network” is even half true, then it clearly shows that this is the choice our bright minds are taking today.

So why is it that today’s young hi-tech entrepreneurs are dreaming of connecting people in gazillion different ways, and of building a spaceship that will take us to Mars?

I will venture a theory.

There are two important desires that we in the tech business have.

1. Money/Success/Power
This is not specific to scientists and engineers, but it’s a basic desire of all humans. We want money. Some want lots of it and some want barely enough of it, but most of us want it. Some want it to live luxury life, some want it to realize bigger dreams, some want it to bring safety and assurance in their life. Money gives us freedom to do what we want. Therefore, if some activity we do in our life is going to earn us money we make ourselves to do it. If scientists and engineers find the potential to make money from what they are good at, then they understandably jump at it. (Then they are known as entrepreneurs :)

2. Scientific Attitude
All scientists and engineers find comfort in the scientific point of view - make assumptions, perform experiment, find results, derive conclusions, repeat. They try to apply this to every aspect of their life. This same attitude helps us to find the strongest material that can withstand huge shear forces and to find a optimal website design to increase the conversion ratio of our visitors into paying customers. Therefore scientists and engineers are attracted to problems that can be solved by applying this principle to them.

In last decade or so, the internet has created tons of data about people around the world. It’s not the people that we scientists and engineers find attracting, but it’s this huge chunk of organized data that lures us. It is much faster and cheaper to apply our analytical minds to this data and do experiments with it, than to investigate the properties of fuel materials to find the most efficient candidate for space shuttle. Besides the cheaper and faster experiments performed on the social data, can bring ample of fortune. We have enough success stories to prove that. Even if in first few attempts we don’t make it, the low cost of experiments lets us try again and again. That’s why we are attracted to designing new match making algorithms or new news ranking strategies or new viral schemes to find friends. Because it satisfies our analytical minds and makes us fortune cheaply.


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