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  • DATE August 13, 2014
  • URL oneinstitute.com/tile/the-ad-generation/

The Ad Generation

Who is creating the foundational technologies of the future?

Before the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, there was the earlier Silicon Valley bubble of the late 1980s. Now, we’re arguably in the midst of yet another one—and this time it’s all about digital ads.

To make this case, technology writer Ashlee Vance tells the story of Jeff Hammerbacher, a Harvard grad who was among the first employees of Facebook. He has since left to co-found the software company Cloudera, though as Vance puts it, Hammerbacher can be seen as “a conscientious objector to the ad-based business model and marketing-driven culture that now permeates tech.”

Indeed, as Hammerbacher says, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”

Online ads are nothing new, of course. As long as there’s been the Web, there have been ads. “But only in recent years,” writes Vance, “have they become the rapturous life dream of Silicon Valley.”

“My fear is that Silicon Valley has become more like Hollywood,” says Glenn Kelman, CEO of the online real estate brokerage Redfin. “An entertainment-oriented, hit-driven business that doesn’t fundamentally increase American competitiveness.”

The problem, according to Vance, is that the brightest minds of our generation are wasting their potential by “[poking] around in data, [hunting] for trends, and [figuring] out formulas that will put the right ad in front of the right person.” Instead, they could working on creating “foundational technologies”—radically new products that will solve big problems in society and provide a basis for future economic growth—rather than merely tinkering with the “flashier derivatives” that proliferate today.

If this is true, it’s worth asking: Who is creating the foundational technologies of the future?

You can read the full article in Bloomberg Businessweek here