Software is indeed, eating the world

When Marc Andreessen famously wrote that software is eating the world, it was seen as both a love letter to the tech industry and an alarm of the consequences of a fundamental shift in the way the world will work. I’m not writing about the latter part here, I’ll leave that to those better placed and more inclined. But the first part I find fascinating.

I’m looking to replace an ageing iMac from 2014 that neither has a fast processor or an integrated SSD, making my computing experience less than optimal compared to today’s offerings. The promise of a radically faster next iMac around the corner, and something that the release of Apple’s in-house designed M1 means that I’m unlikely to replace my computer until the iMac line is replaced by this new line. For the moment, only the low-end has been introduced by Apple. The fact that this low-end is promising to be faster than the current high-end is absolutely unprecedented.

But this is hardware, and whilst hardware has the possibility to enhance your computing experience —and to be fair, enable new computing experiences—, it is software that affords the complete reinvention.

My old iMac has been completely transformed by the installation of a new operating system. Big Sur, released last Thursday the 12th November 2020, has converted by computer into a completely new computing affair. I’m spending more time at the computer because I like it more. I’m spending more time at the computer because it is more conducive to work. And I'm spending more time at my computer because I can’t wait to see what the M1 will bring to this equation.

Without diminishing the thousands and thousands of man-hours, innovation and inventiveness that goes into developing an operating system, we’re talking about a (long) string of 1s and 0s. A string that changes everything about the way one interacts and uses the technology in front of us.

There is nothing like this in the world. It's akin to removing all the acquired knowledge, feelings, experiences and genetic information stored in your brain, re-writing it to be arguably better, and then re-injecting it to produce a completely new human.

I’ll let that sink in for a few moments.

15 November 2020 — French West Indies

Matthew Cowen @matthewcowen