Just when Chicago was feeling pretty good about itself thanks to an amazing run by the Cubs (full disclosure, I’m a Sox fan, but begrudgingly acknowledge the Northsiders have FINALLY had a pretty good season). Then Peter Thiel comes into town and gets all uppity.
John Carpenter responded in Forbes very thoughtfully. And Steve Case stepped up with really pointed view as to why Thiel is not just rude, but wrong.
Case lays out the following thesis: The next wave of innovation isn’t going to be about pure software. The next wave of innovation will disrupt aspects of life that haven’t really been changed by technology: cars, healthcare, education, food, etc. All of these areas require a deep knowledge about those sectors of the economy. You can’t fix a poorly run hospital by writing code in your door room. You can’t make kindergarten better pounding on a keyboard in a cubicle in Palo Alto. Case argues that this is why places like Chicago and all sorts of other flyover cities are so well positioned to lead the next wave. I couldn’t agree more with Case. He lays all this out in his new book The Third Wave. Worth the read.
But, here’s the thing. Thiel isn’t just going rogue. He’s a symptom of the insular, arrogant attitude that exists in Silicon Valley and New York. But wait, I think that’s true everywhere. All of us tend to think of our business communities like we think of our hometown sports teams. We’re naturally proud and competitive. And that’s the problem. If Case is right, and I wouldn’t bet against him, then regional economies need to collaborate to solve some pretty big problems. Silicon Valley needs to have the humility to understand they don’t understand how to run farms, schools, factories and highways. At the same time, Chicago and all the other flyover towns need to stop with the inferiority complex and get on with being great at what we’re already great at.