Does her Ph.D qualify Jill Lepore to talk about business?


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P.S. stuff that hed in your Betteridge.

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Haven’t been able to get past the massive rush of nostalgia on seeing that Netscape loading gif.


Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what American Studies is, but that seems like a pretty good qualification for writing a magazine article on how something affects American society. Also, I fail to see any physics in Andreessen’s bio, so his snipe works just as well for him.


Wow, what a guy. Because no one else would have erroneously thought to put forward “Before we address what she has said, let us ask, ‘Who the fuck is she to say it’”

no not in a million years would anyone think to do that, He really is a stunning intellectual, mind like an antiquated steel trap for killing things that no longer exist. Amazing.


Yeah, it seems far more relevant than a Bachelor in computer science, anyways…


I think we should leave the Quantum questions to the Quatumtologists.

Also, why do we critique twitter posts as if they contain enough legitimate content worthy of infamy?

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And Marc has deleted it, realizing perhaps that criticizing someone for having the credentials to write deeply about the subject in question (whether Christensen got American business history entirely wrong across a span of more than a century) was possibly the wrong thing to say.

Yeah, one of the things one could possibly learn, even without getting a Phd in anything, is the ability to recognize (and avoid?) basic logical fallacies- for instance an appeal to authority.

Always better to address the substance of an argument.

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I’ve seen worse abuses of doctorates, like how “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger has a Ph.D. in physiology but spent decades dispensing (terrible) advice on the radio as if she was a psychiatrist.


I’m surprised there’s even a notice of Mr. Marc.

If we are in ad hominem territory, then I suppose the trope about glass houses should be wearily invoked, no?

This is a grown man, supposed head of billions in investment capital - using a “South Park” image as his chat room avatar. Sad little man child.


I feel reassured that the next generation will have their own Tom Perkins.

Is anyone else seeing dots to connect between this casual swipe at the credentials of a woman, and Mr. Andreeson’s professional activities?


Marc’s point wasn’t that he was an expert on physics but that he wouldn’t write about something he wasn’t qualified in. That being said, I’m not sure Lepore’s article was exactly a “critique” requiring any particular qualifications – it was just a typical anecdotal New Yorker fluff piece.

Actually - the New Yorker article was a pretty thoughtful piece that critiqued historical accuracy of the case studies and also examined how ‘disruption’ became such a powerful meme. While I have only a BS in Economics I have been in three different startup companies (two of them as a founder - VP of Engineering and CTO) and I found the it very much on the mark.


I guess I was put off by the personal anecdotes like the one about the co-worker who put a paperback in the sink (not particularly interesting the first time she brought it up, let alone the second). It’s a bit like Abe Simpson’s “So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time…”

By that logic he should work as a programmer.

“Disruptive innovation as the explanation for how change happens has been
subject to little serious criticism, partly because it’s headlong,
while critical inquiry is unhurried; partly because disrupters ridicule
doubters by charging them with fogyism, as if to criticize a theory of
change were identical to decrying change; and partly because, in its
modern usage, innovation is the idea of progress jammed into a
criticism-proof jack-in-the-box.”

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But he was doing exactly that.


That was only the beginning of the piece and really serves no purpose that I can see except for setting us up with some images of failed companies, which isn’t something anyone in the US has any need to imagine these days.

I don’t think credentials qualify her, or anyone else for that matter, to opine on anything frankly. Credentials have a lot less to do with intelligence, insight and effectiveness than do emotional honesty, temperament and open-mindedness. Ms Lepore seems to display those qualities pretty well. She doesn’t bash anyone, she just lays out the facts that Christensen’s theory of disruption, and the hacks running with that particular banner, are maneuvering on very shaky foundations. Their over-confidence in their theory blinds them to the complexity of reality, which she exposes very well.

And do we really need to hear anything more from Andreesen, the man who keeps reminding us that smartphones give us superpowers? His response is also ironic in that Andreesen’s career is testimony to one of Lepore’s points that “disruptors” can quite easily be destroyed by incumbents who may move into a new innovation late, but then quickly dominate it, to wit: Internet Explorer in 1999 or thereabouts.


A couple of thoughts.

  1. Andreessen’s credentialism looks especially silly when he boosts Virginia Postrel (bachelor’s degree in English Literature at Princeton) just because Postrel’s writing boosts his own beliefs. (It’d be interesting to juxtapose Postrel’s stasist/dynamist model from the late 90s with Christensen’s disruption model, with an eye on what both those models assert.)

  2. One thing a humanities PhD will drill into you is to seek out patterns and trends and narratives – but also to question and test them to ensure that you’re not simply seeing what you want to see. Let’s be clear here: Christensen’s model of disruption is not an algorithm or a law of physics or even a formal economic model. It is an assertion of a historical narrative that has been embraced as an operating manual by some prominent figures in technology, and functions in similar ways to a belief system.

I very much prefer Chad Dickerson’s take on the relationship between technology and the humanities:

I learned how to look deeper into the text and ask the right questions to really get to the heart of an idea. I ended up with more questions, but much better and more informed ones. These are all skills I learned from my liberal arts education, and they are essential to the work I do every day.