The Value of Other Users

I am reading Judea Pearl’s fascinating book “The Book of Why”, about the cognitive liberation going on in science due to the innovation of causal notation. The mere creation of a new causal notation in science diagrams and notation syntax has revealed a whole new facet about how our minds and actions integrate with scientific outcomes.

In it he tells the story of a scientist who had discovered the Bayesian networks the author developed, but 20 years earlier. The prior scientist wasn’t able to develop the idea further because it would have required thousands of transistors on a chip, which wasn’t quite imaginable at the time.

This scenario highlights one of the values of thick markets of technological goods. Other people are developing solutions to problems you do not know you have yet. You don’t always have to wait until you have the problem and then start working on the solution.