Monday, December 09, 2013

Inventions are Non-Commutative: Amazon vs Amazon

(Tal Rabin, Shubhangi Saraf and Lisa Zhang asked me to remind you to publicize this: the bi-annual Women in theory (WIT workshop), NYC, May 28-30, 2014. Apps due Jan 20, 2014. Go here for all relevant information)

If FAX machines had come out 20 years earlier they would have had far MORE impact.
If FAX machines had come out 20 years later they would have had NO impact since by then
we all had email and scanners and what not. So when an invention comes out matters.

Ask your grandparents what white-out was for corrections on a typewriter (while you are at it ask your grandparents what a typewriter is). If it came out 20 years later then Bette Nesmith  would have not made 50 million dollars, her son Michael Nesmith would not have had the spare time to become a musician and there might not be a group  called THE MONKEES. Gee, we would have no LAST TRAIN TO CLARKSVILLE. But I digress (from what?).

If Lasik  eye surgery came first and glasses later, glasses may have been seen as a great way to avoid surgery!

Amazon is working on a technology that may become obsolete before it really takes off. I am referring to the Amazon Drone Project. The idea is that when your order an item from Amazon a drone will get it to your house (or perhaps wherever you are) VERY FAST - maybe within 30 minutes. This works well for objects under 5 pounds. Say like what Amazon is best know for BOOKS.

But there is an a technology out there that may kill this idea before it gets off the ground. There is a competing company called Amazon which has already developed ways for people to get books on what they call a Kindle, which is like emailing them a book. So there is NO Physical object to be delivered.
Hence the Amazon Drone project may, like the 8-track tape (ask your great grandparents) become obsolete due to technology being developed by Amazon.

I wonder- had Amazon Drone come out 20 years ago would it have had more impact? Would it have made less of a demand for Amazon Kindle?

Amazon Drone may still have an impact by delivering other things. But I wonder how long it will take before 3-d printers make MOST things that Amazon delivers not need to be physical objects.


  1. Sure, for books, but Amazon sells EVERYTHING!

  2. You really are out of touch with It started off as a bookstore, became the largest bookstore, and is now the online shopping portal for *everything*. I can only think that *everything* is not going to be delivered via Kindle anytime soon. So is it fair to say that GASARCH's post on this blog became obsolete the minute it went live?

    Also, not having a typo in the TITLE of the post is quite a nice way to keep the good impression that this blog has with readers in the blogosphere.

  3. Msleifer and Anonymous- read the last paragraph of my post.

    Anon-thanks for the pointer to the typo, I have fixed it.

    My post obsolete? Only if you think that the order in which things are invented does not matter. Do you think that?

  4. Do you mean non-commuTative?

  5. Well, unless Amazon figures out a way to put all the other crap my wife buys into a kindle format/version, there just might be hope for drone deliveries after all!

    With that said, I want nothing more than to read a headline around Christmas time about how some kid use his Red Ryder BB gun to down an Amazon drone. That would be sweet and poetic.

  6. So, perhaps they will delivery the kindle by drones, and we have an egg and chicken problem here :-)

    I think the 3D printers aren't so useful, if we think about stuff made from materials but plastic/resine. Therefore, the last argument isn't so strong.

    I see some useful situations for Amazon drones: suppose I forgot to buy a gift to tonight, and I really have no time to go shopping out. In this case, I could order something small from Amazon drone-delivering. Small urgent stuff may be the real usefulness of drone-delivering.

  7. Let's not forget they wanted to kill Galileo. Every great thing started with an idea