Frighteningly Ambitious  

Paul Graham:

One of the more surprising things I’ve noticed while working on Y Combinator is how frightening the most ambitious startup ideas are. In this essay I’m going to demonstrate this phenomenon by describing some. Any one of them could make you a billionaire. That might sound like an attractive prospect, and yet when I describe these ideas you may notice you find yourself shrinking away from them.

This is an extremely thought-provoking essay, and probably my favorite ever from PG. He explores seven markets that are in need of radical transformation, but where the transformation seems so ambitious that many people do not even think about the solutions in a holistic way.

I’ve had a weird feeling about Fitbit, Nike +, and the various other personal diagnostics devices that have come to market recently, and Graham seems to have figured out why; as I read item #7, called Ongoing Diagnosis, I felt an epiphany:

I’m pretty sure that to people 50 or 100 years in the future, it will seem barbaric that people in our era waited till they had symptoms to be diagnosed with conditions like heart disease and cancer.

This is so obvious. If you take the ideas behind Fitbit and Nike+ several thousand iterations into the future, you might arrive at this kind of transformative change in healthcare. Why haven’t I thought about it before? What was keeping me from taking that weird feeling to its end state?

Maybe it’s a problem with the common human brain. After all, Ongoing Diagnosis is a totally revolutionary idea that is counter to what we think of as healthcare today. It’s so frighteningly ambitious to think about that kind of future that it’s almost not an economical use of brainpower to even consider creating it. Or is it?

 
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