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Thinking Platform



This is a wonderful talk by Yuval Noah Harari explaining the rise of the humans. I particularly liked his perspective of looking at the difference between humans and animals as boiling down to our ability for building on top of platforms.

As he explains, the animals understand food, water, trees, mates, predators, etc. The closest an animal comes to trade is exchanging food for protection, mates and a acceptance to a group. They still live in the lowermost level. Whereas, we humans have used this level as a platform and have built others on top of it.

This basic level that animals live in is the physical reality. We have multiple layers of virtual reality on top of it, money and religion being the most successful platforms of virtual reality. We gladly exchange a piece of paper or a piece of metal worth close to nothing for plenty of other worthwhile things because every one of us believes in the value of that paper as ascribed to it. If nobody believed in the value of it, we'd be back to the level of animals bartering real goods, like happened in Zimbabwe once upon a time when their currency hyperinflated.

The other big platform is religion, which in the last few decades has lost it's influence slightly, which has more than been made up for by fiction (and semi-fiction) and celebrities. The stories we that we all agree upon for defining the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the constitution and the laws most countries go by, are all virtual platforms empowering us. We no longer have to worry about someone robbing our savings or stabbing us in the middle of the night (well, not all of us, but you get the point, it's not like we're a bunch of animals in the forest).

It is extremely useful to think platform while building products, especially when building global products like we're now doing at Practo. Amazon has done a fabulous job for anyone wanting to build something with their AWS platform. Nobody with an idea has to worry about getting servers together and maintaining them, they can just write their code and take the rest for granted.

To me, that's the definition of a platform. It can be taken for granted and it's existence may not even be known to those using it. 

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