Where are the builders?

What are the brightest and most ambitious minds of our generation currently working on?

  • Here is a video from someone who spent 7 months building minecraft inside of minecraft by painstakingly constructing a redstone computer inside of it with its own graphics card and screen
  • Here is someone who spent 5 years constructing a 3D game within a 2D geometry game by building primitives and constructing 3D illusions from them
  • Here is a video from someone who spent 6 months building a factory inside factorio which recursively self-expands using a lua script
  • And here is someone who spent 4 months building a shader to let the linux kernel run inside of VRchat via writing a RISC-V CPU/SoC emulator in an HLSL pixel shader

I find the above examples fascinating from the meta perspective: while there’s nothing wrong with having fun building inside of games, these are the very same skillsets which tech companies would pay mid-six figures to have on their side!

Sometimes people of this caliber even have trouble finding a job – they don’t really know where to go besides apply online to boomer companies who reject them when they see a lack of credentials. Interestingly enough, there currently exist no entities which help such people move into the professional world (colleges certainly do not do a good job at this, on average). They have to find their own way, and many never do.

“Why did you cherry-pick people playing video games instead of talking about, like, everyone currently enrolled in medical school or something?”

The US currently has 125,000 students enrolled in medical school. Minecraft has 140,000,000 (1120x) monthly active users. Roblox has 200,000,000 (1600x). This is obviously an unequal comparison, but the magnitude of the difference is still staggering.

Why are you building a graphics card inside minecraft instead of inside nvidia?

Here are some reasons why someone might build a graphics card inside of minecraft rather than being paid $500,000 a year to build one inside of nvidia:

  1. Minecraft is more enjoyable
  2. Minecraft is more addictive
  3. Minecraft found them first
  4. They don’t know the latter option exists, or how they would do it, or think they’d fail at it

The first reason (that minecraft is more enjoyable) applies to most people who are playing games instead of ‘working’. The latter three reasons will be closer to the focus of the proceeding sections.

Addiction & Adolescence

The world has a lot of addicting products. Most of them I’m able to avoid, but some of them just happen to hit my sweet spot: I had no problem avoiding smoking growing up, but world of warcraft consumed years of my adolescence.

Others don’t find world of warcraft addictive, instead procuring their poison elsewhere. Maybe it’s minecraft, or league of legends, or youtube shorts.

One of the reasons these apps out-compete the ‘real world’ is because they start competing for our attention at a very young age. Most kids will grow up inside of roblox, minecraft, discord, instagram, and tiktok. If a kid starts using their smartphone at 10, these platforms will have a full 8 years to solidify within their mind before they are even legally allowed to have a job.

Here are some comparisons to past historical figures:

I would have killed for a tech internship when I was 14. But that wasn’t possible, so I spent my class time studying for my CCNA instead, and hopped straight into video games when I got home.

Agency in the free market

I’m writing this blog post at 1AM right now. In order to do so I’ve had to block twitter, close messenger, and set my phone to night mode. Luckily I’m not battling any video game or youtube shorts addictions, or this post would not exist. I don’t think I’d be able to sit down and write for hours if I had spent my entire adolescence on tiktok.

As consumer markets become more efficient and we become more skilled at capturing and retaining the attention of the populace, we should expect the average agency of society to decrease.

This is obvious if you think about it for a bit, but there are very few who appreciate the magnitude of this effect, as the masses of society engrossed in video games and social media at home alone in their bedrooms every night are well-hidden from us.

I love how easy generative AI makes it to learn. I sometimes talk to Claude until exhaustion. But in the free market, Claude doesn’t stand a chance against Tiktok. This post isn’t about Tiktok either though, as Tiktok doesn’t stand a chance against SuperTiktok (coming soon).

Outlier Success

Many have wondered why there’s fewer entrepreneurs in their 20s on a path to outlier success than there were in previous decades. Facebook IPO’d at a valuation of $104 billion when Mark was 28. Stripe reached a valuation of $35 billion when John was 29. Snapchat IPO’d at $24 billion when Evan was 25. These are outlier examples, but that’s the entire point. Where are the current outlier examples from the next generation?

I offer several potential answers:

  1. They are currently busy playing video games
  2. They watched so much tiktok as a teenager that they no longer have the attention span to build
  3. They have so little free time due to attention economics that they no longer have original ideas

Many in the tech ecosystem call me a doomer when I suggest these explanations. They certainly aren’t addicted to video games, and their friends certainly aren’t brain-damaged from tiktok. But they live in a bubble within a bubble, and from my point of view the data points to these hypotheses as strong contenders.

What I find more interesting is that, as the agency of the typical person decreases, the ceiling for the agency of outliers increases, both due to better tooling and better infrastructure. I’ll leave the post here to end it on a more positive note.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy: Types Of Memetic Information and my Home Page.