New primitives, new beginnings

New computing platforms appear every 7-10 years. Think of “the Web”/Netscape browser (1994), “the cloud”/AWS (2002), iOS/Android (2008) and WeChat (2010-2013).   Lots of false-starts in new computing platforms, such as social (remember sheep-throwing apps?), VR/AR and (perhaps) metaverse.

Each new computing platform introduces new primitives for application development. New applications can be built that were not possible before.

iOS/Android came with new primitives such as always-on, automatic location, presence, integrated payments, touch and vertical screen. This led to a massive set of new apps and value migrated from the web to mobile.

LLMs are a new computing platform. New primitives include

  • NLP-based chat (or prompts & responses) as the main interface
  • Turning unstructured data/text into structured data/text
  • Creating (mostly) correct content from prompts
  • Multi-modal input & output i.e. text, images, audio, video
  • Easy integration to APIs, applications and websites

Knowing these new primitives is not a sure-shot way of discovering anything new. Just as knowing alwayson/location/payments/touch/vertical screen as new primitives on iOS I don’t think helped all of us predict Uber, Zynga, Tiktok in advance.

But it does give developers and risk-taking founders a lot to play with in ways that can reinvent the world.

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