a16z Podcast: Platforming the Future: Tim O’Reilly & Benedict Evans

Why do platforms make the mistake of competing with the participants in the ecosystems they create? (4:02 min)

Google’s original strength was as a switchboard, but it was attracted to the idea of being a destination platform. (8:30 min)

The Romans made the conquered tribes citizens.

There is this gravitational attraction for who knows the most about me. (18:40 min)

Could you imagine if it were Google that came out with the echo, a device that was always listening.

Amazon’s image gave it greater room to innovate.

How did whales get so big? Paleontologists say they’ve figured it out.

most baleen whales remained about 15 feet long. But 3 million years in the past, the scientists reported Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, baleen whales underwent a dramatic size shift. The smallest baleen whales vanished. The others grew to double or triple the size.

.. experts previously proposed baleen whales grew large as a way to avoid being eaten. Even the biggest ocean predators from several million years ago — sperm whales such as Livyatan melvillei, or the shark Carcharocles megalodon — would struggle to chomp on anything larger than about 30 feet (smaller than the average humpback whale alive today). But baleen whales didn’t outgrow such carnivores until millions of years after predatory sperm whales appeared in the fossil record.

.. about 3 million years ago, around the same time that baleen whales got huge. First, seasonal windy upwellings began to kick up nutrients along the coast; later, glacial runoff added to the richness of these pockets. The net results were souped-up marine ecosystems where whales could feast.

Why Bats are Important

Many of the more than 1,300 bat species consume vast amounts of insects, including some of the most damaging agricultural pests. Others pollinate many valuable plants, ensuring the production of fruits that support local economies, as well as diverse animal populations. Fruit-eating bats in the tropics disperse seeds that are critical to restoring cleared or damaged rainforests. Even bat droppings (called guano) are valuable as a rich natural fertilizer. Guano is a major natural resource worldwide, and, when mined responsibly with bats in mind, it can provide significant economic benefits for landowners and local communities.

Bats are often considered “keystone species” that are essential to some tropical and desert ecosystems. Without bats’ pollination and seed-dispersing services, local ecosystems could gradually collapse as plants fail to provide food and cover for wildlife species near the base of the food chain. Consider the great baobab tree of the East African savannah. It is so critical to the survival of so many wild species that it is often called the “African Tree of Life.” Yet it depends almost exclusively on bats for pollination. Without bats, the Tree of Life could die out, threatening one of our planet’s richest ecosystems.