A Chesterton Fence is the idea that we should understand a thing before we change it. Marc Andreessen tells the Chesterton Fence story of Airbnb. Prior to online marketplace for homes and rooms were hotels and prior to hotels were bed and breakfasts. These bnbs varied and so hotels created brands and brands gave consumers information. It’s this kind of hotel. Brian Chesky et al. figured out that rather than brands, the same information could be in reviews and ratings.
“I want to change the way people see the modern world. I want people to look out at the world around them: at the steel, at the concrete, the glass, the computers, the washing machine, the automobile and jet plane and I want them to see everything made by human beings and understand it as a solution to a problem. There was some problem that we had in the past and we solved it. I think when you start to see the modern world as, ‘I am surrounded by solutions to problems’ you start to appreciate it a lot more.” – Jason Crawford, June 2020
That’s awesome. Everything around me is a solution frames the world as such a cool place.
Everything framed as a solution also nudges people towards a bit more curiosity. If a 401k or a mask policy or an expressway interchange is a solution then why was it that rather than something else? If we use hotels or stores or cars why was that the solution?
Solutions, all the way down.
Crawford’s episode came up on a curated podcast playlist I source from Tyler Cowen’s posts. Cowen is one of the most influential thinkers. Here’s a pay-what-you-want thirty-minute read about a few things I’ve learned from Cowen. Or, if you’re really into the coolness of ‘stuff’, try the book Stuff Matters on Amazon.