The speech was very well received -- it got a standing ovation -- and has attracted a lot of discussion since.
Jonke Suhr has done me the service of transcribing the talk, which will facilitate translating it into other languages as well as making it accessible to people who struggle with video. Many thanks, Jonke!
This is also available as an MP3 and a downloadable video.
I've included an edited version below:
So, as you might imagine, I'm here to talk to you about dieting advice. If you ever want to go on a diet, the first thing you should really do is throw away all your Oreos.
It's not that you don't want to lose weight when you raid your Oreo stash in the middle of the night. It's just that the net present value of tomorrow's weight loss is hyperbolically discounted in favor of the carbohydrate rush of tonight's Oreos. If you're serious about not eating a bag of Oreos your best bet is to not have a bag of Oreos to eat. Not because you're weak willed. Because you're a grown up. And once you become a grown up, you start to understand that there will be tired and desperate moments in your future and the most strong-willed thing you can do is use the willpower that you have now when you're strong, at your best moment, to be the best that you can be later when you're at your weakest moment.
And this has a name: It's called a Ulysses pact. Ulysses was going into Siren-infested waters. When you go into Siren-infested waters, you put wax in your ears so that you can't hear what the Sirens are singing, because otherwise you'll jump into the sea and drown. But Ulysses wanted to hear the Sirens. And so he came up with a compromise: He had his sailors tie him to the mast, so that when he heard the call of the Sirens, even though he would beg and gibber and ask them to untie him, so that he could jump into the sea, he would be bound to the mast and he would be able to sail through the infested waters.
This is a thing that economists talk about all the time, it's a really critical part of how you build things that work well and fail well. Now, building a Web that is decentralized is a hard thing to do, and the reason that the web ceases to be decentralized periodically is because it's very tempting to centralize things. There are lots of short term gains to be had from centralizing things and you want to be the best version of yourself, you want to protect your present best from your future worst.
The reason that the Web is closed today is that people just like you, the kind of people who went to Doug Engelbart's demo in 1968, the kind of people who went to the first Hackers conference, people just like you, made compromises, that seemed like the right compromise to make at the time. And then they made another compromise. Little compromises, one after another.
And as humans, our sensory apparatus is really only capable of distinguishing relative differences, not absolute ones. And so when you make a little compromise, the next compromise that you make, you don't compare it to the way you were when you were fresh and idealistic. You compare it to your current, "stained" state. And a little bit more stained hardly makes any difference. One compromise after another, and before you know it, you're suing to make APIs copyrightable or you’re signing your name to a patent on one-click purchasing or you're filing the headers off of a GPL library and hope no one looks too hard at your binaries. Or you're putting a backdoor in your code for the NSA.
And the thing is: I am not better than the people who made those compromises. And you are not better than the people who made those compromises. The people who made those compromises discounted the future costs of the present benefits of some course of action, because it's easy to understand present benefits and it's hard to remember future costs.
You're not weak if you eat a bag of Oreos in the middle of the night. You're not weak if you save all of your friends' mortgages by making a compromise when your business runs out of runway. You're just human, and you're experiencing that hyperbolic discounting of future costs because of that immediate reward in the here and now. If you want to make sure that you don't eat a bag of Oreos in the middle of the night, make it more expensive to eat Oreos. Make it so that you have to get dressed and find your keys and figure out where the all-night grocery store is and drive there and buy a bag of Oreos. And that's how you help yourself in the future, in that moment where you know what's coming down the road.