In the late 1990s, two graduate students in Stanford’s computer science department set out to organize the world’s information. Shortly thereafter, a visiting scholar named Mario Schlosser arrived on campus, set on figuring out how trust could be built into peer-to-peer networks. The original server used by the graduate students, who were now running a little outfit named Google, had formerly been crammed under a desk in the office Schlosser now used.
Now, 20 years later, the graduate students have done OK, and they no longer need to borrow server space. But they’ve continually been stifled by one kind of information that’s very hard to organize: health care data. The industry in America is a mess: yoked together with confusing regulations, perverse incentives, and computers running Windows XP. Meanwhile, Schlosser has moved on from academia and created a company, called Oscar, with Joshua Kushner (brother of Jared) to try to solve those problems. The goal of Oscar is to do to health care what Uber did to the taxi industry: use smart digital technology to make everything faster and easier for customers, and then use the data gathered to build radically new services, which can collect more data that leads to new services. (Ideally, Oscar would like to accomplish this without cracking as many eggs on its own head as Uber did.)