What Comes Next?

Andy posted this fascinating Playboy interview with Nick Denton on usv.com yesterday. I read it this morning over a Cortado at Kava. I loved every bit of it. Nick is opinionated, intelligent, and interesting.

Here is one part of the interview that got me thinking.

PLAYBOY: What will be the life-changing or society-changing technologies that we’re just starting to see now?

DENTON: The internet is it for this century, maybe the next one too. People ask what comes next too quickly. To the extent there is some kind of message in the valuation that the market has given Twitter, it is that communication, information and media are at the heart of this phase, this cycle, and it’s a long, long cycle that could last 50 or 100 years. When you have an innovation as profound as the networking of sentient beings.… Those delusional futurists who talked about Gaia, the planetwide intelligence? They were spot-on. It’s totally happening, and everything else comes out of that.

PLAYBOY: By “everything else,” do you mean wearable computing, self-driving cars and that stuff?

DENTON: Who gives a fuck about wearable computing? That’s just a detail. I mean improvement in biotech, curing cancer, efficient travel into orbit, better device storage, solving carbon emissions. All these other problems will be solved by the internet by harnessing the collective intelligence. Everything else will fall out with that.

PLAYBOY: That definitely sounds utopian. To be clear, you just said the internet is going to solve global warming, correct?

DENTON: Yeah. Intelligence connected to human beings will achieve rates of technological progress that would have been impossible in previous eras. Of course we’ll solve problems more quickly.

I wake up most mornings thinking “what comes next?”. That is the business we are in. We’ve gotten it more or less right on social networking, mobile, crowdfunding, and maybe bitcoin.

But, as Nick points out, these are not the “next things”. These are just the ongoing evolution of the Internet and all that it opens up in terms of innovation. And Nick goes on to suggest that the way our society will solve cancer, space travel, and environmental issues is “intelligence connected to human beings”. Collective intelligence at work. That’s a big assertion but he may well be right.

At USV, we don’t invest in health care, but we are certainly, and increasingly, interested in the way networked humans can impact health care. We don’t invest in clean tech either. But we are certainly, and increasingly, interested in the way networked humans can impact the environment.

I hope Nick is right that “the Internet is it for this century, and maybe the next one too”. That means our investment strategy has a lot of legs.

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