Techonomy http://techonomy.com Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:50:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 GE’s Comstock: The Imperative Is Speed http://techonomy.com/2014/11/ges-comstock-imperative-speed/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/ges-comstock-imperative-speed/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:21:52 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19844 General Electric Senior Vice President Beth Comstock stopped by Techonomy's office recently to talk about corporate innovation. Besides overseeing all GE's sales and marketing activities, she's responsible for growth and market innovation. She rose through corporate communications to become GE's CMO, then ran sales and digital for NBC Universal before her current job. When we asked about her light bulb experiences, we didn't know that shortly after our meeting CEO Jeff Immelt would give her an additional job leading GE's $3 billion lighting business. We started by asking how someone with a marketing background got so interested in innovation.

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Photograph by Andrew Eccles

Photograph by Andrew Eccles

General Electric Senior Vice President Beth Comstock stopped by Techonomy’s office recently to talk about corporate innovation. Besides overseeing all GE’s sales and marketing activities, she’s responsible for growth and market innovation. She rose through corporate communications to become GE’s CMO, then ran sales and digital for NBC Universal before her current job. When we asked about her light bulb experiences, we didn’t know that shortly after our meeting CEO Jeff Immelt would give her an additional job leading GE’s $3 billion lighting business. We started by asking how someone with a marketing background got so interested in innovation.

Comstock: If my job is to be an advocate for where the market’s going, how can you not be about innovation? It’s not enough just to know about a trend. After a while you get to be…trendy. Why should I care about driverless cars? Well, at GE we’re involved in locomotives and airplanes, so how can autonomous vehicles translate?

Kirkpatrick: Have you had light bulb experiences in this job about innovation in a big company?

Comstock: I work at GE and have a lot of light bulb experiences. A light bulb has gone off for me about the power of partnerships. You can’t do it all your own. You don’t have all the good ideas. What are the biggest factors in markets now? Globalization and technology. You can’t point to any one technology. They’re all interwoven. Is it the Internet or the cloud? Is it mobile?

Kirkpatrick: How do you broaden who contributes to GE innovation?

Comstock: There has to be a humility. That starts internally. The engineers have to recognize technology isn’t everything. Maybe they should work with a marketer to understand customer needs. In the past five years we’ve also been doing more partnerships and investing in startups. The Quirky partnership is a good example. We cobranded a series of connected consumer products. Quirky does things really fast, and gets ideas from everywhere. We wanted to learn about open innovation. How does their community generate ideas? How can we do it faster? We’re launching now at Home Depot a connected light bulb that we got out in a record amount of time thanks to how Quirky worked with our lighting guys.

We’ve teamed with Local Motors, a manufacturing startup that is making cars. It’s an open-source engineering community, but we are excited about their small flexible micro-factories. How can we get smaller factories around the world?

Kirkpatrick: Marketers didn’t get that involved with product development back when products didn’t change as quickly.

Comstock: Traditionally marketing was: “Get the product to the market. Launch it. Advertise it.” Now we’re making sure the market’s ready. We’re data driven and user-experience driven. It’s changed how we think about what a product is. Technology allows us to get customer feedback digitally. You have digital collaboration 24 hours a day. You don’t have to wait three weeks for a focus group.

There’s a huge shift in the imperative for speed. Be nimble. Move it faster to market and faster to your customer. Your competition may be coming from a startup in China. It may be coming from a totally new digital perspective. We launched something—we like to brand everything—called FastWorks. We’re inspired by the concept of lean startups. We create prototypes quickly and ask customers for feedback. It brings everybody to the table, and has allowed us to spend less and to learn earlier.

An example is a new industrial gas turbine we developed. By the old process it would have taken five years to get it to market. That’s just not acceptable. By then the competition will have something better. We were planning to build five use cases for five different segments. But it turned out that what the Navy and marine operators needed was simple and we actually had it. We got a prototype into that market in less than a year.

Kirkpatrick: There’s an entrepreneurial fervor in the world now. Are you envious of what startups can do?

Comstock: We ask ourselves that too. We want to embrace our own entrepreneurial spirit.  We were started by Thomas Edison, the Steve Jobs of his time. But it’s been a while since that happened. What do you envy about a startup? It is that green field, that ability to start from scratch. You have an idea and bring it to fruition. There’s a lot you can do without legacy systems or the transparency that comes as a more established company. But a company like ours has scale. We can show up in a market like China and get something launched quickly; a startup can only dream about doing that.

Kirkpatrick: Do you think about innovating at the scale of the entire company?

Comstock: I love that question. The sum of the parts is what we’re really trying to go to. The Industrial Internet is probably the best example of a core competency across the company. We’re connecting all our big machines to the Internet—the jet engines, the MRI machines, the locomotives—so you can take the data, derive insights, and generate more productivity for customers. If we left it up to each business to figure out their data and software, we would not be taking advantage of the scale of the company.

This article appears in the 2014 Year-End Edition of Techonomy Magazine.

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How Many Heartbeats Today? Are Patients Ready to Become Tech-empowered Healthcare Consumers? http://techonomy.com/2014/11/many-heartbeats-today-patients-ready-become-tech-empowered-healthcare-consumers/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/many-heartbeats-today-patients-ready-become-tech-empowered-healthcare-consumers/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:43:05 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19827 Technology is driving a fundamental shift in how we think about health. Increasingly, ordinary people can utilize devices, apps, medical tests, and data analysis to take charge of their health in a proactive way. In the past, our whole system focused on patients—sick people who more or less did what they were told by doctors. The big future business opportunity may be in helping consumers store and interpret what they gather from devices, sensors, and tests. We could certainly use tools that pull disparate data together and assemble it into a big picture.

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Illustration by Jonathon Rosen for Techonomy

Illustration by Jonathon Rosen for Techonomy

Nothing symbolizes this revolution more than Apple’s healthcare-oriented iWatch, expected in early 2015. Increasingly, ordinary people can utilize devices, apps, medical tests, and data analysis to take charge of their health in a proactive way. Perhaps the most powerful emerging tool is consumer genomics—the still-nascent field of decoding people’s genetic data to help them (and their doctors) make decisions about everything from diet to medical treatment.

Until recently, the limited data most of us had was not much more than blood pressure readings and a weight check from our annual physical, or an occasional temperature reading during flu season. And we frequently—sometimes with relief—forgot what we learned. Now that digital and wireless technologies put day-to-day measurement, data, and judgment into their hands, individuals have more information and more responsibility. How many steps did you take today? Calories did you consume? Hours did you sleep? Heartbeats did you have?

Whether that trend will lead to radically empowered consumers or to hopelessly confused patients depends very much on whom you ask. Experts are splitting into two camps: those who believe people should have unfettered access to more data, and others who contend people are not equipped to deal with all this information without expert guidance.

“It is just morally wrong to deny anybody access to data on themselves, whether it is their medical record or molecular data generated on them,” says Eric Schadt, director of a genomics institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “If genetic data is generated on me, I should not only own those data, but I should have the right to choose who I want to share those data with.”

The anti-empowerment naysayers tend to be cautious regulators and traditionalists. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered consumer genetics pioneer 23andMe to stop giving health-related data even to paying customers, because its service had not been reviewed and approved by the agency.

One key virtue of the new world of self-measurement, says Mount Sinai’s Schadt, is that it frees us from limiting past conceptions of “health” that were themselves crudely constructed from population averages. He says devices that continually measure heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels—and track that data over long periods of time—“can help establish reliable baselines for your own personal health, where deviations … may be far more predictive of health-related issues than the population-based guidelines.” Schadt compares it to watching the indicators on the dashboard of your car, which can alert you well before a breakdown. Such monitoring, he says, “is not just about avoiding catastrophe. It is about maintaining a more optimal [health] state that can enhance your performance physically and mentally.”

Having access to more data can enable consumers to assemble a more accurate picture of their own health—one that may help explain what’s going on when they’re sick. Sometimes the self-diagnosis has outperformed doctors. Kim Goodsell, a 56-year-old California woman, was diagnosed with two rare diseases. Though doctors insisted these were separate conditions, she refused to accept the astronomical odds of having two unrelated, very rare diseases. Though she’s no medical expert, Goodsell spent years combing through genetic research and eventually found a single mutation linked to both rare diseases. Testing confirmed she had what was indeed a single, previously unknown disease. Since then, Goodsell has come up with a dietary program that helps mitigate her symptoms.

Slowly, the biomedical community and regulatory agencies are recognizing that consumers will demand access to this kind of data. “People want the information and there’s no reason they’re not entitled to it,” says William Hoffman, who chronicles the rise of consumer genomics in his recent book, The Biologist’s Imagination. Indeed, just this year, then-HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius ruled that patients should have direct access to lab test results, which had formerly been accessible only to physicians. “Information like lab results,” she said at the time, “can empower patients to track their health progress, make decisions with their healthcare professionals, and adhere to important treatment plans.”

Concerns and Consequences 

But the FDA and others worry about how consumers will respond to health data, particularly when it comes to complex genetic information like that provided by 23andMe. Extensive studies, however, have shown that consumers tend to receive this kind of information calmly, even in potentially high-stress situations like learning they have a genetic risk for an untreatable disease such as Alzheimer’s. Mount Sinai’s Schadt notes that people can make bad decisions based on any kind of data—financial, political, and so on—but that in most situations we accept that risk because we presume that people do better with more information. If regulators continue to drag their feet, service providers may just move to countries with less stringent guidelines and offer the information online.

That doesn’t mean regulation has no role. As author Hoffman points out, “The FDA does have the responsibility to insist that what companies say about personal health information based on genetic data is accurate and can be verified.” That’s why many companies offering consumer-oriented tests or devices require that a physician order them and be responsible for presenting the results. Regulatory agencies want a doctor or genetic counselor to be an intermediary. But an increasing challenge is that many medical professionals are themselves not equipped to explain results—particularly from genetic tests. Several studies have found that only a small fraction of physicians feel confident they know when to order a genetic test or can understand the results.

No matter how much health data individuals may be able to handle, it’s unclear whether we can trust business to handle it. This is an area where regulators may still need to protect us. Big companies are routinely failing to protect consumer financial data, especially credit card information. Can we trust them when it comes to our (far more personal) health data? Already, marketing firms are selling data linking consumers to health conditions or diseases, often based on information people entered in surveys or online forms. While U.S. law protects medical data shared between a clinician and a patient, fitness information in an app, for instance, is at present legal fair game for marketers. So we will need to protect our health information both from criminal theft and unscrupulous mishandling.

Looking Ahead

Despite these challenges, consumers want to measure and monitor just about anything. More than 20 percent of consumers are already using some sort of self-monitoring technology, according to a study from Accenture. The big future business opportunity may be in helping consumers store and interpret what they gather from devices, sensors, and tests. We could certainly use tools that pull disparate data together and assemble it into a big picture.

Like so many other tech-infused realms, healthcare is heading toward a flattened world of consumer empowerment. “This extreme paternalism that permeates much of medicine must be changed,” says Schadt. The most likely result of the explosion in consumer technology will be a healthier society.

This article appears in the 2014 Year-End Edition of Techonomy Magazine.

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KeenON: A Conversation with International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband http://techonomy.com/2014/11/keenon-conversation-international-rescue-committee-ceo-david-miliband/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/keenon-conversation-international-rescue-committee-ceo-david-miliband/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:28:34 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19785 David Miliband, best known as the Miliband sibling who lost the British Labour party to his brother Ed, has a new job. Miliband is now the CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the New York City based organization dedicated to helping victims of war, disease, and natural disasters. Unfortunately, the IRC is in much demand. “We serve 15 million people each year,” Miliband dryly told me when we caught up at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where he also spoke on a panel with Jack Dorsey about the impact of technology on morality.

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KeenON_Logo_FinalTechonomy is proud to present KeenON, a series of interviews by techonologist and author Andrew Keen that explores the intersection of tech, business, and culture.

David Miliband, best known as the Miliband sibling who lost the British Labour party to his brother Ed, has a new job. Miliband is now the CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the New York City based organization dedicated to helping victims of war, disease, and natural disasters.

Unfortunately, the IRC is in much demand. “We serve 15 million people each year,” Miliband dryly told me when we caught up at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where he also spoke on a panel with Jack Dorsey about the impact of technology on morality. So does every company, including the IRC, need to be a technology company? And if so, I asked Miliband, what kind of technologies does the IRC need to develop to improve it mission of improving the lives of the most unfortunate people in the world?

While he worries about the impact of networked technology on traditional societies, Miliband was unusually bullish about the impact of technology on social change, believing it to more benign than malign. Networked society is all about “bringing down walls,” he told me. Which is why he believes that the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989—the same year that Tim Berners-Lee invented the World-Wide Web, represents a triumphant validation of networked society.

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Talking About Biology’s Grass Roots Revolution http://techonomy.com/2014/11/talking-biologys-grass-roots-revolution/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/talking-biologys-grass-roots-revolution/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:38:14 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19689 “As a reporter who’s covered both biotech and what the rest of the world calls just plain ‘tech,’ I can tell you those stories about biology can be tougher to tell,” said WIRED senior writer Marcus Wohlsen during a session, entitled "The Next Revolution Will Be Biologized," that he moderated at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay last week. Wholsen shared the stage with a panel of the sector’s thought leaders: attorney and consultant Nancy Kelley; chemical biologist Floyd Romesberg of The Scripps Research Institute; synthetic biology pioneer Drew Endy of Stanford University; and Brian Frezza, founder of “biotech lab for hire” Emerald Therapeutics.

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From left, Marcus Wohlsen, Nancy J. Kelley, Floyd Romesberg, Brian Frezza, and Drew Endy

From left, Marcus Wohlsen, Nancy J. Kelley, Floyd Romesberg, Brian Frezza, and Drew Endy

Even for people steeped in the language and tools of modern technology—big data, parallel processing, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and social-mobile-local whatever—comprehending how biologists and genetic engineers are leveraging those tools to revolutionize medicine, manufacturing, and industrial processes can be a challenge.

“As a reporter who’s covered both biotech and what the rest of the world calls just plain ‘tech,’ I can tell you those stories about biology can be tougher to tell,” said WIRED senior writer Marcus Wohlsen during a session, entitled “The Next Revolution Will Be Biologized,” that he moderated at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay last week.

“You don’t have the immediate payoff as much, say, as you’d get when you have an iPhone with a bigger screen. But imagine the day that the Steve Jobs of biotech comes on a stage like this and says, ‘Oh, and one more thing. We’ve cured cancer.’ Or, ‘We’ve solved the energy crisis’,” Wohlsen said. “That’s the promise that’s claimed for biology as technology for the 21st century: to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems, to seek truly transformative innovation … at a pace that could potentially leave Moore’s Law in the dust.”

Wholsen shared the stage with a panel of the sector’s thought leaders: attorney and consultant Nancy Kelley; chemical biologist Floyd Romesberg of The Scripps Research Institute; synthetic biology pioneer Drew Endy of Stanford University; and Brian Frezza, founder of “biotech lab for hire” Emerald Therapeutics.

Asked how computational advancements in biology are going to impact our lives, the first three panelists cited genomic-based targeting of genetic mutations that cause cancer, the application of chemistry and synthetic components to changing biological function, and resolving other human health problems. But Endy went further: “When you think about biology as a technology, you have it for medicine, you have it for manufacturing, you have it for basically everything our civilization depends upon.”

If the code for living matter—wetware—could be merged with hardware and software to be made programmable, Endy said, the possibilities would be endless. For instance, he said, the 16 million pounds of garden clippings that accumulate in his town of Menlo Park, Calif., annually would be “state of the art nanotechnology”—“enough matter to make the computing chips the world uses on an annual basis.”

The path to making living matter fully programmable is not yet obvious, Endy said, “but we now know it’s not impossible.” Genetic engineering already comprises between 2 and 3 percent of the domestic economy in terms of annual product revenues, he noted. Kelley pointed to research that indicates a four-fold increase in the “types of companies that are coming out of this science just in the last three years, most of them in the United States.” She predicted it would be a $12 billion-a-year industry by 2016.

If the ATCG code of DNA can indeed be leveraged as information technology to make life programmable, then Romesberg has developed a way to encode even more information. His lab developed a method for adding two more letters to the sequence—a third base pair—to offer a 3-bit instead of a 2-bit code. That means, he said, that within a given DNA sequence, you can encode more information and “use natural genetics to rewrite what cells are programmed to do … to be able to direct cells to produce things that you want them to produce, to take advantage of that evolutionary process in the lab, but to be able to do that with information that is beyond what’s encoded currently.” Expanding genomes’ potential to store and retrieve information has potential applications for everything from materials to drugs, he said.

Frezza, meanwhile, envisions the biology laboratory as a platform akin to Amazon Web services that enables a more democratic and efficient practice of biology to advance such far-out goals. His company, Emerald Therapeutics, offers remote access via a Web interface to a multimillion dollar biotech lab infrastructure. The idea is to enable smaller players “to carry out the experiments, to play out all these fantastic ideas that are floating around out there,” he said.

Kelley, who has helped scientists turn ideas into dozens of companies, pioneered the practice of life sciences real estate, led the development of the $1 billion East River Science Park in Manhattan, and founded the New York Genome Center, called the question of infrastructure critical. “The way that we work and the way that institutions interact together has to be different in order to enable a democratization of science.” Previous to the launch of The New York Genome Center, she said, its 11 founding institutions had access to 29 DNA sequencers, some of which were more than 12 years old—measly in comparison to the Broad Institute’s 300+. The real power for scientists and doctors comes from inter-institute collaborations, she said.

To be sure, the most groundbreaking biotechnology might be happening outside of large institutions. Drew Endy, whom Wohlsen called a “kind of patron saint of the idea of making biology more accessible to more people,” pointed to the growth of the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition, which began with 16 students in 2003 and saw 4,000 participants this year.

“When iGEM started ramping up geometrically, one of the things we didn’t anticipate was where do the alumni go?” Endy said. “Some of the alumni would go back to institutions, and the institutions had no clue what was going on in terms of engineering and biology, and so they would leave and graduate and they would have to do something extra-institutional—BioCurious, Genspace, DIYbio …”

But, he admitted, he wasn’t sure what to think about that: “When people work in an extra-institutional context in a garage, are they good or bad? Are they garagistas—right?—or are they entrepreneurs? And if I’m at Stanford, jeez, I have to be celebrating the garagistas, because it’s Bill (Hewlett) and Dave (Packard) and Larry (Page). This is how we live and thrive. So we can’t turn the extra-institutional actors in biotech into the enemy. We have to figure out how to just make it awesome.”

Now, Endy said he’s seeing a shift from, “We don’t know what to make of them,” to “they‘re actually becoming the engine of the toolkit.”

Kelley argued that to “really facilitate the democratization of science in this area,” the kind of research infrastructure that is available to elite scientists at places like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, UCSF, and Berkeley should be available to scientists all over the country.

And that’s what businesses like Frezza’s Emerald Therapeutics aim to do. It’s also contributing to the new wave by enabling small players to startup in biotech. “We charge per experiment,” he said. “You are paying no more than a couple bucks per experiment, and you don’t have to buy millions of dollars’ worth of lab equipment to get started.” The revolution has begun.

For video and a full transcript of this Techonomy 2014 session, click here. For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 videos and transcripts, click here.

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Technologies and Trends that Let Small Designers Make Stuff Locally http://techonomy.com/2014/11/evolution-manufacturing/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/evolution-manufacturing/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:40:45 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19672 While most of the world is yet to be enlightened as to how 3D printing will change manufacturing, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass is already talking about its limitations, and why biological manufacturing is the industry’s more exciting future. Bass joined fellow manufacturing industry thought leaders last week at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif., for a conversation about how hardware and software are changing manufacturing.

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From left, Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick, Carl Bass of Autodesk, Marleen Vogelaar of Shapeways, and PCH's Liam Casey at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

From left, Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick, Carl Bass of Autodesk, Marleen Vogelaar of Shapeways, and PCH’s Liam Casey at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

While most of the world is yet to be enlightened as to how 3D printing will change manufacturing, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass is already talking about its limitations and why biological manufacturing is the industry’s more exciting future.

Bass, a 57-year-old maker (of boats, furniture, sculpture, and software) who claimed he “dressed up” in a graphic tee, jeans, and sneakers for his appearance at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay last week, joined fellow manufacturing industry thought leaders for a conversation about how hardware and software are changing manufacturing. The discussion with Shapeways founder Marlene Vogelaar and PCH CEO Liam Casey, moderated by Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick, touched on the need for changes in the education system, how new processes are empowering entrepreneurial and startup makers, and the advantages of bespoke products.

No question, computers have revolutionized how products are designed, engineered, and made. “You’ve finally taken the power of a microprocessor and applied it to the manufacturing process,” said Bass. “The really interesting things here and on the near horizon? It’s all about being driven by microprocessors.”

Bass said the industrial revolution enabled the manufacture of “high-quality things at reasonable prices if we made a gazillion of them.” The advent of computer-driven manufacturing eliminates the need for such economies of scale, he said. Instead, now “you can make one or two—custom or bespoke stuff.”

That’s not to say that economies of scale will go away. “Injection molding in low-cost labor markets will probably continue to be the best way to make plastic widgets,” Bass said. “But 3D printing is opening up a whole new area of products that weren’t possible before. You couldn’t do custom products at reasonable cost before.”

He said the technology eliminates concerns about shape and complexity as well as the need for craftsmanship or capital-intensive equipment. “You can make a 3D model and print it and we can make the exact same part anywhere—the bottom of the ocean, around the world. That has huge possibilities,” he said.

Still, a limitation of 3D printing is that “things go up as cubed power—the power of 3,” Bass explained. “If I want to make something twice as big, it takes 8 times as long; 3 times as big takes 64 times longer. You will always be fighting that. There will be breakthroughs and things we can do in parallel, but biological processes get around that.” It’s why the more promising future for manufacturing is biological, he said.

Bass explained how manufacturers are harnessing new tools to be able to grow more than just food differently. Today, DNA can be mail-ordered, manipulated, and 3D-printed with little information. The code for Ebola virus, for instance, is contained in 2,000 bits of information; a megabit of information comprises the oak tree. “That’s a relatively small amount of information that we need to manipulate to get outcomes that we know of,” Bass said. “At Autodesk, we’re asking, ‘What lessons can we bring from what we learned in helping people design in the inert world and bring that to the biological world?’”

One example: Autodesk delivers software tools to a group of Harvard researchers designing nanoscale robots for in vivo drug delivery.

On the other hand, Bass said he is not optimistic that this revolution secures livelihoods for the middle class. “No doubt, there’s a future for people who can design and build these things. A much more serious conversation has to take place about what happens when robots take our jobs. What are we all going to do?” he asked. (One of his “only half-facetious” ideas is to tax robots’ output.)

“As long as we can keep inventing jobs in front of the ones we’re eliminating, that’s great, but we need to have an education system that supports those kinds of jobs,” Bass said. “Right now we’re teaching kids in school for jobs in a future that doesn’t exist.”

Bass’s plea for updates and upgrades to education were echoed by many at Techonomy 2014. But PCH founder and CEO Liam Casey also stressed the economic importance of changing supply chain and distribution terms to favor small manufacturers. His company takes product ideas from concept to consumers—“all the way through the development stage, manufacturing, and logistics to ship direct to consumers’ homes.” He said it’s been several years since PCH launched its Highway 1 hardware startup incubator to serve the new wave of independent designers with access to 3D printing, Arduino, and Linux that are “driving a renaissance in prototyping and fostering innovation like we haven’t seen before.”

Casey said, “People come to us with great, new ideas every day. We move 10 million parts a day across our network. We know we can make this stuff. The hard thing is still the distribution and selling. If you can’t get real partnerships for sales and distribution, you’re going to have problems. That’s the big part that needs to be disrupted.”

His answer to Americans who say the U.S. needs to bring back manufacturing is: “It’s got nothing to do with manufacturing, it’s got everything to do with distribution and the contracts big box retailers put in front of the startups.” Take one he saw recently: It required a small manufacturer to have 3 months worth of inventory in the channel as well as consigned inventory in the store and distribution centers, with 90-day payment terms. “There is no way anyone on Sand Hill Road would fund a contract like that,” Casey said.

Instead, stores could be getting higher quality and more innovative products by offering better terms to startups. For instance, Casey said Radio Shack agreed to a PCH proposal to reengineer its supply chain in order to “give a platform to great products and great entrepreneurs.” Instead of three months of channel inventory, the stores agreed to receive shipments of products directly once a week with no consigned inventory, no right to return, and payment terms of 14 days instead of 90.

“You wipe out a huge amount of risk when you do that,” Casey said. The deal enables nimble and creative startups such as Little Bits from New York to ship product into 4,200 Radio Shack stores once or twice every week. “That’s what’s going to really create a fantastic ecosystem of hardware startups in Silicon Valley,” Casey said.

The Earth’s ecosystem could also benefit, noted Shapeways cofounder Marlene Vogelaar. She pointed to the impact of serving all the world’s manufacturing needs from China: In the global capital of blue jean manufacturing there, she said, the water is contaminated with dye and one in eight children is born with a tumor.

“We’ve created a system where ecological impact is not visible here. We’ve created a system with very complex supply chains that can take very long…. And we’ve created a system where you cannot have something that is special, bespoke to you, or customized.”

With smarter machines, however, she said, “we can use technology like 3D printing to cut out the long supply chain and negative impact on the environment, create something bespoke or customized to customers’ desires, and have shorter lead time” as well as manufacturer closer to the customers. “By doing it locally you will reduce the whole footprint,” she said.

Of course not every product is ripe for such changes, the panelists agreed. “Some things we do now won’t go away,” Bass said, adding that manufacturing “will still be driven by the same underlying factors it’s always been—cost, reliability, and how much up-front versus on-a-run rate basis.” But he has no doubt that additive manufacturing—the general category of 3D printing—subtractive manufacturing, robotic assembly and manufacturing, bio, and nano will be the tools of the future. “We’re really just adding to our toolkit,” he said.

For video of the Techonomy 2014 session, “Just Make It: The Evolution of Manufacturing,” click here. For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 videos and transcripts, click here.

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Jaron Lanier Says Transparency Is the Path to a Sustainable Techonomy http://techonomy.com/2014/11/jaron-lanier-says-transparency-path-sustainable-high-tech-economy/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/jaron-lanier-says-transparency-path-sustainable-high-tech-economy/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:33:35 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19676 “Automation should not be an enemy of employment. It never was before. The only difference between now and the past is that now we’re pretending that people who do the real work are actually not,” said Jaron Lanier, explaining why he is concerned that the current high-tech economy is not on a sustainable path. In a talk at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay last week, the author, virtual reality guru, and tech consultant advocated for building a democratic and sustainable technologized economy.

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Jaron Lanier speaks at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

“Automation should not be an enemy of employment. It never was before. The only difference between now and the past is that now we’re pretending that people who do the real work are actually not,” said Jaron Lanier, explaining why he is concerned that the current high-tech economy is not on a sustainable path.

In a talk at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay last week, the author, virtual reality guru, and tech consultant advocated for building a democratic and sustainable technologized economy. The problem with business schemes in Silicon Valley—Facebook and Google among them, he said—is not that they don’t create wealth. As Lanier’s audience knows, they do. The problem, he said, is the loss of a bell curve in economic outcomes.

Lanier called the bell curve “the setting for a stable society, an honest and fair democracy, and many other good things.” But when companies use digital technologies to “optimize the world,” he said, the economic outcome is a Zipf distribution (also known as a “winner take all” or a “long tail”). Instead of the bell curve’s normal distribution that has a small group of low performers, a big average, and small group of high performers, the Zipf looks like a hockey stick. A few are at the narrow tiptop, far away from the blade at bottom where most are clustered.

“Digital networking, computations, sensors and actuators to connect those to the real world ought to give us ability to make a world that makes more sense, is more optimized, more efficient, less annoying, and less dangerous,” Lanier said. But they also present a temptation to companies, “which is to turn yourself into a communist central planner, where whoever is closest to the most central and most influential computer gets to run everything.”

Organizations leverage such strategies to “reap incredible near-term benefits,” he said. But such concentration of power at the top eliminates the competitive market and results in a failure of democracy and economy.

As an example, Lanier described a strategy that he helped Amazon develop. In order to optimize its supply chain, Amazon collected data that enabled it to predict the absolute bottom line for anyone it would negotiate with. “It was kind of like counting cards: they could enter a negotiation knowing more than the people they were negotiating with. They had information superiority,” Lanier said.

As a result, of course, the company rapidly grew wealthy. But not in a sustainable way. “They’re starting to see limits to their growth and real problems because they’ve impoverished their customer base too much,” Lanier said. “This is the problem with a Zipf distribution: it’s not economically stable.” Lanier also pointed to Enron, Long Term Capital Management, and bundled mortgage-backed derivatives as other failures that were consequences of digital optimization of markets.

The same thing will happen to Google and Facebook eventually, he predicted. “All of these Zipf-creating schemes are not sustainable.” And since the turn of the century, Lanier said, bell curves have been disappearing in favor of Zipf distributions. Powerful computing technology has benefited the top 1 percent, he said—an unsustainable economic trajectory. “There aren’t going to be any customers to buy your stuff, eventually.”

His economic solution, he said, is simple: “For us in Silicon Valley and for those who start these schemes and for the world at large and in particular for democratic process, we’d all be better off if we could find our way back to the original idea of digital networking.” That idea, which he attributed to Ted Nelson, who proposed it as a 1960s Harvard grad student, is that “a universal micropayment structure” can create a stable outcome no matter how advanced and automated technology becomes.

“Ted thought in the ‘60s that if we have a richly connected graph and we automate the world, instead of everyone starving, we’ll get a nice bell curve distribution because people will be using each other’s information to run this thing somehow,” Lanier said.

Take language translastion, for instance. Rapid, automated translation services from Bing and Google have decimated the volume of work for professional translators. “A very typical reaction from the tech world is, ‘Well, that’s creative destruction … they have to be flexible and find new jobs,” Lanier said.

But in fact, he argued, automated translation tools rely on human translators. Early attempts to develop truly automated tools failed repeatedly. Instead, IBM researchers proposed a tool that used statistics to correlate sample sets from human translators. “You take real examples from real people. You correlate them, and you mash them up. It’s what we call Big Data and Cloud Computing now,” Lanier said.

Today “automated” translation services scrape millions of fresh translations from human translators around the world to support the translation process. “These people are still needed. It’s just that they’re needed in a new way. We haven’t made translation obsolete with some kind of brain implant or something; we’ve made it better. But we snuck in this disempowerment of people who do the work. The new way of doing work is adding data to the cloud—adding valuable data to a big data statistical system.”

Instead of compensating contributors to the system, Lanier said, “We’re putting all of those human translators behind a curtain and pretending they’re not there so we can say, “It’s AI.” But it’s not an AI; it’s an algorithm plus millions of people who are not getting paid.”

The solution, and possibly the only path to a sustainable future, he said, is to “accept true transparency, open the curtain, acknowledge that people are actually doing the work, but just in a new way, in a better way.”

The idea might sound “radical,” Lanier said, but added, “If we could acknowledge the improvements that we’re actually creating, we could create a sustainable and democratic very very high-tech future.”

To watch video of Jaron Lanier’s talk, “Who Own’s the Future,” at Techonomy 2014, click here. For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 videos and transcripts, click here

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How LinkedIn Wants to Unite the Workers of the World http://techonomy.com/2014/11/linkedin-wants-unite-workers-world/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/linkedin-wants-unite-workers-world/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 15:21:24 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19654 Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick credits LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner with planting the seed for the annual Techonomy conference, which wrapped up on Tuesday, Nov. 11, in Half Moon Bay, Calif. He also credits Weiner with building what has become a “central facility for the modern economy.” Weiner spoke to Kirkpatrick onstage Monday about his vision for the professional online network, which has grown to more than 320 million members and become “the future of connection, compassion, and the corporation.”

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David Kirkpatrick (left) and Jeff Weiner onstage at Techonomy 2014.

David Kirkpatrick (left) and Jeff Weiner onstage at Techonomy 2014

Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick credits LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner with planting the seed for the annual Techonomy conference, which wrapped up on Tuesday, Nov. 11, in Half Moon Bay, Calif. He also credits Weiner with building what has become a “central facility for the modern economy.”

Weiner spoke to Kirkpatrick onstage Monday about his vision for the professional online network, which has grown to more than 320 million members and become “the future of connection, compassion, and the corporation.”

Under Weiner’s leadership, LinkedIn has “much more deeply embedded itself in modern business and society” and is “changing the landscape in which we all operate,” Kirkpatrick said. “Everybody in this room goes to LinkedIn multiple times a day to see who they’re about to meet or just met.”

Weiner said LinkedIn’s vision statement, or dream, put on paper 6 years ago, has been to “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” Now, with more than half of the world’s 600 million knowledge workers in its network, Weiner said the company is “operationalizing” that vision statement by asking, “What would it take to create economic opportunity for over 3 billion people?”

The answer, he said, is to develop the world’s first economic graph, not unlike a social graph, that will use relationships between individuals as building blocks to digitally map the global economy.

He outlined an ambitious 10-year plan: Weiner said LinkedIn intends to acquire 3 billion individual profiles, 70 million company profiles, a digital representation for each of the world’s estimated 20 million jobs, a digital reflection of every skill required to attain those jobs, and a presence for every higher educational institution in the world that enables people to acquire those skills. He said the platform will make it easy for every individual, company, and university to share the professionally relevant knowledge they would like to, and then step back to let intellectual, working, and human capital to flow to where it can best be leveraged. Doing so, Weiner said, will “lift and transform the global economy.”

While an individual LinkedIn profile once served as resume replacement, Weiner said it has evolved to become more like a portfolio that enables people to demonstrate what they do with video, articles, links, and other assets, as well as a platform for building an audience for a personal brand. In the future he said it would also help people develop skills and grow their careers.

Kirpatrick asked how LinkedIn might be leveraged to help retrain so many Americans who have skills for jobs that are disappearing or no longer exist.

“Before we get to how LinkedIn can help, it’s incumbent on all of us to continue to invest in education, for starters,” Weiner said. “The rate of innovation is exceeding our ability to train people to take advantage of the opportunities being created through that innovation. This is as techonomic as it gets.”

As for how LinkedIn could help, he said the company’s economic graph could make a difference by showing, in any locale in the world, the size of the gap between the existing skills of the aggregate and the skills required to obtain the fastest growing jobs in that same area. “When the size of that gap becomes too large, we can alert training facilities where a gap is emerging and provide them  data to create a just-in-time curriculum to start training people for those jobs,” Weiner said.

To watch video of David Kirkpatrick’s conversation with Jeff Weiner at Techonomy 2014, click here. For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 session videos, click here

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A Conversation with Marc Benioff http://techonomy.com/2014/11/conversation-marc-benioff/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/conversation-marc-benioff/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 22:28:22 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19642 Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick sits down for spirited conversation with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff in the final session of the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

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Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick sits down for spirited conversation with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff in the final session of the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

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Man, Machines, and How the Future Works http://techonomy.com/2014/11/man-machines-future-works/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/man-machines-future-works/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 22:20:47 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19644 It’s 2020—robots and automation have replaced workers in droves. So what are all the people doing? What new systems must emerge to employ and engage people, and what new policies and regulations will be needed to protect them? John Markoff of the New York Times discusses the future of work with Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Jessica Rosenworcel of the FCC, Ford's Ken Washington, and Philip Zelikow of the Markle Foundation in this session from the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

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It’s 2020—robots and automation have replaced workers in droves. So what are all the people doing? What new systems must emerge to employ and engage people, and what new policies and regulations will be needed to protect them?

John Markoff of the New York Times discusses the future of work with Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Jessica Rosenworcel of the FCC, Ford’s Ken Washington, and Philip Zelikow of the Markle Foundation in this session from the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 session videos, click here

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Who Owns the Future? http://techonomy.com/2014/11/owns-future/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/owns-future/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 22:20:28 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19637 Why didn’t the rise of network technologies bring great wealth to the world in the last decade? Instead of experiencing excellent financial health because of the efficiencies of digital technologies, those efficiencies are having the effect of concentrating wealth while reducing overall growth. How can we better apply these powerful tools to promote greater balance, clarity, focus and genuine human connection? Technologist and author Jaron Lanier tackles some big-picture questions about the present and future role of tech in society at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

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Why didn’t the rise of network technologies bring great wealth to the world in the last decade? Instead of experiencing excellent financial health because of the efficiencies of digital technologies, those efficiencies are having the effect of concentrating wealth while reducing overall growth. How can we better apply these powerful tools to promote greater balance, clarity, focus and genuine human connection?

Technologist and author Jaron Lanier tackles some big-picture questions about the present and future role of tech in society at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 session videos, click here

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How to Meet the World’s Grand Challenges http://techonomy.com/2014/11/meet-worlds-grand-challenges/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/meet-worlds-grand-challenges/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 22:00:15 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19627 The best opportunities will come from creating the greatest impact on the biggest realms of human activity, like healthcare, food, water, energy, and education. How can businesses rise to the occasion and focus on the things that really matter? How can they best partner with governments and NGOs to implement the solutions? At the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Larry Brilliant of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, Pfizer's Geno Germano, Leila Janah of the Sama Group, and Ericsson's Rima Qureshi discuss applying tech tools to global challenges in a session moderated by The Economist's Matthew Bishop.

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The best opportunities will come from creating the greatest impact on the biggest realms of human activity, like healthcare, food, water, energy, and education. How can businesses rise to the occasion and focus on the things that really matter? How can they best partner with governments and NGOs to implement the solutions?

At the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Larry Brilliant of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, Pfizer’s Geno Germano, Leila Janah of the Sama Group, and Ericsson’s Rima Qureshi discuss applying tech tools to global challenges in a session moderated by The Economist’s Matthew Bishop.

For a complete archive of videos from Techonomy 2014, click here.

 

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A Conversation with Jeff Weiner http://techonomy.com/2014/11/conversation-jeff-weiner/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/conversation-jeff-weiner/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 21:45:31 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19624 Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick speaks with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner onstage at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

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Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick speaks with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner about retraining the global workforce at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

For a complete archive of videos from Techonomy 2014, click here.

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Thiel and Hoffman on How to Promote Innovation in a Fearful Society http://techonomy.com/2014/11/thiel-hoffman-promote-innovation-fearful-society/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/thiel-hoffman-promote-innovation-fearful-society/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 21:20:43 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19587 Peter Thiel sees Western civilization as a society that “hates science and technology in all forms.” Reid Hoffman sees an uninformed public and political leadership that is biologically predisposed to fear death, not embrace change. And while Thiel accuses Washington leaders of being stuck in the Dark Ages, Hoffman concedes that “it’s hard to see a path to Congress having an intelligent technology strategy.” In the opening session of Techonomy 2014 on Sunday in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick provoked a frank discussion between the tech-industry-pioneers-turned-venture-capitalists, PayPal founder Thiel and his former Stanford classmate and longtime collaborator, LinkedIn founder Hoffman.

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From left, Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick, LinkedIn's  Reid Hoffman, and Peter Thiel of Thiel Capital at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

From left, Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, and Peter Thiel of Thiel Capital at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Peter Thiel sees Western civilization as a society that “hates science and technology in all forms.” Reid Hoffman sees an uninformed public and political leadership that is biologically predisposed to fear death, not embrace change.

Thiel says corporate boards snuff out innovative leadership and public offerings empower the “wrong people” in an organization. Hoffman says corporate leadership typically “would rather let a company coast for another 10 years, even if it’s sacrificing its ultimate figure, because it doesn’t look like a failure on their watch, versus take a big risk that might fail.”

And while Thiel accuses Washington leaders of being stuck in the Dark Ages, Hoffman concedes that “it’s hard to see a path to Congress having an intelligent technology strategy.”

In the opening session of Techonomy 2014 on Sunday in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick provoked a frank discussion between the tech-industry-pioneers-turned-venture-capitalists, PayPal founder Thiel and his former Stanford classmate and longtime collaborator, LinkedIn founder Hoffman.

The two do share the optimistic outlook that “we could be seeing decades of phenomenal progress in all sorts of dimensions” (Thiel), including “massive transformations in medicine and a cure for cancer” (Hoffman). And though neither has a clear proposal for how to overcome political and cultural obstacles to progress, both have written books—and made investments—that express their ideas about how to innovate. Both billionaires have given much thought to the responsibility their industry has to securing a future made better by technology.

Hoffman, who calls the intersection of biology and computing inevitable, asked, “So what do we do to maximize positive outcomes and minimize negative ones?”

In his new book, “Zero to One,” distributed to all Techonomy 2014 participants, Thiel writes, “We cannot take for granted that the future will be better. That means we need to work to create it today.”

Kirkpatrick called the book a celebration of innovation and an exhortation to try harder and do bigger things, but he and Hoffman challenged Thiel to explain an apparent contradiction: How, as a Libertarian, can he argue that government should fund the development of transformative technology? Thiel said, “If we had a government that spent things, I’d much rather it spend money on basic research than redistributing wealth.” But he sees such forward-looking investment as an impossibility: Polls and voters prioritize redistribution over investment, he said.

Thiel sees a gulf between Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. “We tend to think questions about science and technology are important topics. People in D.C. don’t even think they’re important. It’s not even that we disagree on the details.”

Hoffman said, “The ability for government to execute intelligently on ‘what do you think your technology strategy should be given that technology pace is accelerating—for example the cost of genetic sequencing is going down, what should you be doing?’—is extremely important but very difficult to make happen.”

Thiel’s take is even more cynical, given that, by his estimate, maybe 35 of 535 people in Congress have any background in science technology: “The rest don’t understand that windmills don’t work when wind isn’t blowing or solar panels don’t work at night,” he said.

Thiel sees big corporations, like big government, as hostile to innovation. “You have startups because large existing institutions—both governmental and large corporations—are too screwed up politically to execute. When we started PayPal, one of the most common questions I got was, ‘Obviously the banks are going to do this; how will you ever compete with the banks?’”

Thiel and Hoffman stressed that the right climate is required to incubate disruptive products. For one, they agreed that innovative companies are led by founders, or at least people who possess “a founder mindset.” Thiel pointed out that the return of Apple’s founder is what brought that company back from the brink, and suggested that if Microsoft wants to recover it should bring back Bill Gates.

But they also agreed that “the system” works against installing visionary leadership. “The system,” Thiel said, “is the Board of Directors, political actors of one sort of another, who like people without rough edges who don’t say controversial things; you’ll get politicians to run these companies.”

Even appointing a chief of innovation is generally useless, Hoffman said. Big companies that want to innovate need to establish small teams answerable only to the CEO to work on projects without political interference from the rest of the company.

Hoffman, whose book, “The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age,” speaks to how management can keep organizations vital and people creative, suggested assigning innovators to short tours of duty within the organization. He pointed to the way Steve Jobs set up the iPod development team in a room that could be accessed only with their badges, or the way Google’s Android team was isolated from the rest of the company. “It can’t be, ‘we’re creating a strategy,’” he said. “It has to be, ‘we’re doing this’ … ‘we’re building something, empowered by the CEO and no politics.’”

But on that point, too, Thiel’s take is more cynical: “In theory I agree, but we shouldn’t minimize the challenge in practice. I think of people who are able to drive innovation as being weak at political games and processes. The more processes you set up, it seems to empower the wrong people…. Process itself gets hijacked by people who are good at politics and bad at substance.”

It’s why Thiel’s book is subtitled, “Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.” Silicon Valley, he said, is “radically countercultural … at odds with what people in the Western world think about future or what they want,” but he believes that “supporting small numbers of people to start new companies and do new things is how you gradually change the discourse of the future.”

To watch the full video of the “Two Friends on Innovation, Obstacles, and Future Revolutions” session, click here. For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 videos and transcripts, click here.

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Two Friends on Innovation, Obstacles, and Future Revolutions http://techonomy.com/2014/11/two-friends-innovation-obstacles-future-revolutions/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/two-friends-innovation-obstacles-future-revolutions/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 21:15:50 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19576 How and where is society moving in this era of innovation, entrepreneurship and rapid change? Two masters of the genre talk about the next big disruptions and where they’re most needed. Where do they agree, and where do they disagree? LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Peter Thiel of Thiel Capital and The Founders Fund tackle these and other questions on the first day of the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

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How and where is society moving in this era of innovation, entrepreneurship and rapid change? Two masters of the genre talk about the next big disruptions and where they’re most needed. Where do they agree, and where do they disagree?

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Peter Thiel of Thiel Capital and The Founders Fund tackle these and other questions on the first day of the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

For a complete archive of videos from Techonomy 2014, click here.

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A Conversation with David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products, Facebook http://techonomy.com/2014/11/conversation-david-marcus-vp-messaging-products-facebook/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/conversation-david-marcus-vp-messaging-products-facebook/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 21:15:00 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19648 At the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Bloomberg's Emily Chang chats with David Marcus, the new vice president of messaging products at Facebook, about the emergence of Messenger as a networking tool.

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At the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Bloomberg’s Emily Chang chats with David Marcus, the new vice president of messaging products at Facebook, about the emergence of Messenger as a networking tool.

For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 session videos, click here

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From Here to Where? Following the Brain Map http://techonomy.com/2014/11/following-brain-map/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/following-brain-map/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 20:20:28 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19650 The human brain, a super organ of around 100 billion nerve cells, remains the single most powerful, complex and least understood computer on the planet. Cracking its code will allow us to better utilize our brains, and to drive the creation of better artificial intelligences. The applications span from marketing to medicine and education to warfare. How will how we work, live and play be changed by these new neuro-discoveries? Ed Boyden, associate professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute, explores the frontier of brain mapping in this talk at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

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The human brain, a super organ of around 100 billion nerve cells, remains the single most powerful, complex and least understood computer on the planet. Cracking its code will allow us to better utilize our brains, and to drive the creation of better artificial intelligences. The applications span from marketing to medicine and education to warfare. How will how we work, live and play be changed by these new neuro-discoveries?

Ed Boyden, associate professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute, explores the frontier of brain mapping in this talk at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 session videos, click here

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The Internet Is Not the Answer, Revisited http://techonomy.com/2014/11/internet-answer-revisited/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/internet-answer-revisited/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 20:15:49 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19646 In a reprise of his talk at Techonomy Detroit in September, author and tech-polemicist Andrew Keen warns the audience at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., that tech and Internet companies should not get be trusted as guardians of our collective welfare.

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In a reprise of his talk at Techonomy Detroit in September, author and tech-polemicist Andrew Keen warns the audience at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., that tech and Internet companies should not get be trusted as guardians of our collective welfare.

For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 session videos, click here

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Will Every Industry Have its Tesla? http://techonomy.com/2014/11/will-every-industry-tesla/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/will-every-industry-tesla/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:36:26 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19670 An increasing number of companies refuse to follow the rules. Tesla is no longer just a car company; it’s a transportation, fuel and energy-storage company. Companies must embrace the foundational change being driven by tech every day. What must business leaders do to be the disruptors rather than the disrupted? Ali Diab of Collective Health, eBay's Dane Howard, LendingClub's Scott Sanborn, Jake Seid of Auction.com, and moderator Dan Elron of Accenture discuss how entire industries will transform in a technologized economy in this session at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

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An increasing number of companies refuse to follow the rules. Tesla is no longer just a car company; it’s a transportation, fuel and energy-storage company. Companies must embrace the foundational change being driven by tech every day. What must business leaders do to be the disruptors rather than the disrupted?

Ali Diab of Collective Health, eBay’s Dane Howard, LendingClub’s Scott Sanborn, Jake Seid of Auction.com, and moderator Dan Elron of Accenture discuss how entire industries will transform in a technologized economy in this session at Techonomy 2014 in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

For a complete archive of Techonomy 2014 session videos, click here

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A Conversation with Patrick Collison http://techonomy.com/2014/11/conversation-patrick-collison/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/conversation-patrick-collison/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 14:00:10 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19657 At the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick speaks with Stripe CEO Patrick Collison about the future of online payments.

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At the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick speaks with Stripe CEO Patrick Collison about the future of online payments.

For a complete archive of session from Techonomy 2014, click here.

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Innovating Tools for Quantifying the Self, and Future Self http://techonomy.com/2014/11/innovating-tools-quantifying-self-future-self/ http://techonomy.com/2014/11/innovating-tools-quantifying-self-future-self/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 13:50:53 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=19602 The quantified-self movement is rapidly moving beyond the Fitbit. Forget about wristbands to measure your vitals. DIYers known as Grinders are embedding electronics in their own bodies; transcranial direct-current stimulation experimentalists are putting wet sponges on their heads to improve cognitive function; and others, hoping to enhance their relationships with pets, are investing millions into developing EEG headsets that let them read dog thoughts. Eri Gentry, Carlos Olguin, and Drew Purves, all innovators at the fore of the field, joined WIRED writer Marcus Wohlsen at Techonomy 2014 on Monday for a conversation exploring what we mean when we talk about "innovating ourselves."

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From left, Marcus Wohlson of WIRED, Autodesk's Carlos Oguin, Drew Purves of Microsoft Research, and BioCurious co-founder Eri Gentry

From left, Marcus Wohlsen of WIRED, Autodesk’s Carlos Oguin, Drew Purves of Microsoft Research, and BioCurious co-founder Eri Gentry in the “Innovating Ourselves” lab at Techonomy 2014

The quantified-self movement is rapidly moving beyond the Fitbit. Forget about wristbands to measure your vitals. DIYers known as Grinders are embedding electronics in their own bodies; transcranial direct-current stimulation experimentalists are putting wet sponges on their heads to improve cognitive function; and others, hoping to enhance their relationships with pets, are investing millions into developing EEG headsets that let them read dog thoughts.

Eri Gentry, Carlos Olguin, and Drew Purves, all innovators at the fore of the field, joined WIRED writer Marcus Wohlsen at Techonomy 2014 on Monday for a conversation exploring what we mean when we talk about “innovating ourselves.”

Gentry, a research manager at the Institute for the Future and a founder of the BioCurious hacker space in Sunnyvale, says the self-innovation pioneers who are exploring augmentations and self-tracking hacks are not the usual suspects. “It’s not necessarily people who have ever been interested in health,” she says, but people who see a problem, such as the need to adhere to a medication regimen, and an opportunity to make an app for it. When computer scientists and designers instead of doctors tackle these problems, the solutions look different and better, Gentry says.

Trouble is, indie innovators are brushing up against FDA regulations. “People are dealing with real serious challenges,” Gentry said, pointing to one colleague who equipped an insulin pump with Bluetooth technology to direct medication times via his iPhone. “That would never pass FDA inspection.”

At Autodesk Research, Olguin looks at life and other programmable matter as a new design frontier. “Biology is a technology we don’t fully understand,” he says. The Bio/Nano/Programmable Matter Group that he heads is taking an archeological approach to biology and “trying to create tools that help abstract some of what we know about biology.” The aim is better-designed tools that create more knowledge.

Take, for instance, a project his team supported to create a living 3D printed ear from Vincent Van Gogh’s DNA. “You print tissue that has your DNA and you can expose it to all sorts of things and learn from it,” Olguin says.

He foresees a future in which it would be possible to introduce pathways in human tissue that allow, say, radiation absorption. “Imagine 20 years from now, you have those pathways in your body and when you’re exposed to a nuclear bomb you already have the upgrade in your system. We are experimenting right now to understand what that future might mean.”

Purves, who heads the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group within Microsoft’s Computational Science Lab sees two goals of self-innovation tools. “The ability to take drastically more data from your body—by floating sensors in blood and monitoring gene expression—might enable us to understand and predict things about your body,” he says. “The other is to design devices that go into your body to do things.” And then, he says, there is the possibility of combining the two approaches. For instance, a computer built from DNA in the cell model that could observe the body’s ecosystem from inside.”

“There’s been a quiet revolution in computational science,” Purves says. Beyond neural networks that simply model the nervous system, “we create simulacram—living, breathing, virtual versions of things,” he says. The more faithful and realistic such models become, the more data can be collected to “realistically project yourself into the future” and “change the way we interact with medicine.” For instance, rather than a woman making the decision based on genetic testing to have a mastectomy, data that predicted her chances of developing the disease could enable an even more informed decision.

Illustrating the vast opportunities ahead , Gentry says, “Most of what we know as life is yet to be discovered. It was only in the 1950s we began to be able to culture living cells inside a lab and get a sense of what life looks like in an extreme environment like our mouths.” Just 60 years later, she notes, Craig Venter’s sailing genome sequencing lab is finding new life to unravel in every scoop it takes from the ocean.

As synthetic biologist Drew Endy said on the Techonomy stage the previous day, “We’re at the snowflake at the tip of the iceberg. … How do we make living matter fully programmable? It’s not obvious what the path will be, but it’s possible to make true.”

To watch video of the session that Endy participated in, “The Next Revolution Will Be Biologized,” click here. For a complete video archive of Techonomy 2014 sessions, click here.

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