Josh Wolfe on The Future of Technology – Real Vision Classics # 5 with Michael Green

Check out the Real Vision Classics Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • The line between digital and physical space is becoming blurred
  • Due to the emerging field of generative design – the world is going to start looking more like “flowy architecture” as opposed to the geometric/rigid structures that we have today
  • In the future, ownership of vehicles is going to decline
    • This will have a whole host of downstream effects
  • Something to think about:
    • “Anytime that something is abundant you want to ask what’s scarce, and anytime something’s scarce you want to ask what’s abundant”
  • Because of the lack of regulation in China:
    • “I feel very strongly that the future of biotech and pharma and a lot of our disease curing drugs are going to be imported from Chinese companies”
  • Technology is becoming more and more intimate with the human body
    • Technology is conforming more to us, instead of us conforming to it 
  • Future tech:
    • Josh speculates we’ll soon be using something similar to a computerized wristband to dictate our actions and control our technology
      • We’ll be controlling everything by hand gesture 

Intro

  • Josh Wolfe (@wolfejosh) is the co-founder of Lux Capital, a venture capital firm that backs entrepreneurs and scientists tackling real problems, in unconventional ways.
    • Lux has funded a variety of emerging tech and science ventures, including: 3D printing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, flying robots, surgical robots, synthetic biology, satellites, space, drones, smart homes, and virtual reality
    • Check out the Podcast Notes from Josh’s appearance on The Knowledge Project

Matter Matters

  • Lux Capital mainly invests in things that derive breakthroughs in physics, chemistry, and material science – thinking down to the atom
  • “When we’re [Lux Capital] funding entrepreneurs, and they come in and say they want to change the world, I generally think it’s BS”
    • BUT – if they express how they want to do something that’s meaningful to them personally, and changing the world is a byproduct – then its a different story

The Lines Between Digital and Physical Space Are Becoming Blurred

  • “The blurring between bits and atoms, between the 0s and 1s, and the physical output of those, is totally happening in a rapid way”
    • Technology has gotten really good at being able to scan physical spaces with 3D scanners and digitize them
    • Then there’s 3D printing 
      • People are designing things in “bit space” and quickly bringing them to life in “real space”
    • “The idea of going from digital to physical and from physical to digital is increasingly becoming totally seemless”

The Economics of 3D Printing

  • 3D printing totally changes the economics of manufacturing
    • You don’t need to worry about spending a huge amount of money to create something like a plastic injection mold “master”, from which thousands of other parts just like it will be formed
      • With 3D printing, it basically doesn’t matter how few of a certain part you need
        • You can print 3 parts or print 3,000 parts
        • (Typically with injection molding, it only makes sense to manufacture a certain part once you need a larger, set amount – as the mold “master” is so expensive)
  • Instead of having things manufactured in China, it’s more likely 10 years from now that you’ll be sending CAD files to wherever there are industrial 3D printers available
  • You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to 3D printed part geometries

Generative Design

  • What is it?
    • It’s an emerging field of technology (it’s a computational approach to making/designing stuff)
    • You basically give a computer a design problem, and it outputs a design solution
      • The design solution that’s given is most optimal given a nearly infinite number of possible materials and an infinite number of geometric shapes
  • “The world is going to start looking more like ‘flowy architecture’ as opposed to the geometric/rigid structures that we have today”
    • Think – most of the objects around you are rectilinear (squares, rectangles, and straight lines)
    • This is very different from the way nature designs things (like a forest, a tree, or a flower)
      • Nothing is straight/rectangular in nature
    • “We’re even starting to see this today”
      • Desktop Metal (one of Lux Capital’s companies) produces a small part for BMW that Josh says “looks like it’s out of an alien movie”
  • Today – Why are houses built the way they are?
    • Because right angles are easy for skilled laborers to measure and two-by-fours are produced in consistent quantities
  • Take the smartphone screen for example
    • 30 years ago, it would have seemed like magic – it’s transparent, conductive, and with a tap you can send an electrical signal to a computer
      • Just think what the future holds
  • Where are we likely to see these new material innovations first?
    • On the small scale – things like textiles/apparel, touch screens, flexible electronics etc.

Replacement Cycles – The Future of Cars and Autonomous Vehicles

  • We tend to keep our cars for 12 years on average
    • Imagine if your cell phone was 12 years old – it would look nearly 100% different than what’s coming out today
  • The autonomous vehicle race:
    • It’s basically between Zoox and GM (which bought Cruise)
  • In the future, ownership of vehicles is going to decline
    • What will this do? – The same competitive dynamic we see with phones (between Apple and Samsung, for example) will happen in the automobile industry
      • As ownership of cars declines, people will use things like Uber more often (which will be driven autonomously) – companies like Uber will be forced to constantly upgrade their fleet of vehicles
  • With more autonomous vehicles on the road, cities themselves will change
    • Cars will no longer be parked within the city
      • After a car drops you off, assuming it’s no longer needed – it will head to a parking lot outside the city
      • When it’s needed next, it will be conjured 
    • Truck deliveries will happen from 10 PM – 4 AM, when people are not around (so not in the middle of the day when delivery trucks hold up traffic in tight city streets) 
  • Josh has an interesting hypothesis
    • Soon, we’ll see “delivery vehicle only” lanes (whether it’s an autonomous Amazon delivery truck, a food delivery truck, whatever)

Cities

  • City populations are bound to increase when more infrastructure becomes available which allows you to live within/around cities
  • As you move further and further away from a city center, it’s easy to map how prices fall exponentially

Bitcoin

  • Josh used to be a skeptic
    • He acknowledges that on one hand it only has value because person A believes that person B believes that person C believes it has value etc.
  • “I’ve sort of accepted that this is, at the moment, less about utility, and more about an alternative store of value”
    • “The idea of its utility – I’m skeptical about”
  • Lux Capital has quite a few investments in companies working on blockchain technology
  • Check out CryptoKitties
    • “This might actually be genius”
  • One good use for crypto – the tracking of digital assets (a photograph, a music file, etc.)
    • Being able to see where it’s been sent, how it’s been used, and where it originated from
  • “Anytime that something is abundant you want to ask what’s scarce, and anytime something’s scarce you want to ask what’s abundant”
    • In the 90s/early 2000s – text became abundant (articles, blogs etc,)
      • The scarce (valuable) thing? – Search
    • Today – Search is still valuable, but in a slightly different way
      • It’s more about the search for truth – like being able to tell whether or not a photograph is undoctored 

The Line Between Truth and Fiction is Blurring

  • “In the near future, it’s going to be hard to tell whether something is true or not”
    • Today you can sort of tell what’s truth/what’s not (like with fake news or a fake image)
      • But it’s getting harder to do this
  • “Our ability to distinguish between the real and the simulacrum…it’s going to be much more like West World

The Rise of the Surveillance State in China

  • For background, check out this article
  • There are cameras all around China which collect information on civilians, constantly gathering information and tracking where people go, which all goes to central databases
    • What kind of information is collected?
      • Your identity
      • What you’re saying
      • Where you go
      • Who your friends are/associating with
      • Whether or not you’re on time for work
      • If you do good deeds
    • Why does this matter?
      • The government is essentially able to create a rating system based on all the above information
      • Based on your “rating” – you may be denied something like travel/concert tickets or a loan
    • “China in a sense is living in the future”
  • A “woah” moment related to this
    • Your face is basically a point cloud of 0s and 1s
      • Over time, with enough data, it’s possible we’ll be able to correlate genetic sequences with facial features/skin tone/etc.
        • So with a small sample of hair, you’d be able to digitally construct an image of the person that hair came from
          • Think of the implications of this…
      • “Would you have thought 5 years ago you could unlock your phone with your face?”
  • In a way, the people in these Chinese surveillance states are trading privacy for convenience

China and Biotech

  • “I feel very strongly that the future of biotech and pharma and a lot of our disease curing drugs are going to be imported from Chinese companies”
    • “China has something that we lack in the U.S., and because they lack it they are going to be ascendant and that is the rules and the regulatory apparatus and the ethics around biotech”
      • For this reason, a lot of our primate research is being shifted to China – regulation just slows down research too much in the U.S.
      • A lot of the genetic engineering research related to CRISPR is happening in China

The Half-Life of Technology Intimacy

  • 50 years ago – a computer took up a large room
    • You would interact with it by flipping its switches, and pull plugs etc.
  • 25 years ago – we first got desktop computers
    • How did we interact with them? – Mainly through a keyboard and a computer mouse
  • 12.5 years ago – laptops became dominant
    • The computer is now on your lap
  • 6.5 years ago – the iPhone
    • It’s the first thing you touch in the morning and last thing you touch at night
    • It’s near you all day long and the only thing that separates it from the human body is a thin layer of fabric
  • 3.5 years ago – the smartwatch
    • It’s in constant contact with your skin with no barrier
  • 1.5 years ago – AirPods
    • People actually forget they’re wearing them
  • The trend –  “Technology is becoming more intimate with us and closer to the body”
    • Technology is conforming more to us, instead of us conforming to it 

How will we interact with technology in the future?

  • We’ll use something like a computerized wristband to dictate our actions (think – like a watch wristband)
    • You’ll be able to type without a keyboard – just thinking about typing
    • This wristband will act like a universal controller
      • You’ll be able to walk into a room and tap your fingers to turn on the lights
      • A different wrist/arm motion would do something different – like dictate music to start playing
    • We’ll be controlling everything by hand gesture 
  • Think – Even paraplegics would be able to use something like this
  • Another crazy thought:
    • Today, you can use cameras to monitor your home while you’re away
    • A few years down the line, it’s not inconceivable to imagine something like a Roomba with a hand/arm attached in your home that you’d be able to control from anywhere in the world
      • Perhaps you’d want to check whether or not you left something in a desk drawer – no problem

“The next big thing is a function of whatever rots your brain”

  • TV/screens 
    • Screens will be EVERYWHERE down the line – we’ll be able to interact with everything 
    • Online and VR communities will take off, only becoming more and more lifelike
  • Video games 
    • Today, we’re using “video game controllers” to operate drones and train robotic surgeons

Random

  • 85% of the world’s umbrellas and 95% of the United States’ umbrellas come from China

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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