On February 11th, 2015 Bill Maris, founding partner at Google Ventures gave a keynote address to the Startup Grind 2015 global conference in Redwood City about the future of health.
Maris' presentation to a packed house of 1,500 entrepreneurs focused primarily on the future and the evolution of the products we use everyday. Prefacing the keynote he hypothesized that really great products and services will eventually become pervasive in society and basically free. Think how Skype transformed snail mail.
He then kicked things off with a distinctly optimistic look at key innovations of the last century that dramatically improved our daily lives. After mentioning the steam engine and the moon lander Maris paid special attention to Charles Babbage's Difference Engine which is considered to be one of the first computers.
Settling on a look at the Apple II and IPhone, Maris began comparing the technical disparities between the two devices. The winner as apparent as the IPhone has 1,400x the processing speed, 21,000x the memory, 372,000x the storage, and 8% of the cost.
Bigger and Faster
With that comparison in mind Maris said "What would be like in the future if we had basically anything that was 1,400x better or faster?"
Maris stressed that exponential growth expands with leaps and bounds widening the gap even more each time progress is made but linear growth is built incrementally, step by step on the progress of the past.
In order to find this growth one must try to predict the future. As the future is uncovered everything behind it propels forward at speeds "exponentially" faster than incremental iteration.
- Penicillin and the Human Genome project were used to illustrate the value of such exponential breakthroughs.
- Penicillin would be priceless in a world without ways to fight infection. The Human Genome project continues that work into the 21st century by sequencing and identifying treatment for dozens of incurable diseases.
In transition to the crux of Maris' hypothesis, he cautions that we are still vulnerable despite the many incredible technological advances that improve our lives today.
Especially troubling is how the distribution of the technology we develop is deployed. "In the 1900's life expectancy in the US was around 40. Today in Africa, life expectancy is still around 40."
Concretely, it means that too often the link between invention and distribution is broken, leaving much of the world locked out of technological advances meant to improve all our lives.
In closing, Maris believes that investing in products that reach "the rest of the world" is not only good from an investment sense but is the right thing to do in general. With more people participating in the spoils of a technologically advance age, the world will ultimately become more fruitful and interesting.